By Tom Regan
Fresh off of victories against Niagara (8-17, 6-10 MAAC) and the then-undefeated Iona (22-3, 15-1 MAAC), the women’s basketball team stood strong at 8-6 in the MAAC. However, a week filled with match-ups against third-place Fairfield (17-8, 12-4 MAAC) and first-place Iona brought the Broncs back to an even 8-8.
Rider lost a tight game against Fairfield on Feb. 13 by a score of 52-50. Rider had to find other ways to score in the opening half as senior guard and leading-scorer MyNeshia McKenzie was held to only five minutes because of multiple fouls. As a result, she finished with six points and 11 rebounds in the game.
Sophomore guard Mikal Johnson stepped up in a big way with a 22 point, eight rebound effort, though it was not enough. With only 3.1 seconds remaining in regulation, senior center Brittany Obi-Tabot hit a game-winning three-pointer to give Fairfield the victory.
Freshman center Julia Duggan believes that the team was lost without McKenzie for much of the first half. Duggan attributes the loss to the ill-timed mistakes at the end of the game.
“Without MyNeshia during most of the first half, we lost one of our leaders on the floor,” Duggan said. “And in the last couple minutes of the game we started to make mistakes.”
The Broncs had to take a trip to Iona for a rematch on Feb. 16. McKenzie scored 21 points and had six rebounds, but it was not enough to counteract the record-breaking performance of Iona’s junior guard Damika Martinez.
Martinez scored a MAAC- and Iona-record 46 points, shooting 16 of 20 from the field.
The Broncs showed some resiliency later in the half going on a 14-4 run, with 10 points scored by McKenzie. Martinez and Iona started to pull away later in the second half and the Broncs were unable to recover, losing 73-66.
Duggan admitted that the pressure to perform and beat the top seed once again got to the team. She said that they lost their calm and unified play that they displayed in the first matchup.
“This time emotions were running high because it was a big game with high expectations to beat them again,” Duggan said. “I feel like we all wish we could have played more composed like the first time we played them.”
Next on the schedule for the Broncs will be home games against both Monmouth (20-6, 14-2 MAAC) on Feb. 19 and second-place Marist (6-21, 5-11 MAAC) on Feb. 21.
Duggan seems confident that this week Rider will be able to rediscover the fire that led the team to three straight victories. She claims that all it will take is the team buying into the concepts set forth by the coaching staff.
“We have to give into the concepts the coaches are teaching us and play the way we know we can play,” Duggan said. “If we do that I have no doubt that we will have a very successful week.”