Another year, another New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) reguar-season title for Montclair State’s women’s basketball team.
The Red Hawks defeated New Jersey City University (NJCU), 87-36, on Wednesday night. With Kean University’s loss to Rowan on the same night, the women’s basketball team earned its fifth-consecutive NJAC regular-season title.
“It’s an incredible, incredible accomplishment,” Head Coach Karin Harvey said. “It’s a tribute to the players and how hard they work. “These guys, especially this group, finished the season last year with another great season. 22-7, won the conference, made it to the second round – I think that’s a great accomplishment. I think they felt like they wanted to do more. They really went in the offseason and worked really hard.”
“That’s really the key – that they work really hard in the offseason to get better individually and then, when we get to the regular season, they’re really coachable and they listen and they follow the gameplan. They’re able to do a lot of things and we have a lot of people that can help us on any given night,” Harvey added.
Wednesday’s victory ensures the women’s basketball team will hold home-court advantage throughout the NJAC tournament, as well as a bye in the first round. The Red Hawks dominated NJCU, and none of the team’s starters played more than 16 minutes.
Sophomore guard Kiarra Dillard finished with a career-high 18 points and 8 rebounds. After going the first 22 games without a game with multiple threes, senior guard Erica Snow finally broke through and unloaded a barrage from beyond the arc with 12 points from four threes.
“Once you see the ball go in the hoop once, it gives you a lot of confidence to shoot the ball again,” Snow said. “Yesterday, I saw it go in a couple times and that’s just a big confidence booster for me.”
The women’s basketball team put Wednesday’s game away early as they bolted out to a 15-0 lead – junior forward Katie Sire contributed 8 of the team’s points in that span – and ended the first quarter ahead 30-10. Harvey played each player by just the six minute mark of the second quarter and the bench contributed 24 of the team’s 46 points in the first half.
Montclair State continued its dominance in the third quarter, leading 63-28 after outscoring NJCU 17-8 in the third quarter. The Red Hawks convincingly finished off NJCU as Snow hit three out of her four threes down the stretch in the fourth quarter. The women’s basketball team ended the game on a 24-8 run and ultimately won 87-36.
Since the Red Hawks suffered their second loss of the season to Stockton on Jan. 30, the women’s basketball team has outscored their opponents by nearly 33 points per game – including a 26 point victory against Stockton on Feb. 4.
“The loss kind of motivated us to keep improving, keep getting better,” Snow said. “Just to not be okay with being how good we were. Teams can sometimes get slumped and you can get numb to success. For us, we’re always continuing to improve . And seeing the loss, I think refocused us and just made us really want to work harder.”
The women’s basketball team has two games remaining and will enter the NJAC tournament playing some of their best basketball of the season. Harvey also said the loss the Stockton has helped propel the Red Hawks forward down the stretch.
“The big thing is we’re practicing a bit harder, we’re practicing a bit better and that makes a big difference,” Harvey said. “We’re playing well right now, and that’s what you want going into the end of the season and into tournament time.”
The Red Hawks will play their final home game of the regular season on Saturday, Feb. 11 against The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) — the team responsible for the women’s basketball team’s first loss of the season. Snow, along with seniors Rachel Krauss, Zoe Curtis and Sage Bennett, will be honored on Saturday as a part of Senior Day.
Montclair State will finish the regular season on the road against Rutgers-Camden on Feb. 15. One week later, the Red Hawks will begin NJAC tournament play in the semifinals at Panzer Athletic Center.