Rider smoked by Drexel; stun Terriers in overtime

By Jake Tiger

Rider women’s basketball experienced the peaks and valleys of competition in its first full week of action, as the Broncs followed up their worst loss in over three years with a victory in a thrilling overtime slugfest.

In Philadelphia, Drexel thrashed Rider 84-58 on Nov. 10, but in New York, the Broncs went toe-to-toe with St. Francis Brooklyn on Nov. 13, ultimately coming out on top thanks to a game-winning three from junior guard Makayla Firebaugh.

‘It’s all on us’

After opening the season with a disappointing loss at home, Rider traveled to Drexel, only to be dealt an even more lopsided defeat, falling 84-58 to the Dragons. It was Rider’s worst loss in the history of the matchup, and the Broncs have not beaten Drexel since November of 1994.

“We have to work on being tough,” said senior guard Jessika Schiffer. “[We have to] come to battle with the other team and not give up after the first 10 minutes. We have to start stronger … keep punching, and not fall down and stay down.”

The loss saw Rider go 6-of-24 from three, while surrendering 17 turnovers. The Broncs also notched two blocks and one steal, as their poor defense was routinely exploited.

Drexel’s 84-point effort is the most allowed by the Broncs in regulation since their 89-65 loss to Princeton on Nov. 6, 2019.

Drexel guard Keishana Washington, the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) preseason player of the year, put on a devastating performance. The graduate student dropped 34 points on the Broncs, including 26 in the first half. 

“She was obviously somebody that we had our eye on,” said Milligan. “She came out the first game [of their season] and sent a message probably to the whole CAA, that they voted right.”

On the other hand, Firebaugh, Rider’s top guard, struggled to find any sort of offensive rhythm, despite a strong start. She had a team-high nine points after the first quarter, but couldn’t find the bottom of the net for the rest of the game.

Firebaugh had a bad sequence of missed three-pointers in the second quarter, sailing three consecutive attempts completely over the rim, possibly due to the depth issues of playing in a larger arena. 

“The arena definitely was an issue with [the misses] just because it’s a bigger, wider area, but it’s all on us to come in and be ready to shoot … in different places at different times,” said Firebaugh.

After a scoreless first half, Schiffer managed to cobble together a solid performance, scoring all 13 of her points in the second half on 3-of-6 shooting from three.

However, Schiffer merely made a dent in the Dragons’ lead, as they unflinchingly soared to the blowout win and left Rider searching for its first of the season.

“Every time we got something done, we gave up an easy bucket. We just didn’t get stops tonight. That’s really what it was,” said Milligan.

‘We needed this’

The Broncs halted their season-opening slide in the most dramatic way possible, rebounding from a 17-0 run by St. Francis, and striking the Terriers down with a game-winning, overtime three-pointer courtesy of Firebaugh.

“I would’ve bet the house on that she was going to make that shot,” said Milligan. “She’s built that way; she’s built for those moments.”

Firebaugh scored 21 points on 6-of-12 shooting from three to lift the Broncs to their first win. Through the first two games of the season, she had only scored 20 points to go with 1-of-10 three-point efficiency.

The win was a roller coaster ride, as the Broncs appeared to be in the driver’s seat early on, jumping out to a 12-4 lead in the first.

Down seven points early in the second quarter, St. Francis dropped in a three-pointer to spark a 17-0 run, and the Terriers suddenly went into halftime with a 29-20.

“We let the second quarter and some of the calls… get in our head a little bit so we just needed to reset,” said Milligan. “We needed to get back into our own pace, our own rhythm and execute.”

The Broncs regrouped in the locker room, and flipped the script on St. Francis in the second half. Rider went on a 16-2 run and pushed the game to overtime behind seven fourth quarter points from Firebaugh.

“Coach [Milligan] just kept reminding us, like, ‘Be you… play your game. That’s all you need,’” said Firebaugh.

The teams traded baskets in a tightly-contested overtime period, until St. Francis rebounded a missed layup by Rider, and began dribbling out the clock with a two-point advantage and less than a minute remaining.

With a 70-68 lead and victory in their sights, the Terriers tried their best to keep the ball away, but Schiffer swiped at a careless dribble, scooped up the ball and called a timeout with 19 seconds left.

 Graduate student guard Amanda Mobley caught the inbound pass, crossed halfcourt and dished it to Firebaugh on the left wing. 

Firebaugh took two dribbles and stepped back into a three with two defenders draped all over her. The shot arced high into the air, and splashed down into the hoop to put Rider up 71-70.

Nine seconds remained and the Terriers made one final attempt, but their desperation floater rimmed out and Rider’s comeback was complete.

Having earned their first win, the Broncs will look across the pond, heading to Dublin for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC)/Atlantic Sun Conference (ASUN) Basketball Challenge. 

“We needed this,” said Firebaugh. “It’s nice to go into Ireland with a win like this.”

Rider’s first of two games will be against North Florida at 1:30 p.m. EST on Nov. 18.

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