Thursday, March 3, 2011

Women's Opener: St. Peter's Stops Rider

Thursday's other women's play-in round contest was a battle of which young team was a little further ahead in its development.

Saint Peter's got the better of that match, winning 57-47, in no small part because one of its few upperclassmen, junior forward Jynae Judson, turned in a standout performance with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

The Peahens also had the only senior on either team's active roster in 6-foot-0 forward Jessica Coles, who finished with four points, four assists and two blocked shots.

Rider got 15 points from its standout frosh forward MyNeshia McKenzie and 10 points from sophomore guard Shereen Lightbourne. Another sophomore, 6-2 forward Caitlin Bopp, had four points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

Rider, though, had the typical problems of youth: turnovers (25) and inconsistency in producing good shots (it shot 15-of-55, .273 percent in the contest).

Saint Peter's advances to today's 1:30 p.m. quarterfinal round against top-seeded Marist.

The Peahens are now 6-24 on the season while Rider fell to 5-25.

Still, the contest was a showcase for some of the league's better young talent and, maybe, a preview of two teams ready to move up in the MAAC standings a year from now.

Saint Peter's loses only Coles, while Rider did not have a single senior on its roster and returns everyone.

Thursday's outcome, though, gave the winners another building block in its late-season run that is likely to be a confidence builder heading into off-season development.

Saint Peter's has now won three straight games, including s regular-season ending victory over second-place finisher Loyola this past Sunday.

"We've won three in a row, so we're picking it up at the right time," said Saint Peter's coach Stephanie DeWolfe. "Now we've put ourselves in position maybe to steal one (against Marist on Friday). But, no matter what happens now we've had success at the end of the season. It's a nice springboard for us to move forward.

"During our season we had a lot of close games. They might have turned out to be 12- or 13-point losses, but that was only because we'd go through a three-minute stretch where we'd lose our focus. We were young and didn't know how to respond to that yet."

Rider has similar thoughts of better days ahead.

"Things didn't go the way we planned this year," admitted Broncs' coach Lynn Milligan. "But my norman pregame speech at this point in the season is about it being an ending for some players and that we have to play for them to send them out in the right way. But, my talk before this game was about this just being a beginning for our team.

"This is going to be a hard lesson that we'll learn. We need to learn to bring it every game. I tell my players that you think you're bringing it every day, but you're not. We need to take steps to improve as individuals and as a group.

"But, we're ready to take the next step, and we have to do it in a big way."

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