By Jake Tiger
Within the gaggle of snowplows sweeping the icy streets of Buffalo, New York, was a herd of Rider Broncs seeking their fifth straight win against Canisius College.
Rider women’s basketball was hoping to start Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play with a win on Dec. 17, but the Golden Griffins came out on top, locking down the Broncs in the final minutes to secure a hardfought 74-67 victory.
Canisius guard Vannessa Garrelts was the latest player to dice up Rider’s perimeter defense, dropping a career-high 22 points, along with eight rebounds and five assists. The graduate student scored 12 points in what was a near-perfect first half, sinking two three-pointers and 5-of-6 shots overall.
Meanwhile, Rider’s premier shooter, junior forward Makayla Firebaugh, was great as well, despite an uncharacteristic first half performance. Firebaugh finished with a game-high 23 points, but had just seven at halftime on 1-of-5 shooting from three.
As a team, Rider struggled to shoot the ball for much of the game, but Canisius never completely pulled away from the Broncs, its biggest lead only being eight points. Rider was always within striking distance, but never ceased the opportunity.
The game was tied at 62-62 with 4:21 left to play and the Broncs were heating up at the perfect time. The win was there for the taking.
However, a series of self-inflicted blunders stymied what could have been a strong start to conference play, with the Broncs committing two costly turnovers and missing a pair of layups in the final minutes to give the Griffs the 74-67 win.
With a frustrating loss to fuel them, the Broncs now head about 20 miles north for a road affair with the Niagara Purple Eagles on Dec. 19. Their second game of MAAC play begins at 6 p.m. and will be streamed on ESPN3.