Senior forward Sean Smith’s 35 points helped lead the William Paterson University Pioneers to victory against the Red Hawks men’s basketball team, 93-74. Montclair State University fought back in the second half, but William Paterson answered and sealed the win in their last matchup of the regular season.
It was a jam-packed crowd at the Panzer Athletic Center, and as starting lineups began to come over the speakers, the Red Hawk crowd got loud. You could feel the vibrations as fans stomped in the echoing bleachers, however, the noise did not have any effect on William Paterson as they came out hot and jumped to an early 24-5 lead in the first seven minutes.
The Pioneers went down the court and made basket after basket as the Red Hawks were looking for an answer, but could not find any. Smith, junior forward Malcom McLeod and junior guard Domenic Mignone were all in double figures as William Paterson ran away with the game as the first half score was 53-28.
Montclair State assistant coach Sean Rossi gave high praise to the team for fighting back, and the Red Hawks were red hot to start the second half.
A 25 point lead changed to 19, and then 13 as senior forwards Justin Porter and Jalen Parham were knocking down shots. The Red Hawks attacked as Parham and senior forward/center Eddie Emedoh were charging their way through, taking it one possession at a time and cutting the deficit.
The Red Hawks shot 13 of 19 points from the free-throw line, which helped diminish the lead that was once seen as an impossible comeback. Montclair State head coach Justin Potts’ 94-feet press defense began to rattle the Pioneers, as they would see their once 28 point lead go all the way down to 10 as Parham had a furious one-hand dunk, which was just two of his 19 point night. A steal by junior forward Joseph Radi added to this as he threw a lead pass to Porter that lead to another dunk. This created a loud roar from the crowd as the lead was cut to eight.
“The biggest difference in the second half was that the game was played at our pace,” Coach Rossi said. “We rebounded the ball well and we got out and ran.”
Senior guard Nate Nahirny then scored three of his 10 points, and it looked like nothing could stop the Red Hawks now. The Pioneers 28-point lead was now six with nine minutes left.
It all seemed like it was going to be an amazing comeback by the Red Hawks, but the Pioneers fought back. With 10:36 left in the game, it was the last time the crowd was cheering at the top of their lungs.
The Red Hawks had four players in double digits: Parham was the top scorer with 19, Porter had 16, Radi had 14 and Nahirny had 10 of his own. All of that was not enough as they fell short and were defeated in another New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) battle.
Rossi explained how the coaching staff gave the team a lot of credit with the battle they put on in the second half. With under 10 games left in the season, and all against NJAC opponents, Rossi wants to see the team not get ahead of themselves and take each game, “one possession at a time.”
The next home game for the Red Hawks will be Jan. 29, another NJAC battle against Ramapo College.