Freshman Greg Moore (Jersey City, NJ /Bayonne) drained a rainbow three-pointer with four-tenths left on the clock to lift Rutgers-Newark past MSU, 58-57 in the semifinals of the New Jersey Athletic Conference Tournament on Tuesday evening at the MSU Student Recreation Center.
Sophomore forward Deshawn Singleton (Passaic, NJ / Passaic) had 21 points and five rebounds as the Scarlet Raiders (16-11) moved on to the conference championship game where it will meet 10 th-ranked Richard Stockton on Friday, February 27 at 7:00 pm. The winner receives the automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Freshman guard Ali Mix ( East Orange, NJ / East Orange) finished with 21 points and seven rebounds for Montclair State, which had its nine-game winning streak snapped and fell to 20-6. The Red Hawks will now wait to see if their season continues either in the NCAA or ECAC Tournament.
Montclair State, winners of the NJAC North, had won six games this season either by a point in regulation or in overtime and it came within a second of a seventh victory. After trailing by as many as nine in the second half, MSU tied the game with just under a minute to go and took the lead with 5.7 seconds to play as sophomore guard James Williams (Englewood, NJ / Dwight Morrow) put back an offensive rebound for a 57-55 advantage.
Rutgers-Newark, which had lost to the Red Hawks twice this season including a 62-61 win on the very same court in January, called timeout with 4.4 seconds left. Montclair countered with its own and after the stoppages, the Scarlet Raiders set up the final play. Moore took a pass from just off the right side from 24-feet out and buried the three-pointer with what appeared to be a game-ending shot and sent the Scarlet Raiders into a frenzy on the floor.
But four-tenths still remained and MSU got a final chance. Mix inbounded the ball to guard Tom Bonard ( Westfield, NJ / Westfield) at half court. Bonard, who hit buzzer-beating three-pointer against Ramapo two weeks earlier, managed to heave a shot that came after the buzzer. Perhaps in another ironic twist, the ball banked in but was quickly waved off by the officials.
Phil Barnes ( Middlesex, NJ / Middlesex) had nine points and nine rebounds for Rutgers-Newark, which also avenged a 69-64 loss to MSU just 10 days ago in Newark. Moore had eight points while Tim Smith ( Mullica Hill, NJ / Camden Catholic) collected nine points and five boards.
Junior guard Ken Dudley ( Willingboro, NJ / Burlington Tech) had 13 points for the Red Hawks, who struggled from the free-throw line in the contest. Montclair converted just 12-of-22 opportunities at the charity stripe, including 9-of-16 in the second half. Jon Georges ( West Orange, NJ / St. Peter’s Prep) had eight points and eight rebounds for MSU.
Montclair State jumped out to a 19-9 lead in the first half and led 25-13 with 6:33 left in the opening period before Rutgers-Newark came back with a 13-0 run as Singleton muscled inside for a layup with 1:11 to go. Dudley broke the Red Hawk drought with a pair of foul shots, but Singleton converted inside with seven ticks to play as Rutgers-Newark went into the locker room up 28-27.
In the second half, it was the Scarlet Raiders’ turn to build a lead getting in front 39-39 with 15:27 left on a jumper by Smith. From there the lead would bounce between three and six points with MSU made it a two-point game at 55-53 with 2:54 on a free throw by Georges. The teams would miss the next three shots in the contest and Georges was fouled with 58 seconds to play. He would hit both knotting the score at 55-55 setting the stage for the final seconds of play.
A stage that wound up being one second too long for Montclair State.