With just two games remaining in the regular season, the Red Hawks are peaking at the right time. Montclair State earned three tough victories against William Paterson University, Rutgers-Camden and Rowan University and are now on a six-game winning streak less than two weeks before the New Jersey Athletic Conference Tournament.
The Red Hawks only allowed four points in the first quarter in their game against Rowan on Feb. 10, but the rest of the game was more of a back-and-forth affair.
Montclair State trailed by three with 48 seconds left. Junior Rachel Krauss hit both of her free throws to cut the deficit to one. The Profs turned it over on the next possession and put the ball back in the Red Hawks’ hands with 31 seconds to go.
Sophomore Katie Sire hit a layup and put Montclair State ahead by one. Rowan University threw the ball away and the Red Hawks emerged with a 71-70 upset over the no. 1 ranked team in the NJAC.
Their previous victory against Rutgers-Camden was nowhere near as dominant as their 49-point blowout over New Jersey City University a few weeks ago. However, the team fought off a late comeback staged by the Scarlet Raptors and did not buckle under the pressure.
Montclair State started with a five-point lead to open the fourth quarter, but they slowly started to lose control. Too often, the Red Hawks moved the ball around on offense, but nothing came of it. They looked afraid to shoot and shot clock violations seemed to end their offensive possessions more often than missed shots.
The Red Hawks 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 Montclair State up 51-50 with 94 seconds to play. Junior Zoe Curtis later knocked down two late free throws to clinch a 54-51 victory for the Red Hawks.
Similarly, Montclair State found themselves trailing by two points with under three minutes to go in their previous game against William Paterson University. However, Sire converted a layup to tie the game and then Bennett forced a turnover and converted her free throws to put the Red Hawks up by two points. It was essentially a free throw shooting contest from that point on and Montclair State hit their free throws and prevailed 64-59 over the William Paterson Pioneers.
Sire has gotten on a roll on both ends of the floor at the same time that the Red Hawks have gone on their six-game winning streak. Over their past six consecutive victories, Sire has averaged 17.1 points per game, 9.5 rebounds per game and 1.3 steals per game.
The Red Hawks are starting to hit their stride with three games remaining in the regular season and are 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.