The Rowan women’s basketball team hit the start of the home stretch Saturday, having only four regular season games left with a two-game, New Jersey Athletic Conference lead.
In a perfect world, the Profs would have ended the season on a four-game winning streak, clinching the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in the NJAC Championship Tournament.
Instead, following a loss to Kean University on Feb. 6, they found themselves sitting only one game ahead of Stockton University and Montclair State University in the standings for the final three.
“It was disappointing for us to not come away with a win. We ran into some cold shooting and didn’t have the same energy that we had in other games. I think those two factors were the difference,” head coach Gabby Lisella said. “In spite of that, we got to overtime and just couldn’t get over the hump.”
Graduate student forward Melissa Lake hit two key free throws with seconds left in regulation to get the game into over time, but the Profs were outscored 18-10 in the period.
“I think they wanted it more and played harder in those last few minutes. Looking back on it, there were a lot of turnovers,” said junior guard Anyssa Sanchez. “We kind of dug ourselves into a hole in overtime. That’s on us, it wasn’t anything crazy.”
Rowan still had command of the NJAC, but their once-comfortable lead dwindled. Fortunately, the team controlled their own destiny from that point.
“We’re still in first place,” Lisella said. “Three games left, take care of business.”
The first team in a tough final stretch of games for the Profs was Montclair State on Wednesday.
The brown and gold defeated the Red Hawks on the road earlier this season, 68-64. It was the smallest margin of victory for the team this season.
“Watching film, we went over a lot and realized that that was pretty early in the season. We’re more mature now, we learned a lot more offensively, and defensively, we’re closer as a team,” Sanchez said prior to the game. “We know what we need to do to beat them. This time it’s just a matter of getting a lead early, playing good defense, moving the ball and building a lead through the game.”
Despite the game plan and experience of defeating Montclair, Rowan couldn’t execute come Wednesday night as the Red Hawks came out on top, 71-70. With 5.3 seconds left in the game, Montclair scored the go-ahead bucket to seal the win.
“I think we played with a lot of heart and effort. Certainly it’s disappointing, but I think it sets us up and prepares us for situations down the stretch,” Lisella said. “We want to use this as a learning and growing experience and just keep moving forward.”
This is the first time the Profs have lost back-to-back games this season. Their firm grip on the top spot in the NJAC rankings has disappeared.
“Right now it’s a three-way tie for first. So it’s just going to have to play out,” Lisella said. “Right now we’ve got to focus on what we have to do for Saturday. We have to do our jobs and let the rest take care of itself.”
Rowan (13-3, 19-4 overall) will try to end its longest losing streak of the season on Saturday at Rutgers-Newark. The team will then close out the regular season in front of the home crowd against William Paterson on Wednesday, Feb. 17.
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