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Canisius teams up to crush Rider

It was supposed to be a day to celebrate the senior class.

Instead, it turned into a celebration of team as the Canisius women's basketball squad closed its home schedule with an easy 84-65 win over Rider in front of 762 at the Koessler Center on Sunday afternoon.

As the Golden Griffins honored their five seniors -- Becky Zak, Jessica Steeves, Jackie Richards, Karly Chesko and Cheri Wittlieb -- it became painfully apparent that although they have become the winningest class in Canisius history, their success is intricately a team affair.

The class has won 71 games in its four-year career, while improving to 15-10 this season with a 12-4 mark in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and a hold on second place.

The key has been their success as a group. While Zak and Steeves have enjoyed some breakout recognition and Wittlieb was a conference all-rookie selection, they have all shied away from individual highlights, embracing the importance of quality role players as much as stars.

"We're a team and nobody is out there looking to score 40 points a game," said Richards, who scored a career-high 13 points. "We come together every day as a team to get better as a team. Looking at the final score today, that's because we played as a team and when that happens, it's pretty awesome."

"People don't understand the value of what Jackie brings," Canisius coach Terry Zeh said. "What Jackie brings to this team is every bit as important as Becky Zak. People don't see that, but Jackie knows it and the team knows it and anyone that's been on a winning team clearly understands what it takes."

In Sunday's win, the Griffs shot 60 percent in the first half as 10 different players got into the scoring column.

It was a good day for post players, as Steeves added 17 points, going 7 for 8 from the field and hitting all three of her free throws. Canisius held a 42-20 advantage in points in the paint.

Meanwhile, freshman Amanda Cavo hit a groove on her jump shot, hitting three three-pointers and finishing the game with 17 points.

Zak finished with five points and eight assists while Chesko, who is slowly returning from a torn ACL, scored five points.

Wittlieb is out indefinitely with a head injury.

In the final tally, Canisius shot 54 percent from the field, hit seven of 12 three-pointers and had 28 assists on 33 baskets.

"In the past two games we've really gotten into our flow and our rhythm," Steeves said. ""Every team in the MAAC is talented. We don't take anyone for granted. Today we really ran our offense well and looked for each other."

Danielle Costantino led Rider (3-22, 2-14) with 18 points off the bench.

The Griffs play at Siena on Thursday and finish the regular season at Niagara on Sunday.


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