Women's Basketball Falls to WPU in Key NJAC Battle

Wayne, NJ (2/13/10)Senior Julie Haledjian (Montvale, N.J./Pascack Hills) scored 24 points and sophomore BriAnna Lucas (Hamilton, N.J./Nottingham) added 20 as No. 7/8 William Paterson (22-1, 10-1 NJAC) secured a first-round bye for the upcoming New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Tournament with a 95-81 victory against Montclair State (14-9, 8-4 NJAC) Feb. 13.

The win, the eighth straight for the Pioneers, locked up the top seed in the NJAC’s North Division.  William Paterson will host a semifinal contest Tuesday, Feb. 23, while MSU will be the second seed in the North, and will host the South Division’s third-seeded team Saturday, Feb. 20, in a first-round contest.

A 16-1 run midway through the first half turned a 15-15 deadlock into a 31-16 Pioneer advantage (7:39), but Montclair State answered with 10 straight points of its own, the first six from junior Kisandra Ayanbeku (Brockton, Mass./Randolph), to get the Red Hawks back within five (31-26, 6:01).  However, William Paterson was able to re-gain control of the contest, and entered the locker room with a 42-33 edge.  Haledjian was 7-for-9 (.778) from the floor to lead all scorers with 15 first-half points, while Ayanbeku, the reigning NJAC Player of the Week, paced the Red Hawks with 10 tallies.  William Paterson shot 51.6 (16-31) percent from the field during the game’s first 20 minutes while limiting the Red Hawks to an 11-for-34 (.324) effort.

MSU scored the first two points of the second period (42-35, 19:49), but six Pioneers got into the scoring column as William Paterson reeled off a 20-1 run to build its biggest lead of the afternoon, 62-36, with 14:07 to play.  Trailing by a 74-58 score at the 7:36 mark, senior Jackie Berry (Tuckerton, N.J./Pinelands Regional) nailed a jumper in the paint, helping to ignite the Red Hawks on a 14-4 burst that pulled Montclair State within two possessions, 80-74, with 4:14 on the clock.

Lucas got into the lane and scored in transition, and junior Absatu Mustapha (Somerset, N.J./Franklin) did the same following a Red Hawk turnover, expanding the Pioneer advantage to double digits (84-74, 3:33).  Senior Catherine Cristino (Farmingdale, N.J./Colts Neck) went 1-for-2 at the line and added a layup (84-77, 2:26), but Lucas twice went to the line and made a pair of free throws, eventually giving William Paterson an 88-79 edge with 1:43 remaining.  Each team missed a shot before MSU was forced to foul, and senior Erin Cook (Princeton, N.J./Princeton) and Haledjian were a combined 4-for-4 at the line during the next 43 seconds to put the game out of reach.

Haledjian finished 10-for-16 (.625) for her game-best 24 points, adding four assists and six steals.  Cook contributed her fourth double-double of the season with 11 points and12 rebounds, while Mustapha nearly matched her with 11 tallies and nine boards.  Senior Elisa Brown (Norwalk, Conn./Norwalk) added nine points to the Pioneers’ season-high points total. 

Cristino led four Red Hawks in double figures with 18 points.  Junior Jamilee Pflug (Clark, N.J./Arthur L. Johnson) scored 13, Ayanbeku added eight rebounds to her 12 points, and Berry posted 10 tallies and nine assists.

The Pioneers owned a 47-27 lead on the boards, including a 15-9 offensive edge that led to a 20-7 advantage in second-chance points.  William Paterson also matched its first-half shooting with an identical 16-for-31 (.516) effort during the second period, and finished the game 7-for-16 (.438) from three-point range.

Montclair State will finish its regular-season slate with a home date against New Jersey City Feb. 15 at 6:00 p.m. The Red Hawks will honor their three seniors prior to the contest - Cristino, Berry and Kara Burnham (Moorestown, NJ / Moorestown).