By Jenni Chiarello
Despite falling to Loyola Maryland (12-10, 9-2 MAAC) 55-43 on Friday, the Broncs (3-20, 3-9 MAAC) came back strong with a couple of great individual performances to beat Iona (9-15, 5-7 MAAC) 93-87 in a thrilling double overtime game on Sunday.
“Our coach has been harping on us all season about playing a full 40 minutes and not coming up short and we really proved to ourselves that we are capable of not only that but a lot more,” said redshirt sophomore Alyssa Parsons. “We really played together and never gave up.”
It was a career day for junior Sarah Homan and freshmen MyNeshia McKenzie and Shereen Lightbourne. Homan finished the game with 19 points and 20 rebounds, both career highs, while McKenzie compiled a career high in points with 19, along with 14 rebounds. Lightbourne tied a career high with 17 points but it was her clutch performance at the end of the first overtime that the fans will remember. With the win against the Gaels, the Broncs optimistically look forward to their game against Fairfield on Saturday.
“It will be tough to have another big win against Fairfield but we have as much motivation to beat Fairfield as we did against Iona, and we definitely have more confidence going into our game on Saturday,” said Homan.
Rider lost its first matchup against Iona, 92-61, back on Jan. 21 and this first half started off looking a bit like the first game as the Gaels jumped out to an 11-5 lead. But the Broncs showed great resilience to come back and end the half on a 12-5 run to take a 25-23 lead at intermission.
The second half saw multiple lead changes as neither team could put together a big run. Throughout the half, no team led by more than six points. Regulation ended in a 65-65 tie.
The first overtime started with a flurry of offense from the Gaels, as they used a 9-1 run to seemingly put the game away. However, Rider was able to hold Iona from scoring over the last 2:08 of overtime and get within three points when Lightbourne was fouled attempting a three-point shot with 0.3 seconds left on the clock.
She calmly stepped up to the line and knocked down the first two before Fairfield called a timeout, trying to ice the freshman before her last free throw. The strategy didn’t work and Lightbourne made the last one to send the game into another overtime session.
The first half of the second OT was filled with more nail-biting back-and-forth scoring until 2.56 to go, when Rider finally broke the tie. A 5-0 run sealed the win for the Broncs, who never looked back, defeating the Gaels 93-87.
“We played together for the whole game. Past games, the other team got a lead and we weren’t able to pull together. However, against Iona when they went on a run we were able to come together and punch back,” said Homan.
Rider looks to carry the energy from the dramatic victory to its matchup against the Fairfield Stags, who defeated the Broncs 64-51 on Jan. 30. The Broncs have the momentum, however, as Fairfield lost 54-52 against first-place Marist on Sunday.
“We didn’t necessacarily play the way we wanted to last time [against Fairfield] but with momentum from the Iona game I can only think positive about the outcome on Saturday,” said Parsons.
Friday’s game vs. Loyola started slowly for Rider as the Greyhounds quickly jumped out to a 13-4 lead, and after a 9-0 run, things were looking dim. Loyola ended the half up 33-16. However, the Broncs ended the game outscoring Loyola 13-0. Unfortunately, though, it was too little too late.
Sophomore Carleigh Brown left the game after playing only eight minutes with a shoulder injury.
“When someone goes down, someone else has to step up. That can be hard with youth but we have handled it before and will continue to do so,” said head coach Lynn Milligan.
Rider plays its next two games at home, hosting the Stags at 2 p.m. on Saturday before rival Siena comes in for Valentine’s Day matchup on Monday at 7 p.m.