By Dylan Manfre
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — A scorching performance in the final quarter of play helped the women’s basketball team sink conference giants Quinnipiac in the quarterfinals of the Metro Atlantic Athletic (MAAC) Tournament, 62-50, on March 10 — a historic upset that propels Rider to one of the final four teams standing.
In its eight years in the conference, this was the first time the Bobcats exited after its first game.
Down four heading into the final quarter of play and lacking momentum, the no. 7 seed Rider was positioning itself to make a final late-game push.
Unfazed by Quinnipiac’s offensive prowess the Broncs went on a 15-2 run that lasted 3:51 and featured a trio of 3-pointers from sophomore forward Anna Ekerstedt, senior captain Daija Moses and Co-Rookie of the Year guard Makayla Firebaugh. The push helped Rider upset the Bobcats, 62-50, and move to the semifinals for the fifth year in a row.
Head Coach Lynn Milligan never expected her team to be fully “in flow” after the long break from live game action in the opener against Monmouth, but the following day, the Broncs played to their strengths. They received versatile scoring from multiple players, forced turnovers, limited fouls and went on offensive runs at the right time.
Rider’s 2-3 zone defense buckled Quinnipiac into scoring nine points in the final quarter of play. The Broncs on the other hand, had 25.
“That was a big part of our game,” junior guard Amanda Mobley said. “We worked on it a lot in our three weeks off, in practice, a couple days before this game. You can obviously see it definitely got better. We all knew what we needed to do and knew where we had to be.”
Another testament to the defense was rendering MAAC Player of the Year Mackenzie DeWees scoreless heading into the intermission which was a valiant effort for sure. It is incredibly hard to hold a player who scores 13 points per game to just two points at the end of four quarters.
“Just [know your personnel] like coach [Milligan] said beforehand,” said Firebaugh who finished with 12 points on 50% shooting from the field. “This team is a [know-your-personel] team … just working on that and taking her away.”
Firebaguh enjoyed a successful day from behind the arc as did the Broncs. Rider connected on nine of its 18 attempts and the success from 3-point range was a big factor in Rider’s win. Even Rider’s forwards were knocking down 3-pointers.
Ekerstedt, Moses and freshman forward Raphaaela Toussaint combined to go 6-for-7 from deep.
“That’s what they do. Those are shots that we work on and are a part of our offense,” Milligan said. “We run a lot of stuff to get them those shots because we feel if we can draw attention inside … we have the utmost confidence in [them] to make those shots because we watch them do it every day.”
For the last few years, Quinnipiac has dominated the conference, winning three straight MAAC titles from 2016-2019. But even Quinnipiac Head Coach Tricia Fabbri praised Rider’s youth for taking out the big dog of the tournament.
“Quinnipiac has obviously developed quite the reputation here so you got to be ready to come in here and go against anybody,” Fabbri said. “Credit those young ladies. They had opportunities, they made the most of the opportunity on the perimeter.”
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