Dominant homestand pushes Rider up standings

By Rob Rose

Sophomore guard Stella Johnson cuts through the Iona defense.

Thanks to a pair of resounding victories over St. Peter’s and Iona, the women’s basketball team is tied for third place in the MAAC standings with four regular season games remaining.

Rider hosted St. Peter’s on Feb. 9, which entered the game with only one win in MAAC play this season. The Broncs started off the game on fire, fueled by a 9-0 run that gave them a 16-6 lead after the first quarter.

Leading the offensive attack for Rider was sophomore guard Stella Johnson and senior guard Kamila Hoskova. Johnson posted a team-high 15 points on an efficient 4-for-6 from the field, while hitting three times from beyond the arc. Hoskova added 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting and was unstoppable in the first half, capitalizing on the 20 turnovers by the Peacocks with four steals.

“The past few games we’ve started really slow in the first quarter and Coach stressed to us this week that we had to start fast and know our principles on defense,” said Johnson.

In the second quarter, the Broncs held the Peacocks to five points while increasing their lead behind more strong play from Johnson and Hoskova, as well as sophomore guard Lexi Stover, who scored 13 points and hit three three-pointers. At the half, Rider led 30-11.

“I think the best thing we did today was that we finally got that good start we’ve been looking for,” said Head Coach Lynn Milligan. “We’ve been working hard trying to find ways to start the game better. We played a really good first half; holding them to 11 points is something we need to do. In the second half we didn’t have that same intensity.”

Coming out of the locker room with just 11 points to work with, St. Peter’s cut into Rider’s lead with a 24-point third quarter. The Broncs still led 47-35 after three quarters.

In the fourth quarter, the teams traded baskets but the Peacocks couldn’t complete the comeback attempt as the Broncs held on for a 62-52 victory.

Sophomore forward Lea Favre chipped in with nine points and 11 rebounds to give Rider a balanced attack with production from the post.

In the second game of the homestand, Rider hosted a struggling Iona team with only one victory this season. The Broncs got out of the gates fast again and continued their strong play throughout the game.

From the opening tip, Rider grabbed control of the game, jumping out to a 10-0 run in the first six minutes while shooting 57 percent from the field and forcing seven Gaels’ turnovers.

“A huge focal point of ours this week in practice was that we have to start games better and put ourselves in a better situation,” said Milligan.

After closing the first quarter up by 10, the Broncs increased their lead behind efficient three-point shooting. Rider connected on 4-for-7 attempts in the first half to take a 37-24 advantage heading into the break.

The third quarter was dominated by the Broncs, as the team went 9-for-14 from the field and pushed its lead to as high as 27 points.

Rider was led by an all-around effort by Johnson, who stuffed the stat sheet in this game. She recorded a double-double with 17 points and a career-high 10 assists, while adding seven rebounds, six steals and one block.

Rider continued its elite play into the fourth quarter and secured the 80-53 win.

Hoskova, Stover and freshman guard Jaiden Morris also finished with double-digit scoring performances with 17, 12 and 14 points, respectively. Morris hit a career-high four three-pointers in the victory.

Rider also completed the season sweep of both teams after defeating St. Peter’s on Jan. 2 and Iona on Jan. 25.

The Broncs are now 8-0 in MAAC games where they have held opponents to under 60 points. Rider’s next game is Feb. 16 at Niagara.

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