LaBarge leads Bobcats to fifth straight W with career night

Noah Epstein

Grace LaBarge’s career night, Mikala Morris’ best shooting performance of the season and Mary Baskerville’s second double-double in as many games sparked the Bobcats to their fifth straight win, defeating the Rider Broncs 59-42 on Thursday night.

LaBarge had a career-high in points (11) and rebounds (seven), making a game-leading three shots from three-point range.

The sophomore forward played 22 minutes, which is the most she’s ever played. Head coach Tricia Fabbri made that decision because she said she liked the matchup for LaBarge against the Broncs’ defenders.

“We thought moving Grace to the three spot was gonna be advantageous for us in terms of how they play with the perimeter game,” Fabbri said. “It worked and Grace was really good in that role tonight.”

LaBarge credited her improvement to the trust she’s built with her coaches and teammates.

“It starts in practice when we’re running through plays and we’re doing drills. If you’re making shots and if you’re making the right plays then it’s gonna translate to the game,” LaBarge said.

LaBarge shouted out fellow forward Mikala Morris in particular and said that the senior has helped her improve in practice and during games.

“She’s always giving me tips, whether I’m playing the post spot where she is or I’m playing the guard spot,” LaBarge said. “Even in timeouts, she’s pulling me to the side and saying, ‘try doing this instead of this.’ And then on the defensive end, she’s just such a big presence in there and is always helping if I make a mistake. Or if I get driven by, she’s right there to stop the ball.”

Morris’ leadership helped the team in addition to LaBarge on Thursday night. Morris had a game-high 16 points to go along with six rebounds and two blocks. 

Morris went 7-10 from the field, which is the best field goal percentage (70%) she’s shot in a game all season. The baskets came from fade-away jumpers from the post, as well as aggressive driving layups.

Fabbri stressed Morris’ leadership and the talent that she brings to the team.

“She’s invaluable,” Fabbri said. “She’s just so smart, great leader, just dependable, which is what you want in your veteran player.”

The other Bobcat who finished in double digits was Mary Baskerville, who picked up her second double-double of the season. 

Baskerville followed up her 16-point, 20-rebound performance in Quinnipiac’s previous game against Siena with 10 points and 10 boards on Thursday.

In addition to her double-double, as well as a block and steal, Baskerville made several great plays on both ends that don’t show up on the stat sheet. Baskerville took charges and made deflections on defense while making effective passes and getting rebounds on offense.

“It’s been really nice to get consistent production and it’s turned into really dominant performances from Mary,” Fabbri said. “There’s not too many other teams out there that have a Mary Baskerville on the roster.”

The Bobcats also got some help from the men’s basketball team on Thursday. 

The men’s team goes to many women’s basketball games to cheer them on from the stands, but the players were extremely loud when the women played against Rider. 

Whether it was heckling Broncs players and the refs, cheering loudly when the Bobcats made baskets, or even complimenting a ref’s haircut, the players on the men’s team were fully prepared to act like they were at Death Valley on Thursday night.

LaBarge talked specifically about how she heard Ike Nweke throughout the game.

“So loud! He has so much energy, but it translates to the game and it brings us all up,” LaBarge said.

Morris appreciated hearing how loud the players were, as she also said it helped the women’s team during the game.

“We go to their games and we’re always cheering… It’s kind of nice that they’re reciprocating,” Morris said. “We feed into that energy just like they feed into our energy, so it really hypes us up and gives us momentum.”

Grad student Mackenzie DeWees made her first start of the season against Rider. Although she went scoreless in 16 minutes of action, she had four rebounds and played good defense while wearing a black and blue brace on her right leg.

LaBarge was happy to get her teammate back as a starter for the first time in 2023.

“It feels like a relief when she’s out there because she’s obviously a senior on this team and she just knows what she’s doing,” LaBarge said. “And she also knows how to keep the composure [of] the team… When I get upset and angry, she’s always pulling me to my side and saying, ‘Head up, head up, next play,’ and that helps me tremendously. She’s such a great teammate.”

The Bobcats cruised to the 59-42 win and are now winners of five straight games.

They’ll look to make it six straight against Marist on Saturday, Feb. 4 at home.

Rider will look to snap its five-game losing streak on Saturday at Fairfield.