Women's Basketball to Face Kean in NJAC Semifinals

Montclair, NJ (2/21/09) - It’s a throw-back matchup in the NJAC Tournament Semifinals on Wednesday, February 25 as Montclair State will host Kean University at the MSU Student Recreation. Tipoff of the contest is slated for 7:00 pm.

Tickets for each game are $5 for adults $2 for students, children and seniors. Due to NJAC regulations all tickets must be purchased. Seating is limited in the MSU Student Recreation Center (approximately 400 seats) so tickets will be on a first-come-first-serve basis. The ticket window will open at 6:00 pm.

Montclair State enters the game at 18-7 and winners of the North Division as the Red Hawks edged William Paterson for the top spot with a 78-68 win in Wayne last Wednesday. The victory game MSU (11-2 in conference play), winners of eight straight, the first-round bye and marked the first division crown for the Red Hawks since the format has been introduced. Montclair also grabbed the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, the first time it has accomplished that goal since the 1989-90 campaign.

Kean, the two-time defending champion, was also 11-2 in NJAC play, but lost out to TCNJ for the South Division crown. The Cougars (20-6), ranked in the Top 25 throughout much of the season, easily disposed of Rutgers-Newark 68-33 in the opening round on Saturday.

Kean won the head-to-head matchup between the teams this season with a 67-59 victory at the Harwood Arena in Union on January 24.

S enior guard Ebony Jackson ( Newark, N.J.) had 16 points, seven rebounds and seven assists as the Cougars posted the eight-points victory. Junior guard Cardiss Jackman ( Tobyhanna, Pa.) added 14 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three blocks while handing the Red Hawks their second consecutive defeat and first loss in conference play.

Junior forward Catherine Cristino ( Farmingdale, NJ / Colts Neck) and freshman Jaime Ericson ( Flemington, NJ / Hunterdon Central) each had 18 points to lead the Red Hawks.

In the early minutes of the game, the Cougars scored seven straight points to cap a 9-2 run to open the game.  Montclair State used an 8-2 run to pull back within 13-12 with 12:42 remaining in the half, before the Cougars extended the lead back out to seven points at 25-18 on a lay-up by Jackson with 7:08 left.

The Red Hawks cut the deficit back to two points with under four minutes remaining, before a three-pointer by Jackman gave the Cougars a five-point lead 30-25 going into halftime. Jackson scored eight points and had four assists for the Cougars in the opening half, while Ericson came off the bench to score eight points and grab seven rebounds for Montclair State.

Kean led throughout the entire second half, and led by as many as nine points on a pair of occasions early in the half.  The Red Hawks pulled to within two points numerous times and trailed just 58-55 with just over five minutes remaining on a jumper by Ericson.  Jackman helped seal the victory down the stretch, scoring five points in the final minutes

Ericson had a double-double for the Red Haws, finishing with 18 points and 10 rebounds.  In addition to her 18 points, Cristino added three steals, while junior guard Jackie Berry ( Tuckerton, NJ / Pinelands Regional) had nine points, 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals.

This will be the fifth time that MSU and Kean have met in the NJAC Tournament with the Cougars taking all four games. The first was in 1987 as Kean recorded am 83-56 win en route to an appearance in the Division III Final Four. In 1989 and 1990 the two squared off for the conference crown. The Cougars defeated Montclair 74-68 in the 1989 final and then battled past the top-seeded Red Hawks 77-59 the following year. Five years ago, Kean knocked off MSU 85-70 in Union.

The winner of the game faces either The College of New Jersey or William Paterson in the championship game on Saturday, February 28. TCNJ and WPU will meet in Wednesday’s other semifinal contest.

The winner of the NJAC Championship receives and automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament which begins on March 5-6.