The Fairfield women’s basketball team was defeated by the Rider Broncs in the MAAC Tournament this Friday at a score of 63-57. Though the Stags controlled the game in the first half, the tides quickly turned as the Broncs relied on their shooting to give them an advantage in the second period.
“We knew it was going to be a dogfight coming in and we’re obviously disappointed,” said Frager after the loss. “I’m very proud of this team. These kids have worked so hard to put themselves in the position that they were in tonight.”
Senior Katie Cizynski led the team in scoring with 15 points while Felicia DaCruz ’15 had a double-double with 14 points and 10 assists. For Rider, MyNeshia McKenzie ’14 led the team with 28 points and 16 rebounds. Freshman Stephanie Mason, however, gave the Broncs the edge with her elite three-point shooting in the second half.
“That was a five- to six-minute stretch where we didn’t perform up to where we wanted to,” said Coach Joe Frager. “We lost her (Mason) a couple of times in the zone defense and that’s on us. Due to our foul situation, we were forced into that defense.”
Mason made four three-pointers in a span of four minutes to give her team their first lead of the second half. As that half progressed, the Stags were having trouble making baskets and found themselves falling behind in the game.
Throughout most of the game, Coach Frager left his five starters out on the court and they scored the vast majority of Fairfield’s baskets. Freshman Kristine Miller scored the team’s lone bench point on a free throw. Fairfield was outscored by Rider in bench points at 20-1. One of Rider’s biggest bench scorers, Mason, made all the difference in this game with her 14 points that helped decide the game.
Another big factor that kept the Stags out of this contest was Cizynski’s foul trouble early on in the game. Though Fairfield had a 28-24 lead at halftime, she was only able to score two of their points as she sat with two early fouls.
“It’s always hard to sit on the sidelines and it’s obviously not a position I wanted to be in,” said Cizynski. “For the first half, we only had them by four. It would have been nice to go into halftime a little more ahead.”
To start off the game, Fairfield went on a nice 11-0 run to give themselves an early lead. However, Rider slowly fought back into the contest. McKenzie was a force in the paint in this half as she finished it with 17 points and five rebounds. The Stags had a difficult time guarding her, but did a nice job of forcing the Broncs to shoot just 30.8 percent from the floor for that period.
To open up the second half, the Stags looked strong as they got off to a 5-0 run in the first few minutes. At this point, Cizynski was playing and putting up points to show for it. Shortly into the period, she had 10 second-half points and helped to extend the lead Fairfield had at halftime.
“I don’t think there was any strategy change offensively. One of the reasons we build that lead up was because we were able to go inside to Katie,” said Frager. “Then, teams make adjustments. When they start to send a second defender, they made it harder for us to get the ball in.”
With about 11 minutes left to go in the game, Fairfield had a comfortable lead over Rider at a score of 41-32. Shortly after, the freshman Mason began to hit her shots. In a matter of just four minutes, she managed to connect on four three-pointer shots and eventually gave her team the lead.
Trailing at 54-50 with just 1:18 to play, Fairfield resorted to fouling to try and stop the deficit. However, the Rider Broncs managed to go 12-14 from the free throw line in the second half and maintain their lead. With the score at 63-57, the Stags tried to make some shots as the final seconds dwindled down, but to no avail. They saw their time at the MAAC Tournament come to an end at the hands of the Rider Broncs.
“There’s a lot thrown into a four-day period of time,” said Frager about the tournament. “But it’s hard to be good over three months and this team was very good over three months and exceeded our expectations.”