The stage was set for the Rowan men’s basketball team on Saturday as they hosted fifth-seeded Montclair State University for the first round of the New Jersey Athletic Conference tournament. It was their first home playoff matchup since 2010.
Flipping the script from two previous losses to the Red Hawks, the brown and gold took down their northern rival, 81-69. But the excitement from the program’s first playoff win in 15 years would be cut short.
Rowan could not overcome top-seeded No. 7 Ramapo College three days later, suffering a 110-101 defeat in the second round.
The Profs had previously lost to the Roadrunners just a week before, 90-71, and were 0-2 overall before Tuesday.
Rowan would start the game with momentum quickly shifting in its favor after going up 3-0. As the teams exchanged leads, it was senior Josh Borelli who would knock down a three and hit another jumper to give Rowan a 23-16 lead at the 12-minute mark of the first half.
Unfortunately, foul trouble would hurt the Profs’ starters, and Ramapo’s Christopher Moseley caught fire, tallying 15 points by halftime to cut the Rowan lead to 50-47.
In the blink of an eye, the Roadrunners were up, 82-67, at the halfway mark of the second half. Rowan would resort to three-point shooting and connect late in the half, but it was too late. Ramapo had a comfortable 97-85 lead with just under three minutes remaining, and would eventually eliminate the Profs. Guards Rob and Nick DePersia combined for 40 points in the loss.
The second-round game started similar to Saturday’s matchup against MSU. The Profs came out of the gate hot, as senior Gary Carthan hit a three within 20 seconds of play. Rowan would eventually lead the Red Hawks, 34-31, heading to the locker room, with freshman Jeff Haddock and sophomore-transfer DaRon Curry leading the team with seven points apiece. In the second half, the brown and gold hit 7 of 19 from deep to pull away with the win.
Sophomore Rob DePersia led the brown and gold with 17 points, as his brother Nick and senior forward Shawn Wilson would follow with 12 each.
“It felt great, because last year we didn’t make the playoffs,” Wilson said after facing MSU. “So, going from that to now, and having a home playoff game and then winning that, feels awesome.”
This season was one of great growth for Rowan, as it flipped a 9-16 record in the regular season last year to a 16-9 campaign this year. The Profs won their first game against Stockton University since 2008 in November, took home the championship in the Garnet Holiday Tournament in December, and won their first playoff game in more than a decade
“Everyone was just invested in being good as a team. We don’t have anyone that is just invested in themselves,” Wilson said.
Rowan already found success under first-year head coach Joe Crispin. Throughout the year, Crispin had emphasized the need for poise, and becoming the best team that Rowan could possibly be. In the first month of the season, the rookie coach talked about his mindset for the program.
“We are trying to build a winning culture and set the foundations for that to happen here,” Crispin said in November. “We are committed to playing a certain way, and translating that into some fun and exciting games. Those are where my expectations lie, and those are basically non negotiable.”
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