By Brandon Scalea (@brandonscalea)
LAWRENCEVILLE, NJ -- With Monmouth threatening to come back, freshman guard Lexi Posset dribbled at the top of the key with the shot clock winding down and the game clock approaching the final minute.
She stepped back and knocked down a huge three to extend the lead back to double digits and push the Broncs to their eighth straight win and 21st overall Wednesday, defeating the Hawks, 75-63, to complete the season sweep of its West Long Branch rival.
Senior forward Julia Duggan said that as the Broncs keep winning, the season keeps getting more fun.
“It’s great to see the smiles on everyone’s faces,” she said. “It’s great to have a year like this because we’ve been on the other side of it.”
Freshman guard Stella Johnson opened the scoring for the Broncs with a layup. Rider then went out to an early 6-0 lead after another Johnson layup and a jumper from Duggan. Monmouth battled to tie the game at 14 after a pair of field goals in the paint, but Rider ended the first quarter on an 11-2 run to pull ahead, 25-16. In the second quarter, the Hawks did a nice job of getting the ball inside for buckets. They also took advantage of a few questionable foul calls that head coach Lynn Milligan didn’t agree with.
Despite being outshot by 10 percent, Rider led by four at halftime, 38-34. Kamila Hoskova led the team with 12 in the first half on 4-for-7 shooting. Duggan had six rebounds. For Monmouth, freshman guard Kayla Shaw dropped three three-pointers and senior guard Tyese Purvis added six points in the first half.
In the second half, the Broncs scored the first six points to extend the lead back to double digits. Hoskova had two turnaround jumpers and Duggan added a nice finger-roll layup as Rider threatened to pull away. On back-to-back possessions, freshman guard Safie Tolusso and senior guard Taylor Wentzel knocked down threes to push the lead back to 11 after a brief Monmouth run. Duggan added a putback in the final seconds of the quarter to push the lead to Rider’s largest, 59-46. However, the visiting Hawks came out flying in the final quarter. After the Broncs increased the lead to 12, Monmouth banged out eight straight. Wentzel made a nice play to put an end to that run, driving to the basket for the layup and the foul.
The win puts the Broncs back into a tie with Quinnipiac for first place in the MAAC at 15-3 in conference play. With two regular season games remaining, Rider has already clinched at least the second seed in the upcoming conference tournament, but still has a chance to win the regular-season title. Their final home game of the season will tip off Friday at 7 p.m. against Niagara.
Milligan said the Broncs are only focusing on the next game, not the bigger picture.
“We are very single-focused,” she said. “I know it’s coach-speak, but we are one game at a time, one day at a time and it works for this group. It keeps things nice and simple and helps us perform at our best.”