By Dylan Manfre
The Rider Athletics game day staff, Zoo Crew, played the Rocky theme song with a minute left in the fourth quarter. It started right after sophomore center Victoria Toomey converted a layup with 1:10 left in regulation which gave Rider its first lead in a game that it trailed by as many as 14.
Given how the game went, Head Coach Lynn Milligan, sophomore center Victoria Toomey and freshman forward Raphaela Toussaint thought it was appropriate after Rider’s 65-61 victory over Saint Peter’s for its first Mid Atlantic Athletic Conference victory of the season.
Rider takes this one 65-62 for its first MAAC win of the season coming back from as many as 14 points. pic.twitter.com/xDftvgw3R8— Dylan Manfre (@Dylan_Manfre11) January 16, 2021
Toussaint took it upon herself to will her team back into the game cutting a 10-point deficit at the start of the final quarter, down to three with four minutes and change left. She had her best game in a Rider uniform with 19 points and 11 rebounds for her third career double-double.
Toussaint made an extremely compelling case as to why she should be a regular starter. She had 10 rebounds at the final media timeout and a staggering seven of them were offensive rebounds — Rider ended the game with 12.
Toomey and Toussaint have cultivated a good chemistry together throughout practices and it has led them to have a good relationship on the court. Both of them finished with double-doubles. Toomey set a new career-high with 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
“Vic and Raphie really stepped up. When they get their flow and they’re playing the way they’re capable of playing — they’re young post [players],, but they’re two of the toughest kids, you’ll see,” Milligan said. “They both wanted the ball tonight, which is something that we’ve really been working on.”
Late in the fourth quarter, Toussaint aggressively grabbed two offensive rebounds which led to an eventual foul putting her at the foul line with 1:48 left. She made 1-of-2 and tied the game at 61.
The desire of wanting to convert on those shots exhubertated through Toussaint’s mask on the postgame Zoom call.
“Very badly,” Toussaint said on how much she wanted to hit one of those second-chance shots. “I was just right under there and I wanted it to go in so when she fouled me it was great.”
Toussaint just got her 6th and 7th offensive rebounds AND hit both foul shots. She is having such a great game today and making a STRONG case to be a regular starter.— Dylan Manfre (@Dylan_Manfre11) January 16, 2021
Toomey and Toussaint have worked together in practice and their chemistry on the court was apparent throughout the game.
“[Toussaint] rebounds like crazy and that motivates me to want to rebound like crazy,” Toomey said. “Playing against her in practice everyday motivates you to get on the boards too.”
Toussaint said she admires Toomey’s post moves and aims to mimic it on the floor.
Although it got a win, a similar pattern occurred for Rider today where it spends a quarter or more digging itself into a 14-point-sized hole during the game.
Kendrea Williams played the role of the pesky annoying cousin at a holiday dinner in the first quarter. No matter what Rider did, Williams fired away and was perfect from the field in the opening quarter with 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting. The Peacocks finished the first quarter shooting 58% from the field. Victoria Ikenasio had 10 points as well on 5-of-7 shooting.
Rider’s defense improved in the second quarter as it held Saint Peter’s to shoot 1-for-6 at the midway point of the second quarter. It also kept the ball out of Williams’ hands who did not attempt a shot through the first five minutes. Toussaint had eight of Rider’s 14 points in the second quarter and pulled the Broncs within eight at intermission.
At the final horn, Rider outscored Saint Peter’s 22-9 in the fourth quarter, really showing a break to the pattern. To Milligan, it was a relief.
“We’ve had a lot of games this season where we’ve been starting the fourth quarter tied or ahead and it hasn’t gone our way,” Milligan said. “For us to be able to execute the way we did in the fourth quarter is a great sign for us. For us to really step up and defend the way we did in the fourth quarter too, a really high-powered offense with some really terrific guard scoring, I think says a lot [about] the direction we’re headed and things we’ve been working on.”
Rider looks for its second league win and first sweep against Saint Peter’s on Jan. 17 at 1 p.m.
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