Rider drops narrow game to Fairfield in second to last game of season

By Dylan Manfre

Rider’s victory over Saint Peter’s on Feb. 26 gave the team a taste of what a win is like over a top-half team in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). It set the Broncs up for their next challenge against the MAAC’s top team, Fairfield, on March 3 to begin the final week of the regular season.

The Broncs were down three with 24 seconds left and a 3-pointer was not necessary at that moment but junior guard Jessika Schiffer heaved up an airball from deep anyway as Rider lost a heartbreaker 65-61. 

It was a play Rider Head Coach Lynn Milligan had run before in practice with both a 3-pointer or two-pointer as outcomes. She felt that on the road, with the season winding down, it was time to go for the deep ball.

“We were trying to get a clean look for [sophomore guard Makayla Firebaugh] coming off a screen and see if we can get a quick 3,” Milligan said. “Felt like playing the best team on the road that we wanted to go for it … I thought we executed it pretty well, we just didn’t quite get off the shot that we wanted.”

Whenever Fairfield is on the schedule, preseason Player of the Year, Lou Lopez-Senechal dominates the scouting report. She is the conference’s top scorer and had a career-high 30 points in her last game. Rider held her to four points in the first quarter but allowed her to heat up as she finished with another 30-piece.

Rider was on Fairfield’s tail and kept the Stags in check in a see-saw game. The Broncs arguably played the most composed first-half of basketball all season. Fairfield’s largest lead in the opening half was six points. 

At the second media timeout, senior guard Lenaejha Evans had a layup with a foul giving Rider a 25-24 lead which was part of a 10-0 run late in the first half. 

Evans had 12 of her 18 at halftime as Rider held a 30-28 lead in what looked like the most composed half this season.

Though Milligan was unhappy with some of the defensive breakdowns throughout the contest, she knows the sense of urgency this team needs to play with in order to win a game come next week’s tournament.

“It’s March, we’ve been working since July to make sure that we’re prepared for this time of year,” Milligan said. “We still got some work to do tomorrow in practice … we want to put ourselves in the best situation this time of year.”

Schiffer and Fairfield traded long balls in the final quarter. Schiffer drained three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter alone. She was on a mission. She wanted this victory at all costs and made sure it went down to the wire. She battled with Fairfield’s Sam Lewis from the perimeter.

Schiffer finished with 14 points, 12 of which came from the 3-point range. Evans ended the game with 18 to lead the Broncs.

Rider finished its regular season on March 5 with a game against Quinnipiac at 2 p.m. before heading to Atlantic City for the MAAC Tournament.

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