Niagara Gazette — The Niagara Purple Eagles trimmed a 15-point first-half deficit down to one point in late the second half behind big efforts from Chanel Johnson and Victoria Rampado, but ultimately fell 82-72 to the Rider Broncs on Sunday afternoon.
The duo of Johnson, who was battling foul trouble, and Rampado came on strong during the second-half surge by Niagara (7-16, 5-9 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) with 14 and 12 points, respectively. After struggling to get within five points early in the second half, a 12-4 run finally broke the five-point barrier and brought the Purple Eagles to within four, 65-61.
“Having Chanel in foul trouble hurt us in the first half,” head coach Kendra Faustin said. “Our second-half efforts on both ends of the floor were much better than our effort in the first.”
The rally peaked with over three minutes left when Rampado hit a pair of free throws then, on the ensuing Rider (12-11, 8-6 MAAC) possession, took a charge to get the ball back. Johnson was then sent to the free-throw line where she cut the deficit to 70-69. Rampado went to line 30 seconds later and again cut the lead to one, 71-70.
“Victoria made some great plays down the stretch both offensively and defensively,” Faustin said. “She kept us in the game.”
The Purple Eagles were forced to foul late and Rider was able to take advantage as time expired to come away with the 82-72 victory.
“We have to do a better job at the end of the game taking care of the ball,” said Faustin.
Rampado finished with the first double-double of her career with a team-high 18 points and 10 rebounds. The freshman went 6 for 16 from the field and 6 for 7 from the free-throw line. Johnson scored 16 points and Meghan McGuinness turned in 11 to land three Purple Eagles in double figures.
The game was back-and-forth throughout the early going as Niagara and Rider traded baskets throughout the first five minutes. Johnson hit NU’s first four points before a three-point play from Gabby Baldasare gave the Purple Eagles a 7-6 lead.
After the Broncs were able to build a 30-16 lead by the five minute mark, back-to-back three’s from Val McQuade and McGuinness sent the Purple Eagles on a 14-7 run that cut the deficit to seven points heading into halftime, 37-30.
McGuinness finished the half with eight points and four rebounds.
The Purple Eagles are back in action this Thursday when they host the Siena Saints in the annual Play-4-Kay game. Tickets, which are normally $7, will be available for $3 and fans are encouraged to make an additional donation that will benefit the American Cancer Society. The team will also be selling pink ribbons in the Gallagher Center on Wednesday morning and the Niagara Women’s Lacrosse team will be raffling off baskets on Thursday evening before tip-off with all proceeds go to the American Cancer Society.