Rider rallies past Marist, sweeps final conference homestand
|Anthony Myles puts up a shot over Chavaughn Lewis/ Photo by GREGG SLABODA|
LAWRENCEVILLE — Rider is staying out of the play-in round at the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament.
The Broncs did so by sweeping their final conference homestand with a 67-63 come-from-behind victory over Marist Sunday afternoon at Alumni Gymnasium.
“This team is so much better than playing in that game with the bottom four teams,” said coach Kevin Baggett, whose team remains two games out of first but can finish no worse than sixth. “I just knew this team would grind it out and find a way to win these two games.”
Rider improved to 15-13 overall and 10-6 in the league. According to MAAC tiebreaker policies, if two schools finish tied and split the season series, their record against the highest finishing team on down is used to break the tie.
If Rider and Manhattan — currently seventh at 8-8 following Sunday’s loss to Niagara (12-4 MAAC) — both finish 10-8, the Broncs win the tiebreaker because of their victory over the Purple Eagles (the Jaspers were swept by Niagara).
With two league games remaining (at Niagara; at Canisius), Rider still has an outside shot of winning the regular-season title, but would need some help elsewhere.
Got all that?
“It’s nice to have in our back pocket,” Baggett said.
“I told these guys early in the week how important it was to close out our homestand here,” added the first-year coach. “It’s important to put yourself in position rather than worry about another team in the league helping us with our destiny.”
For a long stretch Sunday, it looked like the Broncs would be sucked into a mad scramble for positioning in the ultra-tight MAAC. They trailed by 11 with 14:09 remaining after the Red Foxes hit back-to-back 3s.
Rider rallied behind Jon Thompson, Danny Stewart and Zedric Sadler as that trio scored 28 of its combined 36 points in the second half.
After clawing back to take a 54-52 lead on Anthony Myles’ jumper with 6:34 remaining, Thompson, Stewart and Sadler scored the Broncs’ final 15 points.
Thompson went coast-to-coast for a layup that put them up 62-59 and Sadler hit a big 3 with the shot clock winding down on the next possession.
The Red Foxes (7-20, 4-12) battled back as Chavaughn Lewis (18 points but just two after halftime) made his only basket of the second half with 1:19 left and Adam Kemp followed with a layup.
As the clock ticked under a minute, Baggett went to Stewart guarded by Kemp. Rider’s junior forward drove baseline, putting up a shot that Kemp blocked, but Marist’s center was called for goaltending.
“It was just a drawn up play,” said Stewart, who finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, including a rim-rocking jam. “Coach realized Kemp was guarding me and wanted me to attack him. I just had to get on the other side of the basket where he couldn’t block it and he goaltended it.”
Thompson scored 13 points and Sadler added nine — all in the second half — for the Broncs, who shot 52.9 percent for the game and 50 percent from beyond the arc.
Kemp finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds and Jay Bowie added 10 for Marist, which has lost two straight following consecutive wins over Iona and Loyola.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Baggett said. “We competed, we battled, we grinded, we yelled and we got after one another. It’s just a great win. This conference is so tough to win a game from St. Peter’s on up to Niagara.”