The Red Hawks opened the fourth quarter of last night’s game with a five point lead, but they were slipping. The team was able to move the ball around on offense, but nothing was coming from their efforts. Montclair State’s players looked afraid to shoot the ball and, too often, the buzzer signaling a shot clock violation ended their offensive possession.
Head coach Karin Harvey called a timeout just over three minutes into the fourth quarter and directed her team to sit down on the bench. Harvey encouraged her players, saying, “We can’t be afraid to lose the game and I feel like that’s how we’re playing right now.”
Montclair State trailed by one point with three minutes remaining, but they didn’t collapse. Instead, they forced two consecutive misses from Rutgers-Camden and sophomore Sage Bennett hit a layup to put the Red Hawks up 51-50 with 94 seconds to play. Junior Zoe Curtis knocked down two late free throws to clinch a 54-51 victory for Montclair State.
Despite their uneasy fourth quarter, Montclair State had a blazing hot start. Sophomore Kate Tobie whipped a no-look pass to junior Rachel Krauss for her first three of the game. Moments later Krauss hit another three, once again assisted by Tobie. Krauss’s three three-pointers and Tobie’s three assists lifted the Red Hawks to a 19-9 lead after the first quarter.
Tobie’s three first quarter assists were a result of her taking a more aggressive role within the offense. Sometimes she becomes a passive initiator of the offense, but Tobie has looked to drive to the basket and open up space for her teammates in recent games.
“We have to have her dribble penetration,” Harvey said after the game. “I thought Kate played well today and she has been playing really well the past few games. It’s making a difference in how we’re doing as a team.”
In addition to Tobie’s and Krauss’ contributions, sophomore Katie Sire continued her streak of commanding performances. Sire recorded 14 points and 10 rebounds, including four offensive rebounds, and earned her third double-double in six games. In that same span, Sire has averaged 16.8 points per game and 10.3 rebounds per game.
The Red Hawks expanded their winning streak to five with their victory over Rutgers-Camden on Feb. 2. With just three games remaining in the regular season, Montclair State is hitting their stride and making a push for the no. 2 seed in the New Jersey Athletic Conference.
“We’re really coming together. We’re playing good defense and we’re stepping up and hitting the shots we need to offensively,” associate head coach Courtney Cunningham said. “It might not always be the prettiest, but we’re finding a way to win. Heading into NJAC, that’s all you need to do.”
The Red Hawks will go on the road to face Rowan University and New Jersey City University on Feb. 10 and Feb. 13, respectively. Montclair State will finish the regular season at home against Stockton University on Feb. 17.