Gadson lifts Broncs to win over Fairfield; team to meet again in MAAC tourney
But if Sunday afternoon was any indication, they might be finding harmony at just the right time.
Gadson finished with 19 points, including Rider’s final eight, complete with a spinning layup with 28.2 seconds remaining to help his team secure a 65-62 victory over Fairfield at Alumni Gymnasium on Senior Day.
“It’s been a rollercoaster,” said Gadson, who has struggled at times to regain the form that saw him grab second- team All-League honors after having microfracture surgery on his left knee in the offseason.
“I’ve overcome adversity in my life before,” Gadson said, “and I feel like I can do it again.”
Dempsey cut Gadson’s minutes on various occasions this season trying to let him gain some perspective by watching.
“I knew he was struggling emotionally,” the coach said. “He was fighting himself, fighting his game and fighting himself in his head. I know it wasn’t something that he loved, but I was trying to give him perspective.”
Maybe that is all paying off.
Over his last five games — he didn’t play against Iona because of a violation of team rules — Gadson has averaged 19.6 points.
On Friday, he converted a three-point play to beat Loyola. On Sunday, with the Broncs up one, his layup — after an excellent pass by Brandon Penn — extended their lead from one to three with 28.2 seconds remaining.
Rider improved to 13-18 overall and 10-8 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, although Dempsey, tongue-in-cheek, points out it should be 11 if it wasn’t for the officiating and timing mistake at Niagara that cost the Broncs a victory.
In the end, that game didn’t make a difference in Rider’s seeding. The Broncs finished fifth, after sweeping the weekend against two teams that came in tied for second, and face a rematch with Fairfield (17-13, 12-6) Saturday at 2:30 in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament.
The only team in the MAAC Rider hasn’t beaten this season is Iona.
“We came out and made a statement,” Gadson said. “We’re still a contender in this league. We’re capable of winning the conference next week”
Jeff Jones finished with 14 points and Jon Thompson added 13.
Still, Rider never gave up the lead.
Sanders had two chances to tie the game after Gadson’s layup put the Broncs up three but missed on both attempts.
Gadson scored Rider’s final eight points to cap a weekend in which he finally felt like himself.
“This guy is a competitor,” Dempsey said. “He wanted to play, he wanted to be part of this in his senior year and he fought through it. He’s coming along and he’s coming at the right time.”
NOTES: Rider honored its four seniors — Gadson, Penn, Jones and Kevin Noon — before the game. Noon, who spent his first three years as a team manager before being added to the roster as a walk-on, started and played to the first media timeout.