Ayanbeku Leads Women's Hoops Past Rowan in NJAC Tournament

Montclair, NJ (2/25/08) – Sophomore guard Kisandra Ayanbeku (Burlington, MA / Randolph) scored a season-high 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds off the bench leading four players in double figures as Montclair State rolled to a 71-56 victory over Rowan University in the opening round of the New Jersey Athletic Conference Women’s Basketball Championship Tournament at Panzer Gymnasium on Monday evening.

Senior guard Jessica Garrabrant (Denville, NJ / Morris Knolls) posted her third straight double-double with 12 points and a game-high 17 rebounds as the Red Hawks snapped a seven-game losing streak in the conference tournament and moved to 17-9 on the season. Montclair now moves into the semifinals on Wednesday, February 27 as they travel to Ewing, NJ to face NJAC South Division winner The College of New Jersey at 7:00 pm in Packer Hall.  It will be the third straight season the Red Hawks and Lions will meet in the NJAC Tournament with TCNJ winning the last two, including a 60-38 victory in the 2006 opening round.

Sophomore guard Jillian Kane (Ridgefield Park, NJ / Ridgefield Park) had 12 points and eight rebounds for Rowan, which finishes its season at 15-11, including two losses to Montclair State. The Profs, who have now lost four straight to MSU, also dropped a 67-63 decision at Panzer Gymnasium back on February 9. Rowan had entered the game 5-1 in the NJAC Tournament against Montclair, including a 69-59 win in the opening round in 2005.

Rowan led the first five-plus minutes into the game, but Montclair took control as Garrabrant scored on a jumper in the paint to give MSU a 6-5 lead and Ayanbeku followed with basket off an offensive rebound as the Red Hawks were up three with 13:27 left. Ayanbeku’s two free throws made the score 15-7 and Marianne McGovern’s (Fair Lawn, NJ / Paramus Catholic) finish on the break put Montclair ahead 19-9 with 6:40 to go before halftime.  A jumper by Jackie Berry (Tuckerton, NJ / Pinelands Regional) gave MSU its largest lead of the half (32-18) and the Red Hawk took a 36-24 advantage into the locker room.

Two free throws by Berry extended the lead to 42-26 just over three minutes into the second half, but Rowan was trim the lead to 45-34 as Jessica Nimbley (Middletown, NJ / St. John Vianney) scored on a layup inside. After a Montclair basket, Kane connected on a jumper to get the deficit back to 10 points, however Jamilee Pflug (Clark, NJ / Arthur L. Johnson) sank two foul shots and Ayanbeku and McGovern scored on layups to restore the lead to 53-37 with 9:23 to play and the Profs got no closer than 13 points the rest of the way as Montclair picked up its first NJAC Tournament win since a 78-65 win over Rutgers-Camden in a 1998 Play-in contest.

Cristino and McGovern each finished with 11 points for Montclair State, which held a 49-36 advantage on the boards, including 23 offensive rebounds. Garrabrant, who added three steals and four assists, registered her 15th game of 10 or more boards this season and now has 994 in her career, six shy of becoming the fifth player in MSU history to record 1,000 rebounds.  Cristino had seven rebounds while Berry added eight points and six assists.

Nimbley had nine points, four rebounds and four assists for Rowan which got eight points from Ashley Cieplicki (Haworth, NJ / Dumont) and seven points from Kristina Wallace (Logan Township, NJ / Clearview Regional).