By Dylan Manfre
Sophomore guard Amanda Mobley entered the season tasked with filling the shoes of former starting guard Lexi Posset. After Mobley scored her career-best 15 points against Penn State, Head Coach Lynn Milligan needed a strong performance from her point guard.
Mobley finished with seven points on 3-for-5 shooting from the field in the Broncs’ 64-57 win in their first-ever meeting with Xavier in their home opener on Nov. 16.
“After [Posset] leaving, I knew I had to step up a bit,” Mobley said. “Definitely after Penn State, it really helped my confidence and made me realize I can stick with everyone and play with them.”
Senior guard Stella Johnson recorded her 255th career steal in the third quarter and is now Rider’s all-time leader in the category. Offensively, she knows she will be double-teamed right from the start and combatting it never gets easier.
“I have confidence in my teammates so once they start scoring it opens up my flow to get points also,” Johnson said. “On defense that’s where I thrive from getting the tips and steals.”
The league named Johnson the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) and College Sports Madness MAAC Player of the Week on Nov. 18.
BREAKING: @RiderWBB senior guard Stella Johnson was named MAAC Women’s Basketball Player of the Week, per release.— Dylan Manfre (@Dylan_Manfre11) November 18, 2019
Facing Xavier for the first time in program history after a five-day break, Milligan mentioned that the Broncs had to go into the game with the mentality of facing a regular opponent.
“We prepare to make sure we’re playing Rider basketball for a full 40 minutes,” she said. “That’s our goal no matter who our opponent is. [Assistant] Coach Marritta [Gillcrease] did a really good job of the scout off of their first two games just breaking down the tendencies that we saw. It’s not a huge sample size but it’s enough to give the ladies of what we were going to be up against.”
After the Broncs started the game on an 11-0 run, Xavier quickly cut the Rider lead down thanks to an 11-2 run of its own. Aaliyah Dunham had five of Xavier’s 11 points over the five minute stretch as the opening quarter came to a close.
Rider held Xavier’s top shooters, A’riana Gray and Carrie Gross, to a combined 22 of Xavier’s 57 points as the Musketeers needed to rely on their other options for the scoring. Rider took a four-point lead into halftime and held Xavier to under 30% shooting from the field in the opening half.
“I think our players did a great job of understanding the scout and knowing each of the strengths and weaknesses of how each of their players wanted to try and score,” Milligan said. “We did a good job of taking away their first option. Our communication was good and our switches were timely.”
Rider looked cautious coming out of the break, yet remained aggressive as it brought its lead up to double-digits for the second time. It held the upper hand defensively as the team limited Xavier to seven points at the 5:19 third quarter media timeout.
A rough game throughout, Rider found itself getting into foul trouble with senior forward Daija Moses, Stella Johnson and Amari Johnson each had four. Stella Johnson picked up three by halftime.
The foul trouble forced Milligan to go deep into the bench and bring in some key reserves such as freshman guard Lauren Saa, who scored her first collegiate bucket on a three-pointer.
“As the season goes on you’ll see us go deeper and deeper as our younger kids get more comfortable with game situations, particularly tight situations,” Milligan said. “I thought Lauren came in and gave us some great minutes, [senior guard Lexi] Stover, being the veteran, gave great minutes off the bench. Everybody knows they need to be prepared when their opportunity comes.”
After the Broncs and the Musketeers traded buckets in the fourth quarter and Rider’s lead was cut down to four with one-minute remaining, Milligan thought the team handled the physical game well.
“We were kind of faced with the same situation at Penn State,” Milligan said. “We had a lead in the fourth quarter and they were coming at us full court, getting fouled. Amanda and Stella had to handle the ball a lot today in some really tight situations.”
Rider’s next game will be at the MAAC/ASUN Challenge, where it will face Lipscomb University of the Atlantic Sun Conference, on Nov. 22 at 2:30 p.m.
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