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Welcome back to the Trentonian's Full-Court Press blog. Yes, we're still alive, and with the 2015-16 season rapidly approaching, it's time to fire up the old blog for another season. Check back here throughout the year for updates on all things Rider and Princeton, including coverage of both the MAAC and Ivy League. Feel free to drop me a line on twitter @kj_franko ( or email

Saturday, March 8, 2014

MAAC TOURNEY: McKenzie, Mason lead Rider women past Fairfield

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Who is Stephanie Mason?

By the time the clock struck midnight turning Friday into Saturday everybody here at the MassMutual center knew exactly what the freshman guard for the Rider women’s basketball team could do.

Mason came off the bench and delivered one clutch 3-point shot after another as the Broncs reached the semifinals of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament for the first time in program history with a 63-56 victory over Fairfield.

Rider (15-16), which won just its fifth MAAC tournament game all-time, will face Marist (25-6) Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

Mason scored 14 points — all in the second half — connecting on four of her five attempts from beyond the arc, including the go-ahead 3 with 4:24 remaining.

“I’m a shooter,” Mason said. “So whether I’m hitting or missing, I’m going to shoot it anyway.”

That’s what head coach Lynn Milligan likes about the freshman from Jackson. So when the Stags went zone to start the second half, Milligan put three shooters on the floor hoping one of them would get hot.

Mason, who was averaging 4.5 points per game, answered the bell.

“The one thing with Steph that I do know: she’s not afraid,” Milligan said. “Steph’s going to pull the trigger. If we can get her an open look, she’s not going to be afraid or hesitate to take the shot.”

While Mason came out of nowhere, her heroics wouldn’t have been possible without the warrior presence of MyNeshia McKenzie.

The senior forward played all 40 minutes, finishing with 28 points and 16 rebounds.

“She’s been one of the top two or three players in this conference all year,” Fairfield head coach Joe Frager said. “That’s the danger when you play a team like Rider because McKenzie is the type of player that can carry a team when things aren’t going well.”

Rider missed it first 10 shots and fell behind 11-0 before McKenzie finally put it on the board with a layup 6:06 into the game.

All things considered, the Broncs were fortunate to be down just four at the half after McKenzie scored their final 10 points.

The second half started the same way as the first with the Stags (20-10) building their lead to 12 with 14:28 remaining.

“Being down doesn’t hurt us,” McKenzie said. “We don’t put our heads down. We know how to stick together and fight back. We know there is no 20-point shot. We have to get stops on defense and our stops on defense lead to offense.”

Down by nine with 7:46 remaining, Mason started heating up, hitting her first of four second-half 3s. Her third triple of the half gave Rider a 47-45 lead — its first of the game — with 4:24 left.

After Fairfield’s Katie Cizynksi scored at the other end, Mason nailed another 3 on the Broncs’ next trip.

She added a pair of free throws in the final minute as Rider made 7 of 8 from the line to ice the game.

“She never hangs her head low,” McKenzie said of Mason. “There are games where she doesn’t get in, there are games when she plays 20 minutes. Today, she stepped up.”

Asked if she was tired after the comeback, McKenzie replied: “No. I could probably go another 20 minutes.”

They’ll need more than that against the eight-time defending champ.

“I’m still here in the tournament,” McKenzie said. “I’m still playing my college career.”
That’s all you can ask for this time of the year.

NOTES: Shereen Lightbourne suffered a cut above her left eye after a clash of heads late in the second half. She returned to the game in the second half with a band-aid over the cut, but played limited minutes. Milligan said she expects Lightbourne to be ready for Sunday’s semifinal against Marist.


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