LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J. – It’s a play every kid practices in their backyard. Clock winding down, team facing a deficit, and in overtime. You get the ball, make the shot, tie the game, and even maybe have a chance to win it. In reality, it’s a play the Fairfield University women’s basketball team has run just once this year, but it worked and the fans at Alumni Gym at Rider got to witness a young kid’s dream come true. With the team trailing by three with less than three seconds to play in overtime, freshman Sam Kramergot the ball, threw up a prayer of a 3-pointer, and swished it through while being hit on the play. She made the ensuing free throw, converting a four-point play to give the Stags a 68-67 overtime win at Rider.
“Coach drew up a play, and I knew it was for me, and I knew I had to take it,” Kramer said. “Every kid dreams of hitting a game-winning shot so I was just happy to be in that position.”
“Those are the types of plays you dream about,” Frager said. “I was thinking that’s a play we’ve practiced since preseason and that’s the first time we run it. I was very happy for Sam. She’s a perfectionist and for her to step up like that when we needed it shows you her character.”
Arguably the most dramatic finish in Stags’ (8-8, 5-2 MAAC) history was set up with Rider’s leading scorer Robin Perkins swishing in a go-ahead 3-pointer with 4.8 seconds left to play which forced the Stags to call their final timeout. On the inbounds, Kramer collected the ball at the top of the key and threw up a prayer as the whistle immediately blew. Somehow, her shot hit nothing but net. Rider still had one more chance at finding more magic during their historic season but Kristen McLaughlinblocked the winning effort for Rider as the Stags extended their winning streak to four-straight.
That adversity that the Stags had to persevere against had to be even more emphasized as the team was playing without one of their big scorers Samantha Cooper, who was on the bench for most of the overtime period with five fouls. However, that adversity was something they had to pull through all game long.
Right from the opening tip when the Broncs showed the Stags exactly why they have been the surprise of the MAAC with a 6-1 conference mark after being picked tenth in the Preseason Poll. The Broncs (12-5, 6-2 MAAC) jumped out to a 7-0 lead just one minute into the game with Fairfield turning the ball over on their first three possessions. With Rider having all the momentum, the Stags needed to respond quickly and they did. Fairfield pulled off a 9-0 run which was capped off by a Cooper3-pointer to give the Stags their first lead of the afternoon at 9-7. Both teams displayed one more run before the end of the opening period, with Fairfield’s 5-0 stretch, once again ending with a Cooper 3-pointer, put the Stags down one.
Casey Smithgave the Stags the lead again with her first basket of the second quarter, but the turnovers started to hurt the road side. Fairfield committed eight miscues in the period and Rider was able to take advantage opening up a nine point lead with the score 29-20 forcing a Fairfield timeout. Before that timeout the Stags had only tallied six points in the quarter but a quick three point spurt in the final minute, comprised of a Kelsey Careyjumper and a Casey Foleyfree throw, put the Stags back in the game trailing by just six.
While they were still trailing, the Stags were able to stay in the game despite committing 15 turnovers and the Broncs turning those into 19 points.
“That’s resilience,” Coach Frager said. “That’s one of the things that these kids are really starting to develop. Halftime wasn’t ranting or raving, we were point blank at the way we were turning the ball over. They listened, we were much tighter with the basketball at halftime and made some huge plays. Just really proud of the girls.”
After a Perkins3-pointer put the Rider lead back to nine, the Stags started fighting back again. Carey was one of the figures in the energetic run. The forward forced a turnover by setting up her body in front of a charging Perkins who was called for the travel. Carey also put the Stags within three after she stole the ball, toed the sideline, and was fouled on the fast break, nearly missing a highlight reel 3-point opportunity. Macey Hollensheadalso contributed during the run after the 5-7 guard was able to get the offensive rebound and finish in the lane.
All of those baskets helped keep the Stags within striking distance as the team did not trail by more than nine in the contest. Cooper put the Stags one step closer as her third 3-pointer of the game put Fairfield down four at 47-43. It was another long range shot that gave the Stags even more life. Kendra Landyunleashed her first shot of the game, but it was a big one. Her 3-pointer with under six minutes to play put the Stags within a point at 49-48. Fairfield had more magic left in them when Carey finished off the fast break lay-up to give the Stags their first lead since the second quarter as they grabbed a 50-49 lead.
After Duggan hit two free throws, Carey once again tied up the score by reaching the 20-point mark with a game-tying layup with 28 seconds left. The Broncs played for the last shot of regulation after calling a timeout with 8.9 seconds left, but Perkins’ 3-pointer was well off the mark setting up the second overtime game of the season for Fairfield.
In the overtime period, Carey allowed the Stags to draw first blood as she set a season-high with her 22nd point and gave Fairfield their first lead of the overtime. Duggan was the Bronc to not only even the score but also give Rider the lead on two free throws. Those two free throws also put an end to Cooper’s night as the redshirt junior picked up her fifth foul and finished the afternoon one point and three assists shy of a triple double.
The absence of Cooper was felt, but the Stags were able to take the lead on three free throws before Rider’s Lexi Posset evened the score with a 3-pointer with under a minute to play. Perkins put the crowd on their feet but the Stags of course answered with magic of their own.
Carey led all scorers with a season-high 25 points while Smith was second on the team chipping in 12. Cooper grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds and dished out a career0high seven assists. Duggan recorded her sixth double-double of the season for the Broncs with 21 points (a perfect 9-for-9 at the line) and 10 rebounds.
The Stags will test their magical streak when they travel to league leading Quinnipiac on Monday at 2pm.