LAWRENCEVILLE — The Rider women needed someone to provide a spark.
With senior center Caitlin Bopp missing because of a stomach
illness, coach Lynn Milligan turned to her most experienced player.
In stepped Carleigh Brown — a veteran graduate student making her
109th career appearance — to deliver two clutch plays for the Broncs in a
60-57 victory over Manhattan Thursday night at Alumni Gymnasium that
extended their winning streak to three.
Brown collected an offensive rebound and converted a conventional
three-point play, putting Rider ahead 56-55 with 2:36 remaining.
“I always try to box out on the weak side when the ball goes up,”
said Brown, who finished with six points and eight rebounds. “It fell
into my hands and I was making that shot whether she fouled me or not. I
just knew, ‘I got to make this.’”
On the Jaspers’ ensuing trip, Brown stepped in and took a charge as Monica Roeder plowed her way to the basket.
Milligan expected nothing less.
“She’s been doing that for four years,” the coach said. “You look at
her and she’s not fast, she’s undersized, but she finds a way because
she has a heart. She just bleeds this place.”
Brown wasn’t going to try to be Bopp either.
“I’m not going to juke people and get the and-1 all the time,” said
Brown, admitting she couldn’t remember the last time she played 31
minutes. “I just knew coming in that I needed to do what my team needed
me to do. Get some stops, get some rebounds and make good passes.”
The Broncs (10-10, 5-4) won three straight in the Metro Atlantic
Athletic Conference for the first time since January 2009 when they beat
Manhattan, Loyola and Iona.
It was also the first time they won back-to-back home games in the
league since February 2003 when they knocked off Marist and Iona.
To look up and see themselves with a league record over .500 in February is an unfamiliar position.
“This is new for us,” Brown said. “Every game is a new game. Any game
in the MAAC, you just have to show up and play hard. That’s what we’ve
been focusing on this year — seize the day — every game is a new game
and every day is a new day.”
Without Bopp, who has five of her 23 career double-doubles against
the Jaspers, Rider had to grind out a victory in which it shot 30
percent from the floor, went 8:16 between field goals in the second half
and made just 59.3 percent (16 of 27) from the line.
MyNeshia McKenzie gave the Broncs a 60-57 at the stripe with 37
seconds left, but despite finishing with 11 points and 16 rebounds,
missed two free throws with 15 ticks remaining, giving the Jaspers
(5-15, 2-7) a chance to tie.
But Rider came up with a defensive stop, not allowing Manhattan to
get a shot up in the final eight seconds after it called a timeout.
“A month ago, we don’t win that game,” said Milligan, who is one
victory away from matching her high-water mark of 11 set last year. “The
growth we’ve made over the last month allowed us to win a game when we
weren’t clicking offensively in the second half.”
Emily Fazzini led Rider with 12 points, Mikal Johnson added 11 and
Manon Pellet finished with eight in a 13-minute run off the bench.
Roeder and Allison Skrec — both Jersey high schoolers — combined for
40 of Manhattan’s 57 points. Roeder finished with a game-high 23 and
Skrec added 17.
But it was the player that only found out she was starting Thursday morning that made the biggest difference.
“For her to give everything for her team at the end of the game — to
take that charge — says something about who she is,” Milligan said.
“This is what we want this program to be about.”