By Dylan Manfre
Makayla Firebaugh is the real deal.
The freshman guard was a 2,000-point scorer in high school and has shown promise on the offensive side of the ball through four games and on Dec. 11 against Manhattan to open conference play.
Rider lost by five, 56-51, but it felt like 15 because of the rough third quarter where the Broncs only scored five points.
“I don’t even want to talk about that,” Firebaugh said when asked how much she hates losing. “Who doesn’t hate losing? That’s the obvious thing. I hate it a lot. I don’t lose. I know that’s cocky sounding, but like I’ve never had a losing season since I picked up a basketball and I don’t plan to start that anytime soon.”
The theme of the season seems to be finding out who can compensate for the dramatic hole left by WNBA-draftee Stella Johnson and Lea Favre, who finished top five in field goal percentage in the conference over the last two seasons.
So is Firebaugh the answer to Rider’s scoring questions? Maybe.
Firebaugh finished with a career-high 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field in her second consecutive start. She’s also averaging the second most points on the team at 7.8.
The Winchester, Virginia, native gave Rider its first lead against Manhattan midway through the second quarter and it was one of the few leads Rider has seen all season. Now that Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play is starting, the Broncs are going to need that offensive prowess.
In the MAAC opener, she played like the type of player that Milligan and company recruited out of James Wood High School. Firebaugh’s second quarter was just as strong as her first. She finished the second quarter with six points on 2-of-3 shooting after she shot 3-for-5 in the opening quarter.
Even with her team down 14, Firebaugh kept the Broncs in the game putting up smart shots.
“[Makayla] learns every day. She’s in the gym, watching film. She wants to be the player we want her to be so that’s half the battle. She takes her lumps and her learning curve is shrinking rapidly,” Milligan said. “I thought her shots tonight were in rhythm. That’s something we’ve been working on to make sure she knows you don’t have to create a lot of shots with what we run. We can get her the looks that she needs and I think tonight we did. I think she took advantage of that and made some big buckets.”
Rider will play the second game of its series against Manhattan on Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.
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