Men's Basketball Tops NJCU to Clinch NJAC Tournament Berth

MSU Seniors (L-R) Tom Bonard, Hal Abraham, Charles Miller, Rodney Freeney, Tyrone Prewitt and Sean Young with coach Ted Fiore. The six players were honored prior to the game on Senior Night.

Box Score

Montclair, NJ (2/16/11) – On Senior Night at the Panzer Athletic Center, it was a pair of seniors – Rodney Freeney(Piscataway, NJ / Piscataway) and Tom Bonard (Westfield, NJ / Westfield) who combined to hit four free throws down the stretch as Montclair State locked up the final berth in the New Jersey Athletic Conference Tournament with a 62-53 over New Jersey City University on Wednesday evening.

Freeney and A.J. Larkin (Passaic, NJ / St. Mary’s) each had 12 while junior Andrew August (Bridgewater, NJ / Bridgewater-Raritan) netted 13 as MSU picked the perfect evening to halt its three-game losing streak while also avenging an 82-62 loss to the same Gothic Knight team just two days ago. Montclair State (18-7, 8-5 NJAC) finished as the third-place team in the North Division and now advances to conference tournament which gets underway on Saturday, February 19. 

MSU will face Richard Stockton in Pomona at 4:00 pm in the Stockton Sports Center. Earlier this season, Montclair recorded a 69-61 win over the Ospreys at the Panzer Athletic Center on January 29. Stockton fell to Kean University 55-53 in a game that determined the South Division title and first-round bye. The winner of the MSU-Stockton contest will take on North Division champion Ramapo College in the semifinals on Tuesday, February 22 in Mahwah. 

The Red Hawks began the evening needing a win after three straight losses that left them in a win-or-go-home situation. Montclair entered the contest a half-game ahead of Rutgers-Newark in the standings, however the Scarlet Raiders held the tiebreaker and would have claimed the playoff spot if Montclair faltered. 

For the New Jersey City the loss cooled off a torrid stretch by the Gothic Knights, who had won nine straight and 13-of-its-last-15 contests. NJCU, which had already locked up the No. 2 spot in the North Division on Monday, got 17 points off the bench from senior James Livingston (Trenton, NJ / Trenton Central) as it fell to 16-9 overall, 8-5 in the NJAC. Though it finished tied with Montclair in the division, the Gothic Knights earned second-place based on the tiebreaker of better division record (NJCU was 5-3 while MSU went 4-4 in the division). 

NJCU will open up NJAC Tournament play on Saturday when it hosts Rowan University as the John J. Moore Athletic Recreation Center. Rowan was the last team to beat the Gothic Knights (55-47 in Glassboro on January 22) before the nine-game winning streak.

A tightly-contested game throughout the first half, a jumper by NJCU’s Tom McDermott (Kearny, NJ / Kearny) gave the Gothic Knights an 18-17 lead with 3:45 to play. That would be the last time Montclair would trail. Bonard buried a three-pointer to regain the lead and then hit two free throws to make the score 22-19 with 2:44 to play. Sean Young (Scotch Plains, NJ / SP-Fanwood) added a jumper however Rob Robinson (East Orange, NJ / Shabazz) countered with a three-pointer as MSU led 24-22 with 80 seconds to go before halftime. The teams then traded baskets before Freeney hit from short range with four seconds left as the Red Hawks took a 28-24 lead into the break.

It was the first time since December 4 against Kean that New Jersey City trailed at halftime. 

Larkin buried two three pointers to open the second half as Montclair would get out to a 36-24 lead with 16:09 remaining on August’s layup. A layup from Keith Williams (Jersey City, NJ / Create Charter) sliced the lead back to 42-38, but three free throws – two by Young and one by August boosted the Montclair lead back to 45-38 midway through the period. 

Livingston, who finished 11-of-12 at the charity stripe in the game, sank two with 6:30 left to bring the Gothic Knights within five points at 49-44. That would be as close as NJCU would get the rest of the way. Tyrone Prewitt (Trenton, NJ / Trenton Central) made one from the line and Larkin two of his own before August finished off a fastbreak with a layup as Montclair pushed the lead back to double-digits at 54-44 with 5:11 left.  

Montclair would only manage just one basket after that, and none over the final 4:10 however it maintained its lead by going 6-of-8 at the line. Freeney connected on two of those with 1:49 to play for a 60-50 advantage and Bonard hit his two 10 seconds later as Montclair led 62-50.

Young added eight points and eight rebounds off the bench for Montclair State, which used a 21-of-29 (72 percent) advantage at the free throw line in the victory. Prewitt added six points, three blocks and a game-high 11 rebounds for MSU while Bonard chipped in with nine points. 

Robinson had 12 points and six rebounds for the Gothic Knights, who got 39 of its 53 points from the bench in the game.