Jersey City, NJ (2/25/11) - The Montclair
State men's basketball team fell short in its bid for its first New
Jersey Athletic Conference title on Friday as the Red Hawks fell to New
Jersey City, 72-67 at the John J. Moore Athletic Center.
Senior guard Rodney Freeney (Piscataway, NJ / Piscataway) scored 24 points however it would not be enough as the Gothic Knights captured the league title and automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament with the win.
The Red Hawks, who fell to 20-8 on the year, will be among the team vying for an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. Selections will be announced on Monday, February 28.
MSU was looking for its 10th conference title and first since 2003 as it was appearing in the seventh NJAC title contest. Montclair also lost the 1995 chamoionshp contest to New Jersey City (then Jersey City State), 67-50. Montclair State had reached the finals after going on the road and knocking off Richard Stockton, 61-60 in Pomona last Saturday. The Red Hawks then avenged two losses to Ramapo College during the regular season beating the Roadrunners, 67-64 in the semifinals on Tuesday evening.
The game marked the third meeting in the last 11 days between the two teams. 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.
Montclair led for a good portion of the first half in the tightly played contest and took a 33-28 lead with 2:50 to go before halftime as Tyrone Prewitt (Trenton, NJ / Trenton Central) scored on a layup. However, NJCU scored the next eight points to take the lead with 38 seconds remaining for A.J. Larkin's (Passaic, NJ / St. Mary's) two foul shots made the score 36-35 in favor of the Gothic Knights at the break.
In the second half, a three-pointer by Freeney put Montclair back in front at 39-38 but a three-point counter by Da'Shon Barrino off a turnover put NJCU back in front for what turned out to be the remainder of the game.
Montclair State would fall behind by five points but got back to 53-52 with 9:16 play as senior forward Charles Miller (Linden, NJ / Linden) hit twice from the foul line. New Jersey City would then score seven of the next eight points to restore the lead to 60-53 with 6:43 left.
Miller's layup with 3:51 to go made the score 61-58 but the Gothic Knights, who went the final 7:29 without a field goal were able to hold off the Red Hawks by going 11-of-13 at the charity stripe.
New Jersey City was 26-of-37 overall in the game at the free-throw line compared to 18-of-27 by Montclair State.
Prewitt finished with 10 points and nine rebounds while Miller added nine points and four rebounds. Senior guard Tom Bonard (Westfield, NJ / Westfield) chipped in with six points, three rebounds and five assists.