Women's Basketball Bested by No. 24 Kean in NJAC Semifinals, 76-68

Box Score

Union, NJ (2/21/12) – For the second time this season Montclair State gave nationally-ranked Kean University all it could handle however the Red Hawks came up short again falling short in its bid to reach the NJAC Championship with a 76-68 loss to the No. 24 Cougars at Harwood Arena on Tuesday evening.

Freshman forward Melissa Tobie (Elizabeth, NJ / Roselle Catholic), the NJAC Rookie of the Year, scored 23 points and grabbed seven rebounds for Montclair State which ended its season at 19-8. The Red Hawks were seeking their first conference tournament title game appearance since 1995 when it won its only championship. Instead, MSU was denied by Kean again, falling to 0-8 all-time versus the Cougars including losses in the semifinals in three of the last five years.

Montclair State also lost for only the fourth time in its last 15 games, two times apiece to Kean and No. 9 William Paterson by a combined 16 points.

Kean (22-4), which defeated MSU 66-64 at the Panzer Athletic Center on January 7, will face William Paterson in the NJAC Championship Game on Friday, February 24 in Union with the winner earning the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Championship.

Montclair State trailed early on and took a 20-19 lead with 8:38 left in the first half as Jaime Ericson (Flemington, NJ / Hunterdon Central) drained a jumper. The Cougars would retake the lead and built a nine-point advantage, 33-24 with just over four minutes left before the Red Hawks closed to gap to six at halftime on a Tobie layup with 25 ticks remaining.

In the second half, Kean pushed its lead into double digits early in the period as Simone Smith scored on a layup for a 42-31 lead with 18:49 left.  Montclair responded with an 11-point run. Sophomore guard Theresa Towns (Morristown, NJ / Morristown) had eight, including the final six as MSU tied the score at 42-42 with 16:21 to play.

The Cougars would retake the lead however they were unable to pull away from MSU, which tied the game at 53-53 as Tobie hit from behind the arc. After Kean took a 62-56 lead, Montclair would score the next seven points as Ericson’s two foul shots with 4:20 left gave MSU a 63-62 lead.

The teams would trade free throws leaving Montclair State in front 65-64 with 3:18 left when Danielle McFadden scored on a three-point play to give Kean 67-65 lead. After a series of misses on each side, Brittanie Payne connected twice from the line and Naimah Clemons’ layup with 1:18 left gave the hosts a 71-65 lead as Kean ended the game on a 12-3 run.

Towns finished with 15 points for Montclair State which got 13 points and seven rebounds in a reserve role from junior Taylor Jeffers (Franklin, NJ / Franklin Township). Ericson, playing her final game in a Montclair State uniform had seven points to finish her career with 1,138 points which is 12th all time.