The Red Hawks quest for a New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship was put to an end on April 3 as they suffered a 64-60 loss to New Jersey City University in the title game.
Montclair State finished the season 8-2 and 6-0 in conference play. They have now lost back-to-back conference championship games and have not won the NJAC since the 2017-18 season. Despite losing the big game, the Red Hawks can still look back on their season and see many positives.
Outside of the first and last games, the Red Hawks looked unbeatable. The team was toppled over by Salisbury University in their home opener as they lost by 25 points.
Senior guard Taylor Brown recalls that first game at home.
“The feeling we had after being beaten on our home court right off the bat [made us] angry and hungry to want to do better and beat every team we came in contact with,” Brown said.
Brown was one of the key players to the Red Hawks’ success this season. She led the Red Hawks in scoring, rebounding and blocks per game. For her spectacular season, Brown was named NJAC Player of the Year and was selected to the All-NJAC First Team.
“I can’t even explain the feeling I get when I think about it, it’s such an honor,” Brown said. “I think that the dedication that my teammates and coaches gave up for us to play was incredible and I owe it all to them.”
Joining Brown in NJAC honors is freshman guard Kendall Hodges, who was named second-team all-conference. She led the team in assists and steals per game.
In a year full of uncertainty, the Red Hawks showed off their determination and passion for the game they all love. To get beat the way they did in their first game and then turn around and not lose again until the championship demonstrates Montclair State basketball’s heart and soul.
The Red Hawks were forced to quarantine three different times throughout the season. Some players even thought the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic restrictions might have helped the team in the grand scheme of things.
Sophomore guard and former NJAC Rookie of the Year Nickie Carter thought the team has grown closer than ever.
“Regardless of what happened, I have learned a lot this season. And since we had to spend so much time together because we couldn’t really see anyone else, our relationships improved a lot,” Carter said. “The players and coaches were able to create bonds that will last a lifetime and it played a huge factor in the Red Hawks success this season.”
Montclair State had a total of five players who averaged at least eight points per game, which led to them to rank second in the conference in scoring.
The Red Hawks prided themselves on the defensive end and it showed. They ranked first in defense by only allowing 54 points per game.
In the first round of the NJAC tournament, the Red Hawks defeated Rutgers-Camden by a score of 101-37. It was a historic night for them, as the team scored its most points ever in an NJAC tournament game and also hit 14 three-pointers, second-most in the program’s history.
The Red Hawks have had a season to remember, especially with it being one of the most chaotic ones in program history. The adversity and amount of difficulties that they faced was unlike any other year.
Although their championship aspirations were crushed in devastating fashion, the Red Hawks should be proud of the season they had during a global pandemic. This team is going to be even hungrier next year as they look to reclaim the NJAC title.