By Stephen Neukam
A four-game winning streak was broken for the women’s basketball team when Rider lost to Manhattan, 60-57, on Feb. 17 following a Feb. 15 victory over St. Peters, 78-43.
Junior guard Stella Johnson, who averaged 19.4 points per game this season, continued to lead the way for the Broncs. In the game against Manhattan, she posted 22 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Johnson’s performance looked like it would be enough to propel Rider to its fifth-straight victory. The Broncs were up by as much as nine with just under six minutes to go in the game.
However, the Rider offense faltered down the stretch and was outscored 12-3 over the final four and a half minutes of the contest.
Junior forward Tracy Goodman posted a career-high 10 points off the bench for the Broncs. Junior forward Lea Favre scored nine and senior guard Lexi Posset contributed eight points.
The loss brought Rider’s conference record to 11-3.
“That fourth quarter, they really took it to us and we didn’t react as well as we could have,” said Head Coach Lynn Milligan. “We weren’t quite ready today to do what we needed to for the full 40 minutes.”
In the matchup against St. Peter’s, Posset and Favre each scored 15 points. Stella Johnson notched 14 points while junior guard Amari Johnson poured in 12 and grabbed nine rebounds.
The 35-point win, which the Broncs controlled throughout, was Rider’s largest margin of victory this season.
Amari Johnson, who averaged 11 points per game so far this season, has struggled shooting the ball recently. She shot 36 percent from the field over the last nine games. Over that span, she made just 26 percent of her threes. Despite the shooting struggles, Johnson remained committed to playing tough defense and hitting the boards hard.
“Just like my dad always said, just like my coaches always said, ‘defense leads to offense,’” said Amari Johnson. “Grabbing those rebounds, I feel like, is what is crucial for us to run our offense. Defense wins games.”
While Rider sits second in the conference, it is just one game up on third-place Marist. The Broncs defeated Marist, 70-64, on Feb. 9 in what could prove to be a big win for the team. Rider will not play Marist again this season but has contests against top-seeded Quinnipiac and fourth-placed Niagara. Marist also has games against those two teams in the coming weeks.
The Broncs have performed well down the stretch, with a record of 5-2 since their Jan. 26 loss to Canisius. The 11-3 record matches the program’s best 14-game start to a season.
“The bottom line is that we’ve got to make sure we are prepared to play,” said Milligan. “We’re going to worry about our prep for [the next game.] We need to make sure we are mentally and physically strong enough [to continue winning.]”
Rider faces a tough conference matchup with Quinnipiac, which has a MAAC record of 14-0 and sits atop the standings. The Broncs have never won a game against the Bobcats, who lead the all-time series 14-0. Rider faces Quinnipiac at home on Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. The Broncs travel to Niagara on Feb. 24 for a 2 p.m. contest.