Men's Basketball Shocks Ramapo in NJAC Tournament Semifinals; Red Hawks to Face NJCU for Conference Crown, NCAA Bid

Box Score

Mahwah, NJ (2/22/11) - Eight years ago, Ben Martinez made a steal and a driving layup with two seconds left in double-overtime for an 86-84 victory that gave Montclair State the 2003 New Jersey Athletic Conference title in what was one of the more remarkable championship games in league history.

On Tuesday night although the stakes weren’t as high, Montclair prevailed again in another outstanding contest as the Red Hawks advanced to the championship game for the first time since that night with a 67-64 victory over the Roadrunners at the Bradley Center.

Senior guard Rodney Freeney (Piscataway, NJ / Piscataway) scored 19 points while senior forward Charles Miller (Linden, NJ / Linden) came off the bench to add 12 points and nine rebounds as MSU avenged a pair of losses to the Roadrunners during the regular season and moved into the title contest on Friday, February 25 against an opponent the Montclair has known all too well of late – New Jersey City University.

The Red Hawks and Gothic Knights will square off for the third time in nine days at the John J. Moore Athletic Center in Jersey City at 7:00 pm with the conference crown and league’s automatic bid on the line.  MSU and NJCU met twice in a span of three days last week. The Gothic Knights posted an 82-62 victory in Jersey City before Montclair State came away with a 62-53 win two nights later at the Panzer Athletic Center that snapped the Gothic Knights’ nine-game winning streak. The latter win by Montclair helped the Red Hawks claim the final berth in the NJAC Tournament.

It will be Montclair’s first trip to the NJAC final since that 2003 contest at Ramapo and its seventh overall. One of those games was a 67-50 loss to New Jersey City (then Jersey City State) in the 1994 NJAC Championship Game.  MSU will be seeking its seventh NJAC title overall.

Montclair improved to 20-7 on the year marking just the ninth time in program history that the Red Hawks have reached 20 wins in a season. It is the second time in four years and the fourth under head coach Ted Fiore.

Montclair earned its way into the semifinals by holding off Richard Stockton in the first round in dramatic fashion, 61-60 as two Osprey attempts in the closing seconds went off the mark.

As the game unfolded in the first half, it appeared as if there wasn’t going to be any anxious last-second moments as Ramapo jumped out to a 14-4 lead and led 23-9 with 4:56 left in the first half on Elgin Brown’s jumper. But the Red Hawks were able to slice that deficit in half before the buzzer sounded and despite shooting just 36 percent over the first 20 minutes, Montclair found itself down only 29-22.

In the second half, Montclair quickly got the lead to two points and the tied the game at 33-33 on two free throws by Andrew August (Bridgewater, NJ / Bridgewater-Raritan)  with 15:37 left to cap a 24-10 run by MSU during that 10-minute span that bridged the two halves.

From that point, the game would never be separated by more than three points and was tied six more times, including 59-59 with 3:46 to play as Larkin sank two free throws from the line. After Ramapo went up by three, Freeney scored six straight points, the last a three-pointer with 21 seconds left that gave Montclair State a 65-62 advantage.

Anthony LoRusso answered with a basket bringing Ramapo within a point with 11 ticks left. The Roadrunners then fouled Freeney who went to the line and sank both foul shots for a 67-64 lead. Following successive timeouts by each team, the Roadrunners got one last chance as Will Sanborn fired a three-pointer at the buzzer. However the ball did not go down as the Red Hawks came away with the victory and the berth in the NJAC Tournament finals.

The Red Hawks outscored Ramapo 45-35 in the second half as they reversed their shooting fortunes over the final 20 minutes. Montclair shot 50 percent (15-of-30) from the floor while holding the Roadrunners to 36 percent (12-of-33).

Senior Tyrone Prewitt (Trenton, NJ / Trenton Central) added nine points and seven rebounds while senior Tom Bonard (Westfield, NJ / Westfield)had nine points and three assists. August finished with six points and six rebounds.