By Stephen Neukam
A pair of wins to finish the regular season secured the second seed in the MAAC Tournament for the women’s basketball team, with a 77-54 victory over Siena on Feb. 28 and a 60-53 win over Fairfield on March 2.
The contest against Siena was senior night for the Broncs. Senior guards Lexi Posset and Taylour Jones and graduate student guard Mia Farmer were honored prior to the game. Jones and Farmer, who both had not started a game this season, were inserted into the starting line-up.
“It was amazing to take the court as a starter tonight,” said Jones. “My teammates have a lot of faith in me.”
Rider led comfortably throughout the game. The Broncs held an 11-point lead going into halftime and outscored Siena by 14 in the third quarter to effectively close the game.
Posset finished her final home game with 19 points and seven rebounds. Junior forward Lea Favre posted a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds while junior guard Amari Johnson scored 16.
The win pushed the Broncs to 4-1 in their last five meetings with Siena.
“I’m really pleased with the effort we had today,” said Head Coach Lynn Milligan. “We had a solid defensive effort. We have to clean some things up inside as we move forward, but I think we’re heading in the right direction.”
The win clinched the second seed in the MAAC Tournament for Rider.
“Clinching the number two seed feels good. It’s definitely going to help us when we get to the MAAC Tournament because we’ll have a bye,” said Posset.
The final game of the regular season, an away match against Fairfield, was a much tougher contest as it took a fourth-quarter rally from the Broncs to win their season finale.
Rider trailed 42-34 entering the fourth quarter. Following an early-quarter 8-0 run from the Broncs and then some back and forth play, the game was tied at 53 with under a minute left. A three-pointer and free throws from junior Stella Johnson saw Rider end the game on a 7-0 run to secure the victory.
Stella Johnson finished the game with 21 points, five rebounds and five assists. Posset poured in 17 points.
Stella Johnson’s effort against Fairfield was her 15th 20-plus point game of the season. She finished the season averaging 18.6 points per game.
This was just the second time that Rider clinched the second seed in the MAAC Tournament. It was also the second time in three years the team achieved the feat.
The Broncs ended the season with a 14-4 conference record. It was the second time the team reached that many wins and their most in an 18-game conference season ever.
Three Broncs earned All-MAAC postseason honors. Stella Johnson was the only unanimous selection to the First Team, Amari Johnson secured Second Team recognition and Posset was named to the Third Team.
“I believe this team can do anything we put our minds to,” said Amari Johnson. “We had a rough start in preseason, so we came out strong and stayed strong in [the] regular season.”
Amari Johnson made clear that the team was not setting its sights low for the postseason.
“We are a determined group of females with one goal, to get a ring,” said Amari Johnson. “I’m confident that we will not only go far in the tournament but beat our long-time rivals, Quinnipiac, to win the tournament and get to the NCAA’s. Our postseason will be long because we want it and put in the hard work to get it.”
Quinnipiac, the defending MAAC champions, finished the season with an 18-0 conference record. The Bobcats were followed in the standings by Rider, Marist, Monmouth and Canisius. Each of these teams earned a first-round bye in the MAAC Tournament.
The Broncs will face the winner of No. 7 Siena vs. No. 10 Iona. The game will take place on March 8 at 3:30 p.m at the Times Union Center in Albany, New York.