The first two meetings of the season between the Rowan women’s basketball team and Montclair State were decided by a total of five points.
It would be a similar result when the two programs faced off again in the New Jersey Athletic Conference Championship game on Friday night. Unfortunately for Rowan, the close affair favored top-seeded Montclair this time as the Red Hawks defeated the second-seeded Profs, 68-62 for their fourth straight NJAC title.
Though it was their lowest scoring output since Jan. 20, the brown and gold gave the defending champions a fight.
Rowan entered the final quarter of play down only one point. Less than a minute into the fourth, graduate student Kaitlin Schullstrom fired a three-pointer to give her side their first lead.
However, no matter how much Rowan tried to build on its advantage, Montclair (21-6) would answer.
In the final two minutes, the Red Hawks held the Profs scoreless while tallying eight points of their own, putting the game out of reach.
To even get to that point, the team had to overcome a dismal start, doing so by charging out of the intermission and outscoring the Red Hawks 21-13. Junior guard Anyssa Sanchez took over in the third quarter, scoring 10 of the total for the quarter including four of the first five baskets.
With just under two minutes left in the quarter, Rowan tied things up on a pair of free throws from sophomore guard Summer Crilley.
“We were playing our game finally. You could see it on the other team’s face and their fans as well,” Sanchez said. “They didn’t expect us to come out as strong as we did. We rattled them and I’m proud of us for that.”
The first quarter was far from the Profs’ game; the Red Hawks dominated, getting everything they wanted offensively to go up 23-11 over the visitors.
Rowan gained momentum towards the end of the quarter and cut the Montclair lead to single digits with 1:44 left in the frame behind a 9-5 run led by Crilley.
“We needed to just relax and keep things simple. We tried doing too much early,” head coach Gabby Lisella said. “We just simplified things and kept it fundamental. I thought down the stretch we did some nice things. They became tentative and we took advantage.”
For Rowan, its future is up in the air. The brown and gold will find out Monday if their 22-5 season will be rewarded with an at-large bid into the Division III Tournament.
Lisella likes the team’s odds.
“I think what we’ve done all year speaks for itself,” Lisella said. “I think that will be respected.”
Montclair St. 68, Rowan 62
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Montclair guard Rachael Krauss- 12 points (4-of-9 3PT), 5 rebounds
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