Womhoops Guru

Mel Greenberg covered college and professional women’s basketball for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he worked for 40 plus years. Greenberg pioneered national coverage of the game, including the original Top 25 women's college poll. His knowledge has earned him nicknames such as "The Guru" and "The Godfather," as well as induction into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Guru's Overniter: Rider Wins Another Cliffhanger To Stay Tied for First in the MAAC

By Mel Greenberg @womhoopsguru

LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. – Not too long ago Rider women’s basketball could easily qualify for membership in the broken hearts club in terms of narrow losses the Broncs would suffer.

This season, however, the hearts they are breaking are inside the bodies of the opposition.

On Saturday, for the third straight game, fans didn’t have to worry if they were running late. Just make sure to show up for the last minute.

Junior Kamilia Hoskova was around for all but one of them in the Metro Atlantic Athletics Conference game in Alumni Gymnasium against Siena, however, including the most important one when with 13 seconds remaining in regulation, the native of the Czech Republic drove inside on a feed from Taylor Wentzel to connect with a layup to put Rider ahead 72-70.

Siena (9-14, 8-6) still had enough time to even the score from Rider’s recent visit to Albany, N.Y., when the Broncs edged the Saints (9-14, 8-6 MAAC) scoring an improbable nine points in the last 28 seconds to win a thriller there.

But Kollyns Scarbrough missed inside and Rider’s Stella Johnson grabbed the rebound to seal the win and send Broncs fans back to the medical ward to make sure they weren’t suffering any abnormal cardiac symptoms.

After all it was a week ago that Rider mounted a rally on Saint Peter’s that came to a successful conclusion on Robin Perkins’ three-pointer in this very building as time expired.

Five days later Perkins hit two foul shots at Monmouth in the closing seconds to not only get Rider a win, but to also propel the Broncs in a first-place tie with Quinnipiac.

The two stayed locked at the top Saturday as the Bobcats snapped their two-game losing streak by taking out their frustrations on visiting Monmouth 74-54 while Rider (17-6, 11-3) made it across the MAAC tightrope once more.

This time Hoskova replaced Perkins as the star of the game on the scoreboard as well as the moment, collecting 20 points and grabbing 11 rebounds while Johnson had 15 points and Perkins and Julia Duggan each picked up 10 points.

Scarbrough had 23 points for Siena and Jackie Benitz scored 13.

“When you’re in tight games at the end of the season and you’re able to come out on top and execute offense the way you want it’s a good feeling,” Rider coach Lynn Milligan said after the Broncs increased the season win total to plus two over any her previous nine seasons here.

“We’ve won our last three games on the final possession. It’s about execution, it’s about trust and our teammates believe in one another. There’s a belief with this team that if there’s time on the clock we still have a chance to win.”

Rider also has another postseason tournament operation that has checked in doing diligence – the 64-team WNIT joined the eight-team WBI.

Of course those are the safety valves to play more basketball after the MAAC tournament is over and if Rider doesn’t land in the NCAA by winning the conference event in Albany, next month.

“Yes, but we can’t rest on our laurels,” said associate head coach Pam Durkin. “The last 10 games and how you play is still important to these people. And we have a few tough games left in the conference.”

If Rider does finish tied for first – Quinnipiac owns the top MAAC seed in that scenario with a 2-0 sweep of the Broncs – or second, the Broncs get a WNIT automatic qualifier if the Bobcats win at Albany.

If someone other than Rider wins in lieu of Quinnipac, the Bobcats are the automatic WNIT qualifier, though the Broncs with a strong finish would likely get an at-large invite.

For a brief moment, Saturday’s game did not loom as another to get people squirming in their seats. Rider went ahead by 13 points on Johnson’s layup with 5:31 left in the third period.

But Siena coach Ali Jacque’s Saints kept marching in spite of the deficit.

Scarborough’s layup at the end of the third got the differential down to eight before the run into the next and final period got extended to 9-0 on Benitz’s trey with 8:05 left to make it a one-point game.

Perkins’ trey got it back up to four for Rider, then a back-and-forth six straight times with scores made it 64-60 Rider with 2:54 left.

Scarborough made 1-of-2 free throws and then had a layup to get it back to a one-point affair then Hoskova hit two foul shots for Rider.

Benitz, Hoskova, Scarorough, and Johnson volleyed for the two schools over the next stretch but Rider clung to the lead at 70-67 before Benitz tied it with a trey at 70-70 with 32 seconds left in regulation.

That set the stage for Hoskova’s game-winner and begged the question afterwards, what attracted her from the far away country of the Czech Republic to Rider?

“I liked the family atmosphere here when I came for my visit,” Hoskova answered.

Next up, Rider will go for a sweep of Iona when the Broncs travel to to play the Gaels in New Rochelle, N.Y., Friday night.

George Washington Tops La Salle

The combination act of Caira Washington and graduate student Lexi Martin, a transfer from Lehigh, are getting to be a great 1-2 punch for first year Colonials coach Jen Rizzotti, a former UConn star and previously coach at Hartford.

Martins scored 22 and Washington had 21 as the Colonials on the road kept La Salle under control in an Atlantic 10 game played at the Explorer’s Tom Gola Arena in Philadelphia for a 79-65 victory.

In the daily logjam behind front running Dayton, which won again, and Saint Louis, which hosts Saint Joseph’s Sunday, the Explorers (14-9, 7-4 A-10) were knocked out of a third-place tie with GW and the Hawks while GW (15-8, 8-3) stayed on the heels of the teams just ahead.

Hannah Schaible had 14 points and 10 rebounds as the other Colonial to post double figures.

Amy Griffin, the league’s leading scorer again, collected 23 for La Salle, while Sofilia Ngwafang had 18 off the bench, shooting 7-for-10 from the field and 4-for-8 from the line.

Jasmine Alston had 10 points, nine assists and three steals.

La Salle next goes to St. Bonaventure on Tuesday.

Looking Ahead

Sunday’s slate prior to the Super Bowl taking center stage has the annual local Colonial Athletic Association showdown between Drexel and host Delaware tipping off at 2 p.m. In the Blue Hens’ Bob Carpenter Center in Newark.

After Friday’s action, Delaware moved ahead of Drexel into third place so a Dragons win ties things up again between the two longtime rivals coached by Delaware’s Tina Martin and Drexel’s Denise Dillon who are longtime friends in the profession.

Villanova at 1 p.m. will host Providence in the Pavilion in the Big East.

Temple gets its first action since last week’s two-strike hit by the nationally-ranked tandem of South Florida and unbeaten UConn in the American Athletic Conference as the Owls visit Tulane in New Orleans at 2 p.m. trying to hold third place and get back on the winning track.

As mentioned, Saint Joseph’s is at Saint Louis at 4 p.m. trying to force a second-place tie in the Atlantic 10 that a win would produce among the Billikens, Hawks and GW.

Penn State is at Northwestern in the Big 10 at 2 p.m.

And that’s the wrap.




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