The Montclair State University women’s basketball team hosted Rowan University on Tuesday with a victory that landed them in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) championship.
The Red Hawks won the jump ball and freshman guard Taylor Brown immediately nailed a three. Rowan answered on the other end of the floor with a three of their own. Montclair State’s rebounding game was in affect early. Senior guard Kate Tobie grabbed a defensive rebound on one end and forced contact to send her to the free-throw line on the other end. Tobie was only able to connect on one free throw. A minute later, senior guard Katie Sire gathered the offensive rebound but Rowan’s tight man-to-man defense forced a turnover and scored on the other end.
On the next play, senior forward Taylor Harmon aggressively drove down the lane and scored. Rowan answered on the other end with a three to quiet the Panzer Athletic Center crowd and get the Rowan fans chirping.
With 2:15 left on the clock, Harmon connected on a high contact aggressive drive but Rowan answered yet again with one layup, but was not able to make the free throw. Rowan and their fans started to brew frustration with foul calls at the end of the first. Montclair State led 14-12 heading into the second quarter. Harmon led Montclair State in scoring with eight points at the end of the first.
Rowan started off the second quarter with high intensity scoring. Rowan immediately hit a mid-range jumper to tie the game at 14-14. Rowan’s senior guard Alex Raring drove to the basket, forcing Montclair State’s Alex McKinnon to foul. On the other end, McKinnon answered with a contested foul-line jumper. Rowan again answered on the next possession with a drive to the basket. Tobie helped Montclair State with a wide open three to get the Red Hawks’ fans cheering.
Rowan continued their tight man-to-man defense to force Montclair State to make tough shots. Red Hawks head coach Karin Harvey called a timeout with 2:15 left in the half. On the following drive, Harmon connected on a layup from Tobie’s pass.
On the opposite end, Sire forced an acrobatic steal, which led to another aggressive drive by Harmon to get the Panzer crowd roaring. Although Harmon was not able to ice the free throw, Montclair State came up with a juggling offensive rebound but could not get off a shot before the halftime buzzer. Montclair State led Rowan 27-25. Harmon led the Red Hawks scoring with 12 points followed by Tobie with eight points.
Rowan started off the second half with the ball and immediately turned it over. Montclair State was not able to score off the turnover. On the Red Hawks’ next possession, McKinnon ran the floor and forced a foul call on her layup attempt. McKinnon connected on the first free throw and Sire again came up with an offensive rebound on McKinnon’s second free throw. Rowan forced a shooting foul on the other end, but missed both free throws.
The Red Hawks connected on the other end with another layup by Harmon to not only get the Panzer crowd on its feet but grew Rowan’s verbal frustration over foul calls and made Rowan’s head coach Gabby Lisella call a full timeout. Despite the frustration, Rowan connected on a three to silence the Red Hawks’ fans but not for long.
On the very next play, McKinnon hit a three and got the Panzer crowd back up on their feet. Sire’s next shot attempt gathered another offensive rebound and put it in to increase the Red Hawks’ lead to six. Rowan forced another turnover, which led to another layup. However, Sire was not able to make the free throw.
With 30 seconds left in the quarter, Sire pulled in a defensive rebound and forced another Rowan foul that sent her to the free-throw line where she hit both free throws. At the end of the third, the Red Hawks led Rowan 49-40. Sire scored all her 11 points in the third.
On the Red Hawks’ next possession, Tobie drove to the hole and finished an acrobatic and one layup to electrify the Panzer crowd. On the other end, Montclair State forced a trap that led to a turnover and a Rowan timeout. On the same drive, Tobie again hit a three and extended the lead to 15.
After going back and forth, Harvey called for a full timeout with the Red Hawks leading by 10. The Red Hawks forced multiple defensive stops leading to consecutive Rowan turnovers and a Montclair State scoring run.
With 3:51 left in the game, Tobie came off of the court limping. Tobie finished her stellar night with a career high 21 points. On the following possession, Harmon forced a blocking foul and knocked down a free throw. Rowan called time with 43 seconds left. The Red Hawks dribbled out the game clock and came out victorious over Rowan to advance to the NJAC women’s basketball championship..
The championship game will be played Friday, Feb. 23 at Panzer against The College of New Jersey. The winner of the championship game will receive an automatic bid to the 2017-2018 NCAA tournament.