As the final seconds ticked away in Marist’s 76-72 overtime defeat to Rider, a harsh reality began to set in for the Red Foxes. Marist saw the conclusion of a bevy of impressive streaks: their six-game winning streak, four-game conference winning streak, and a three-game streak of scoring over 90 points came to an end.
It was Marist’s first loss since December 7 against Princeton. The Red Foxes had feasted against the bottom-half of the MAAC, winning all their games and lighting up the scoreboards against teams that are a combined 6-16 in MAAC play.
The Rider Broncs were an entirely different animal. Boasting a 3-0 MAAC record, the country’s leading scorer, Stella Johnson (27.8 PPG), and a strong supporting cast, the Broncs came into the McCann Center and became the first MAAC team to defeat the Red Foxes this season.
“It was just great game,” said Rider head coach Lynn Donovan-Milligan. “There were two great teams just battling each other out there. Both teams had their highs and lows.”
Marist got a team-high 21 points out Alana Gilmer, but it took her 24 shots to get there. Grace Vander Weide had 16 points, eight assists, eight rebounds, and a whopping eight turnovers. Rebekah Hand struggled to find open shots, finishing with 13 points after fouling out in overtime. Sarah Barcello was the fourth Red Fox in double-figures, finishing with 10.
It’s not often that Hand and Gilmer are outshone, but Stella Johnson was the clear star of tonight’s game. She finished with a game-high 28 points and added 10 rebounds. Lea Favre added 22, consistently hitting from mid-range and Amanda Mobley had 11, with a trio of long-range, timely threes.
Marist started slowly and trailed 17-10 after the first ten minutes. Johnson had nine quick points for Rider but was forced to sit for much of the second quarter after picking her second foul. The Red Foxes looked poised to capitalize, cutting the deficit to 28-27, but Rider would not let up. Marist looked to be facing a four-point disadvantage going into halftime, but Rider’s Amanda Mobley had other ideas, firing a line drive from 70 feet that found the bottom of the net and gave the Broncs a 36-29 lead.
A revamped Marist team started the second half quickly. A 14-2 run keyed by Gilmer and capped by a three from Barcello gave the Red Foxes a 45-40 lead. When Marist comes from behind to take the lead, they seldom relinquish it, but Johnson hit a three in the final minute of the third to put Rider back up 50-49. Allie Best, who contributed great minutes off the bench hit a pair of free throws to send the Red Foxes to the fourth up 51-50.
“I thought we did a good job sustaining their run,” said Donovan-Milligan. “They came out of halftime on fire, but we were able to stay in it.”
Neither team could find any separation in the last 10 minutes of regulation. Barcello made a layup to tie the game at 62 with 3:25 left. After a tense three minutes without any scoring, Rider’s Aubrey Johnson hit her first shot of the night to put the Broncs up two. Coming out of a timeout with 13 seconds left, Gilmer got a pass Vander Weide, took it to the hoop, laid it in and got fouled. She completed the three-point play to put her team up 65-64.
There was no doubt who would get the ball for Rider. Stella Johnson drew a foul on a drive to the basket but could only make one-of-two foul shots. 40 minutes was not enough to separate the two teams at the top of the MAAC.
Marist had not played a game decided by less than 10 points. Rider was 4-0 in such contests, including a 1-0 overtime record.
The overtime period saw both teams lose their best players. Rebekah Hand exited following a hard collision on a 50/50 ball. Stella Johnson exited soon after, committing an infraction against Allie Best, who hit the subsequent free throws to put the Red Foxes up 69-67. Vander Weide also hit a pair that gave Marist a 72-69 lead with 90 seconds left.
Mobley struck again for the Broncs, hitting a deep, shot clock beating three to tie the game with under a minute left. Vander Weide rushed down to the other end but missed a layup and committed a frustration foul right after. Tracey Goodman hit the foul shots for the Broncs to put her team up two.
“The last four minutes after Stella Johnson fouled said a lot about our team,” Donovan-Milligan continued. “Everyone knows how good she is, but when she went out her teammates stepped up in a big way.”
The Red Foxes had multiple looks to tie the game, but Gilmer and Best could not get their shots to fall and Marist was forced to foul with four seconds left. Lea Favre hit both shots to apply the dagger into the heart of the Red Foxes and their fan base.
Marist finished 26-64 (41%) from the field and seven-of-18 (39%) from three, a far cry from their last three games. Thet fought to a draw against Rider on the glass but committed 16 turnovers, equaling their assist total, also down from 28 in two consecutive games.
Rider went 29-67 (43%) from the floor and 7-19 (37%) from long range. The Broncs took good care of the ball, committing only 12 turnovers compared to 19 assists.
The Red Foxes fall to 11-3 (4-1 in MAAC play). Marist will be back in action on Saturday when they travel to Manhattan. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Edited by Will Bjarnar