In one of the most chaotic seasons ever for the Montclair State University women’s basketball team, the Red Hawks could not finish it off with a New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship win. For the second straight season, Montclair State lost in the NJAC Championship game with a 64-60 loss to New Jersey City University (NJCU) at Panzer Athletic Center on April 3.
Montclair State was flying high, coming off a win to a talented Kean University team in the NJAC semifinals on March 22. However, the Red Hawks did not compete for 22 days after that; the championship game was postponed due to coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic protocols.
This was not anything new though, as COVID-19 proved to be one of the biggest obstacles in the Red Hawks’ way. Between games getting canceled and rules changing with practices, this season was as tough as it gets.
The Red Hawks came into the game leading the NJAC in rebounds, so when NJCU won that battle in the second half (44-30), head coach Karin Harvey knew it was a major blow.
“NJCU did a good job defensively and played a very physical game,” Harvey said. “Rebounding really hurt us in the 2nd half, as they out-rebounded us by 14. I think that was the main difference in the game.”
Freshman forward Briana Davis led the way for the Gothic Knights in rebounds with 11, getting double digits for the first time in her career. Another freshman who outperformed herself was guard Damaris Rodriguez, finishing the game with 12 points and seven rebounds.
As for the Red Hawks, the leading scorer was sophomore guard Nickie Carter with a season-high 24 points. She shot 4-7 from downtown and tallied a career-high six steals. She was backed up by help from senior guard Taylor Brown, who scored 17 points in her final game as a Red Hawk.
While a second-place finish for Brown and the Red Hawks was not their ultimate goal, it was still a great season for them. Many schools across the country did not even get to play basketball this season, so just being able to compete was a blessing for them.
“Looking back on the season as a whole, my only thought is that my team and I gave it all we could,” Brown said. “We went from not knowing whether we would even have a season or not to going 8-2 overall, 6-0 in the conference and advancing to the NJAC Championship.”
This season for the Red Hawks has been all about the team needing to be there for one another all the way up until that last buzzer, and that was the case.
“We were able to overcome so many obstacles this year by being mentally tough and being there for one another on and off the court,” Brown said. “This year has been one of the toughest mental challenges for everyone whether that was dealing with basketball’s constant uncertainty, living with restrictions and taking online classes over Zoom.”
All season long, Montclair State continued to outshine any expectations in front of them. They lead the NJAC in rebounds per game and blocked shots and also finished in the top two in almost every scoring category.
Harvey was really impressed all season by the mentality shown by the players. However, one of her favorite things about this team was their bond with one another and how they played for each other.
“I really loved how well they got along and supported each member of the team,” Harvey said. “Extremely fun group to be around.”