|Coach Kevin Baggett, center, celebrates with Tommy Pereira, right, and Nurideen Lindsey, left. Photo by JOHN BLAINE|
LAWRENCEVILLE — Anthony Myles could see his free throw spinning
around the rim, ready to spill out and give Iona a chance to dash down
the court and tie the game.
So he acted on instinct. Myles crashed the glass, tipping in his own
miss with 16 seconds left to give Rider a five-point lead and secure
what would end up a 67-62 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference victory
Sunday afternoon at Alumni Gymnasium.
“It was one of those things that just happens without me thinking,”
said Myles, who finished with 12 points. “I know I wanted it. I wanted
the game. I saw my free throw rolling around the basket and I’m just
thinking, if this comes off, I have to get it somehow.”
Rider (11-9, 6-2) won its fifth straight, moving into a
second-place tie with the Gaels (12-7, 6-2), one game behind first-place
Iona had its six-game winning streak snapped.
“Absolutely, we’re a contender,” said coach Kevin Baggett.
The Broncs did it by slowing down the Gaels’ potent offense, which came in averaging a conference-best 82.6 points per game.
Baggett promised it wouldn’t be an up-and-down track meet, and his
team played physical from the opening tip. They got tight to
high-scoring guards Lamont Jones and Sean Armand and Danny Stewart
outworked the bigger David Laury on the block.
Stewart forced Jones into a crucial turnover with Rider leading by
three and 24.6 seconds to go. After Myles missed both his free throws,
but followed up with his acrobatic tip, Jon Thompson hit two from the
line, putting the Broncs up 67-60.
Rider broke a 59-59 tie after Stewart and Thompson each split a pair
of free throws. Tavon Sledge then made 1 of 2 for Iona, but Thompson
answered with a driving layup, giving the Broncs a 63-60 advantage with
57.9 seconds remaining.
“When they score, they’re not really playing defense,” Myles said.
“It’s easy to run back on them, but that’s what they want you to do. We
tried to take them out of their game, slow the pace down and play ours.”
|Lamont Jones tries to drive past Zedric Sadler/ Photo by JOHN BLAINE|
Jones, the league’s leading scorer at 22.3 points per game, finished
with 20 but on 5 of 16 from the field, while Armand had 15, but shot an
uncharacteristic 4 of 11 from beyond the arc.
Jones questioned his team’s toughness in close games.
“We have a talented team, we just don’t have any tough guys,” he
said. “We don’t have people who are tough, whether it’s a bar fight or a
basketball fight, we don’t have guys who are tough and ready to come
out and fight.”
Stewart finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds, Thompson added 12
and Tommy Pereira, again filling in for the injured Nurideen Lindsey,
led the Broncs with 14.
The Geals jumped out to an 11-point lead in the first half after Armand connected on a 3 with 7:19 left.
In danger of losing contact with the most explosive team in the
league, Rider put together its best seven minutes of the season,
finishing the half on a 21-5 run.
“At the time, I didn’t even realize we were down 11,” said Pereira,
who had two big 3s during that stretch. “I just got to my spot and my
teammates found me. I was able to knock it down and it ended up being a
big run for us.”
Rider also worked hard on the glass, outrebounding Iona 46-32 with 17
offensive boards. That helped make up for a handful of layups that
rolled around and out as well as an 8-for-15 afternoon from the foul
“It was just a tough game from start to finish,” said Stewart, who
was celebrating his 21st birthday. “Regardless of how many shots we
missed, we were able to come out with a win by any means possible.”
And don’t forget a great birthday gift.
“I got everything now,” Stewart said with a big smile.