ALBANY, N.Y. – The defensive intensity of the second-seeded Rider Broncs gave the Fairfield University Women’s Basketball team trouble all day long and ultimately resulted in a 49-36 loss for the Stags, ending their tournament run in the semifinals. For the game, the Broncs forced the Stags to a .333 shooting percentage and a .071 mark (1-for-14) from deep, which hurt each Fairfield comeback attempt. Fairfield’s defense also stepped up in the contest, holding Rider to just 14 field goals in the game, but the Broncs converted on 18 of their 26 free throw attempts for the victory.
The offensive struggles for the Stags (17-14) started early as the team scored two points in the first quarter on 1-for-5 shooting. Rider (24-7), who was appearing in the second semifinal in program history, displayed an aggressive defensive that forced 10 turnovers during the first 10 minutes of the game as they pulled out to a 10-2 lead after the first.
The Stags did what they needed to do in the second quarter to get back into the game. Like Rider, the focal point came on the defensive end as the Stags held the Broncs to a 1-for-12 shooting mark in the second frame. Offensively, the Stags scored 11 points in the quarter, with eight of those coming on an 8-0 run to put the deficit at 13-11 with 4:40 left. Kristine Millercame off the bench to chip in six of those points. Although the Broncs would not hit a field goal for the final nine minutes of the quarter, they were able to keep putting points on the board with four-straight free throws and put the score at 17-13 at halftime.
Like they did all season long, the Stags fought back and looked like they had figured out the Broncs defense. The Stags opened the second half by scoring the first five points, giving the Stags their first lead of the game at 18-17. The two teams would exchange runs, before Fairfield closed out the third quarter on an 8-0 run with two jumpers from Casey Smith, and then one each for Kelsey Careyand Casey Foley.
Fairfield led 28-25 going into the final quarter, but then suffered another offensive drought. The Broncs opened the final quarter on a 17-2 run with Fairfield’s only points coming from a Smith jumper with 6:05 left in the game.
The Stags were led by Smith who finished with 13 points, the only Stag to reach double figures. Miller followed her with eight and Carey finished up her final tournament play with six.
Rider had three in double figures with Julia Duggan being the star of the game with game-highs in 15 points and 20 rebounds. As a team, the Broncs shot just 30 percent from the floor, (14-for-47) but will advance to their first MAAC Championship game in program history.
For the Stags, they will await word to see if they will qualify for a spot in the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI) for the fifth time in program history. Fairfield did achieve 13 conference victories on the season, the fourth time under Joe Fragerthe Stags have accomplished that feat. Fairfield also had one of the best defensive seasons in program history, holding their opponents to a .370 shooting percentage, the fourth best mark for the school.
As for the senior class, who will be remembered as one of the most memorable trio in program history, they will graduate with over 2,500 combined points and 52 conference victories.