The Red Hawks persisted through multiple deficits and emerged victorious in their 71-62 win over William Paterson University on Feb. 23. Montclair State advanced to the New Jersey Athletic Conference Tournament Final with their semifinal victory and will host Rowan University on Feb. 26.
Montclair State trailed 11-0 to start the first quarter, but they came roaring back and went on a 16-2 run of their own. They went down by 5 points midway through the third quarter, but freshmen twins Kiarra and Tiarra Dillard helped the Red Hawks regain momentum and take a lead heading into the fourth quarter. Sophomore Katie Sire struggled and was benched for the final five minutes of the third quarter, but she came back and scored 12 points in the fourth quarter to help Montclair State seal the victory.
The Red Hawks earned their semifinal victory through their resiliency. Shots weren’t always falling, and they were plagued by turnovers at times, but Montclair State did not get swept up in the momentum and found ways to fight back.
Prior to the run, the Red Hawks only scored 4 points in their first 12 possessions and could not get anything going on either end of the floor. Trying to change course, Head Coach Karin Harvey subbed out junior Zoey Curtis and Sire for the Dillard twins. Simultaneously, Montclair State unleashed their press and completely flustered the Pioneers.
The Dillard twins provided an instant spark on offense and halted all of William Paterson’s momentum. Curtis nailed a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to cap off a 15-6 run to end the third quarter.
“It gave us like three minutes of brilliance that we really needed,” Harvey said after the game. “I thought that our bench played phenomenal today. That and Kate Tobie just did an unbelievable job.”
For all of the game’s ebbs and flows, sophomore Kate Tobie was the team’s constant and mirrored her play in last year’s tournament run. Tobie acted as the team’s floor general on the offensive end and wreaked havoc on the defensive end. When the game was in the balance, Tobie was locked in.
“[Kate Tobie] was really ready to go tonight,” Assistant Head Coach Melissa Tobie said of her sister after the game. “She wanted to get the team back to the NJAC finals, and she played like it. She was great on both ends. She had the hardest defensive responsibility, and I thought she did a great job leading them on the floor.”
Tobie finished with 11 points, five assists and five steals in what was one of her premier performances of the season —and the team needed it. Sire, the team’s leading scorer, struggled in the first three quarters and Tobie and junior Rachel Krauss were forced to picked up the slack on offense. Sire couldn’t get anything going on offense, as she turned the ball over more often than she scored and looked spiritless on defense.
Yet, Sire was able to completely turn her game around in the fourth quarter, despite being benched for the final five minutes of the previous quarter. Sire exploded past defenders with her Euro step — a move where a player takes a step in one direction, then quickly takes a step in another direction to evade the defender. Additionally, she forced two turnovers and became a factor on the boards.
Sire’s fourth quarter performance was emblematic of everything that landed her on the All-NJAC First Team. After the game, Sire said she stayed focused and did all of the little things, and everything else fell into place.
“It can’t always go your way. The thing is you have to keep fighting through it,” Harvey said after the game. “You have to try and find a way, and that’s what Katie [Sire] is doing. To do that as a sophomore is unbelievable.”
The Red Hawks will face Rowan University in the NJAC Final on Friday, Feb. 26. Montclair State split the season series against the Profs. The game will be hosted at Panzer Athletic Center at 7 p.m.