By Daniel Kingsley
The women’s basketball team suffered a nail-biting, emotional 79-76 overtime loss to Siena in the first round of the MAAC tournament on March 3.
Rider (8-22, 5-15 MAAC) rallied for one of its greatest comeback efforts during Lynn Milligan’s nine-year tenure as the Broncs’ head coach. Even when facing a deficit as large as 17 points in the second quarter, Milligan knew her team was capable of making a comeback.
“We just stayed the course and chipped away at their lead,” Milligan said. “We knew we needed to get stops and make our defense help our offense. This team never thought they were out of this game.”
Siena (14-18, 10-10 MAAC) took control of the game, going on a 9-0 run in the beginning of the first quarter to take a commanding 14-3 lead. The early lead prompted Rider to play catch-up the rest of the way.
Sophomore guard Kamila Hoskova emphasized the team’s determination that allowed it to overcome large deficits throughout the duration of the match.
“Even though we went down a couple of times, we always fought and got back into the game,” Hoskova said. “We played with our hearts.”
Hoskova’s big game, 26 points and seven rebounds, was key to keeping Rider within striking distance. Sophomore forward C’quoya Haughton and junior center Julia Duggan each also added seven rebounds to the effort.
A late fourth-quarter surge was the turning point for the Broncs, as it saw the team erase an 11-point deficit in just over three minutes. With 1:17 remaining in the fourth quarter, Rider took its first lead of the game, with Hoskova hitting a jumper to take a 56-55 lead.
Junior guard Robin Perkins, who scored 19 points in the game, had a chance to win the game for the Broncs, converting on a layup with less than a second remaining to tie the score 59-59, and being fouled in the process. She missed the foul shot, and the game went into overtime.
“No one wanted to make that free throw more than Robin,” Milligan said. “It is something she will remember and use as motivation. It’s hard to see her miss, but she was a big reason we were even in that situation.”
Perkins was not the only player who struggled at the free-throw line. Not only did Perkins go 9 for 19 from the free-throw line, the team as a whole went 26 for 41 from the charity stripe.
In overtime, Rider dug itself into another big hole, trailing 74-66 with 35 seconds remaining. However, the team’s resilience allowed it to achieve the impossible yet again.
Rider was able to cut the deficit to 75-73 by the 15-second mark with three free throws by Hoskova and two by Perkins. After two foul shots by Siena, freshman guard Lexi Stover made a clutch three-pointer to get the game within one, 77-76. That was as far as Rider got as Siena hit two more foul shots to win the game 79-76.
Emotions ran high in the locker room after the tough loss, Milligan said.
“There were a lot of tears,” she said. “I told the team how proud I was of our fight and perseverance and how much we will miss our seniors.”
The loss is followed with the departure of senior forward Janine Loutzenhiser and senior guard Manon Pellet. Milligan said Pellet will be a big loss for her squad, ending her career at Rider with 432 points and 297 assists.
“Manon has given her heart and soul to this program,” Milligan said. “She is a leader and has left the program in a better place.”
Pellet credits her success to working hard and making herself a role model.
“I hope I had a good influence on my teammates by just giving my everything, leading by example, and by just being a good teammate and a selfless player,” she said.