It was a battle between two top teams in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) as the Montclair State University women’s basketball team beat New Jersey City University (NJCU) 67-58. It was an outstanding effort led by two players, who happened to be celebrating their senior night.
Senior guard Taylor Brown put on a show for the crowd at Panzer Athletic Center, which was allowed to host fans for the first time this season. Brown got a double-double with a game-leading 20 points and 12 rebounds. Joining her in their last regular season home game was senior forward Kayla Bush, who played a season-high 26 minutes. She capitalized on that with 10 points and seven rebounds.
Brown felt that the team’s preparation throughout the week paid off in this game.
“We’ve been more eager to play and we were ready,” Brown said. “Coach [Karin Harvey] prepared us well and we had a lot of excitement going into it.”
Defensively, the Red Hawks came out playing tough, which is something head coach Karin Harvey has stressed at practice. They played a new style of defense and it paid off, as they held NJCU almost 10 points under their scoring average this season.
“We are getting better and better all the time defensively,” Harvey said. “There was a lot of team defense. I was really proud of the defensive effort.”
The Red Hawks jumped out to a fast start with the help of Brown and the playmaking abilities of freshman guard Kendall Hodges. The score was 12-2 halfway through the first, and the Red Hawks finished the quarter with a 19-10 lead.
NJCU battled hard in the second quarter in large part due to freshman guard Nahjeemah Holmes, who put up 18 points on the night and brought them back into the game going into the half. Montclair State did a great job of containing freshman guard Damaris Rodriguez, one of the best scorers in the NJAC. Rodriguez finished the game 4-17 from the field.
Bush commented on how unified the team played throughout the game.
“We really played as a team out there together,” Bush said. “It just felt like a fun basketball game.”
In the third quarter, it was a back-and-forth contest. However, big shots by Hodges and solid defense from junior guard Trisha Peterson helped the Red Hawks take a 44-41 lead at the end of the quarter.
NJCU played the Red Hawks tough throughout the game. Hodges recognized that it would take a full team effort to pull this win out.
“Playing against a great team like this is always going to be a tough matchup,” Hodges said. “A win is very much deserved and it showed on the court.”
As the game went into the fourth quarter, Montclair State took over. Contributions from junior guard Julia Sutton and continuous dominance from Bush and Brown helped grow their lead to 58-53 with 3:15 remaining in the game.
The next play was the finisher for the Red Hawks as Brown sank a three-pointer to finish off her amazing night. With a second remaining in the game, Brown was pulled from the game as she received a standing ovation from the crowd and her teammates.
The Red Hawks had a perfect NJAC record as they finished conference play at 6-0 after defeating NJCU the following game 67-58. Montclair State finished 6-1 on the season and are heading to the NJAC tournament as the top-seeded team. The Red Hawks will face Rutgers-Camden on March 5 at Panzer Athletic Center in the first round.