Luck had already struck twice for the Montclair State University men’s basketball team this season against the likes of Rowan. The intensity on both sides was apparent all game as these two teams did not disappoint. The Red Hawks have had much success in the past against Rowan during this regular season, but not in the tournament. They were knocked out by Rowan in last season’s tournament, but today they sought for revenge.
As per usual in these affairs, Montclair jumped out to an early lead and looked efficient on the offensive and defensive glass. The rebounding of Montclair had been one of its stalwarts of the season as every game they seem to control the rebounding ratio against the other team. Assistant coach Will Bishop explained what he thought attributed to their success on the glass.
“We work on it at practice every day,” said Bishop. “We do box out drills probably the first 25 minutes of practice. It’s one of the main things we talk about every game: we got to be dominant on the offensive glass, and that’s why the rebounding margin is the way it always is.”
Although it was a good start for Montclair, the points on both sides didn’t come easy early on in this game. It was clear that both sides were experiencing some pregame jitters to go along with the pressure of a New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) tournament game. With about seven minutes in to action, Jarrett Bogus found some open space and was able to contribute seven of Montclair’s first 11 points as they took a 11-4 lead.
With just under nine minutes left to play in the first half, Eddie Emedoh, who would later be ejected for a small exchange of words with an opposing player, would offer up a huge rejection throwing the Montclair faithful into a frenzy. Eddie had been a force to be reckoned with all season, and his presence in the paint is something the Red Hawks can’t afford to lose out on.
As time winded down in the first half of play, Rowan made a small 8-0 run and would come to be down 24-22 before the Red Hawks had an ensuing run of their own. They ended the half outscoring the Profs 14-7 in the final five minutes and took a 38-29 lead heading into intermission. Myles Mitchell-White held the edge in scoring with nine points to go along with teammate Bogus’ eight points and seven rebounds.
Heading out of halftime, Montclair would again have a slow start. With just two minutes in, head coach Sears pulled four of his five starters off the floor and to the bench. It seemed like he was not at all pleased with their start and instead went to a bigger lineup in the front court.
Rowan would go on a 5-0 run to begin the second half and shrink the deficit to four points. One of Emedoh’s last plays before his ejection was another huge defensive play inside. Just a few minutes later, Rowan’s own T.J. Booth, who went for 19 points on the day, sank a huge bucket pulling the Profs to within one at 41-42.
At this point, emotions were running high, and both teams’ intensity turned up. The Panzer Athletic Center (PAC) was loud and the Red Hawks were doing their best to feed off of their supporters. With just under seven and half minutes remaining, Mitchell-White emerged again. He extended their lead to seven and then would throw the crowd into another frenzy a couple possessions later with his ‘and one’ making it a 54-43 game. Mitchell-White was on fire for most of the second half and with just under six minutes to go, he sunk his 18th point of the game while extending the Red Hawks to their biggest lead they would have all game at 57-45.
The momentum from the Red Hawks didn’t phase Rowan as they came back swinging with Nick DePersia when he almost converted a three-point play after being fouled on a three-point shot attempt, hitting two of three free throws. Foul trouble was a major issue for Montclair down the stretch of this game. While Emedoh had already been gone from his ejection and fifth foul, Bogus would foul out as time wound down, hurting the Hawks’ chances and turning in the Profs’ favor.
Montclair State would take a three-point lead as they converted on three of four free throws in the last 30 plus seconds, but the Red Hawks and their fans would then go into utter shock. DePersia came off a screen and with a perfect pass, put up a contested three-pointer that went down, and we were heading to overtime.
Overtime was as intense as it could be. DePersia stayed hot when he hit a second straight three putting Montclair in a hole. Montclair would come back to take the lead, and with two minutes left, the score was going back and forth. With one minute remaining, Montclair would be down 73-72 after Rowan sank two more free throw attempts. Chatham nailed a three-pointer throwing the PAC into utter chaos. Montclair wouldn’t look back taking a 75-73 lead and finishing up with a 77-73 final score, sending them to the next round of the NJAC tournament on Wednesday.
Chatham finished the day with 11 points and nine rebounds and Bogus contributed a double-double of 11 points with 13 rebounds. Montclair’s leading scorer and go-to man Mitchell-White led the way with his 20 points and 11 rebound double-double. While on fire on the court, he didn’t feel any different while playing.
“I knew that coming into this game they were going to play a little harder, pack the paint on me and make it a little more difficult to score,” Chatham said. “I had to just play my game, be patient and wait for everything to open up for myself.”
The Red Hawks will face off against top-seeded Ramapo College on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Mahwah, New Jersey. This will be the toughest test of the year thus far, but the Hawks should not at all feel under matched after Saturday’s dramatic win.