Gloucester High vs. Pennsgrove Video, Courtesy of TV Channel 19
When East meets West

Rider University 76, University of Central Florida 74

Women’s College Basketball

LAWRENCEVILLE—A tale of two halves.  Up eight and then down nine, up six and then tied, the Broncs ran their fans through a roller coaster of emotions before winning with under a minute left in Alumni Gym before more than 500 fans on Black Friday.  “The crowd was terrific,” said head coach Lynn Milligan.  “The support is getting bigger and bigger and the players feed off that.”

In a game that saw nine ties and eight lead changes, Rider (3-2) used a layup by freshman Shannon Ferguson (Fort Washington, Pa./Upper Dublin) with 27 seconds left to break a 73-73 tie and give the Broncs their third home win of the season, 76-74 over the Knights of Central Florida in a non-conference game.  Ferguson finished with eight points, going a perfect three for three from the field and two for two from the free throw line while adding seven rebounds in 26 minutes of action.

“The play happened too quickly to really think about it,” said Ferguson about the winning layup.  “I just knew I had to get open because we needed a score and Amanda [Sepulveda] found me coming down the left side of the lane.  The only option I had was to catch the ball and make the shot.”

Sophomore Amanda Sepulveda (Perth Amboy/Hun School) led five Broncs in double-digits with a career-high 23 points on nine of 13 shooting including three from three-point range, along with four assists and two steals in 29 minutes of action and it was that fourth and final assist on a drive in the lane that setup Ferguson for her game-winning shot.

“Amanda did a great job running us on the floor,” said Ferguson.  “She was making shots and she was creating opportunities for us to score.  She really picked us up and helped us get the win.”

The 76 points is the most for Rider since scoring 77 to open the 2002-03 season against Monmouth.

With the Broncs up 71-65, UCF (2-3) tied the game at 73 with an 8-2 run prior to the Ferguson layup, five points by Marshay White.  White finished with 11 points and eight rebounds.  Rider held the Knights without a field goal for the final 2:07.

After the teams traded free throws with 13 seconds left, the Knights still had a chance to tie or win the game with 1.6 seconds remaining before junior Shaunice Parker (Waldorf, Md./West Lake) stole the inbounds pass on the final play.  Parker had two of Rider’s 12 steals on the night with the Bronc defense causing 24 turnovers.

“We responded better in the second half and hustled more,” said Milligan.  “That’s a good sign because in some of the other games, we didn’t respond as well and tonight we did.  We made better decisions on the defensive end and that fed the offense.  That effort got us to the line where we did very well.  All of the little things we talk about everyday came together in the second half.”

The game saw a combined 47 fouls with Rider going 17-21 from the foul line compared to Central Florida which went 17-35.

“I listened to my teammates and just focused on controlling the tempo of the game,” said Sepulveda.  “When things started going a little crazy out there, my job was to control the action and calm everything down and as the floor general, that’s what my team needs me to do.  My first thing is to be a point guard and get us open looks to put the team in position to do better and I’m also a scorer and if there is an open shot, I’m definitely going to take it.”

“Amanda has always been able to score,” Milligan said.  “With senior guard Kelli Sawyer (Philadelphia, Pa./Friends Select) out of the lineup due to an ankle injury, we needed Amanda to be more of a point guard and run the team out on the floor.  We challenged her at halftime that she needed to step up and run the team and when she does that, her offense falls into place.  She has the scoring mentality and with her getting her teammates involved, you couldn’t stop her either scoring or passing the ball as she did on the final play.  As your point guard goes, your team goes.”

“We’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day,” Milligan added.  “We seem to be a little shaky at the end of games so far but we are learning how to win close games.  It’s a process because the kids haven’t been involved in too many close games in the past couple of years.  The biggest difference between tonight and say the game at UMBC is that we got the stop we needed, made the free throws we needed to and the outcome was different.”

Down 46-40 with 16:46 left in the game, Rider went on a 9-0 run, four points by Parker to take a 49-46 lead with 15 minutes left.  Parker finished with 11 points and eight rebounds.

The Broncs opened the game on a 10-2 run, four points by sophomore Tammy Meyers (Willingboro).  Meyers finished with 14 points and three steals in 36 minutes.

With the score tied at 21, Central Florida went on a 12-3 run, seven points by Chelsie Wiley, opening up a nine point lead at 33-24 with 3:49 left in the first half and the Knights led by seven at the half.  Wiley finished with 10 points, but only two after halftime.

“I challenged them at halftime,” said Milligan.  “It was a little bit of a gut check.  We knew that we didn’t play our best basketball in the first half and we knew we gave up some easy looks.  We regrouped mentally at the break and refocused on what we needed to do.”

Seventeen of Rider's 24 turnovers came in the opening period.

“The crowd kept us in the game,” Sepulveda added.  “The turnout, especially with it being Black Friday and the day after Thanksgiving, was great.”

Also for the Broncs, senior Janele Henderson (Brooklyn, N.Y./Bishop Loughlin) and freshman Cintella Spotwood (Trenton/Trenton Central) each had 10 points.

Also for the Knights, Emma Cannon had 17 points with Tia Lewis adding a ‘double-double’ with 13 points and 14 rebounds, including seven on the offensive glass.

The Broncs travel to the Palestra in Philadelphia on Wednesday night to face the Penn Quakers at 7:00pm.  “Penn is a very good Ivy League team and we are going to have to bring our lunch pails,” Milligan said.  “To have the opportunity to play at the Palestra is a very special thing and we are looking forward to it.”

“The Palestra is a special place,” Sepulveda said.  “We are going in there with the mind set to play strong defense and get ourselves a win on the road.  We need to win one away.”

Undefeated in the confines of Alumni Gym, the Broncs are starting to feel like there is no place like home.

-RU-

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