Women's Basketball Season Ends in NJAC Semifinals; Red Hawks Fall to WPU

Box Score

Wayne, NJ (2/23/11) – One night after the Montclair State men pulled off an upset of a top seed on the road in the NJAC Tournament, the women's team fell short in its turn as the Red Hawks' season came to an end with a 79-68 loss to No. 20 William Paterson in the semifinals on Wednesday evening.

Senior forward Kisandra Ayanbeku (Brockton, MA / Randolph) scored 17 points grabbed eight rebounds and handed out five assists in her final game as Montclair closed out its season at 14-13. It was the third time that the Red Hawks fell to their local rival this season and the third time in the NJAC Playoffs as Montclair also lost games to WPU in the conference tournament in 1991 and 1998.

Junior guard Jaime Ericson (Flemington, NJ / Hunterdon Central) had 14 points and four rebounds while freshman Sara Kelley (Newtown, CT / Newtown) added 12 points off the bench.

William Paterson took control from the opening tip, sprinting out to a 22-8 advantage seven minutes into the contest and leading by as many as 31 (44-13, 5:04) before entering halftime with a 46-28 edge.  The Pioneers’ 23-15 dominance on the glass and 22-7 edge in points off turnovers helped them get out to the big lead early.  Junior forward April Smith (Barnegat, N.J./Southern Regional) led the way with 12 points and eight rebounds for WP.

But, just as they did in the two previous meetings between the teams during the regular season, the Red Hawks had an answer in the second half.  After WP scored the first four points of the period, four different Montclair State players got into the scoring column to engineer a 12-0 run and make it a 50-40 score with 16:16 remaining.  Seven points off the hot hand of NJAC Co-Player and Defensive Player of the Year BriAnna Lucas (Hamilton, N.J./Nottingham) helped the Pioneers stretch the lead back to 19 (61-42, 12:42), but William Paterson went cold from the field, missing 13 of its next 14 attempts from the floor.  MSU took advantage during the dry spell, outscoring WP 19-9 during the 6:40 span, including back-to-back three-pointers from Ericson and Kelley, to get the margin to single digits at 70-61 with 6:02 to play.

The two teams combined to miss the next 10 shots and commit two turnovers, until Lucas drained a pair from the free-throw line (72-61, 3:18). Freshman Theresa Towns (Morristown, N.J./Morristown) scored for the Red Hawks (72-63, 2:49), but Pioneer freshman Floriana Borova (Cresskill, N.J./Cresskill) answered on the next possession with a layup, then forced a turnover by the Montclair State guard that led to a foul.  Smith made both attempts at the stripe for a 76-63 lead with 1:54 remaining, and after three straight turnovers, Lucas was sent back to the line.  The third-best free-throw shooter in the conference, she made both (78-63, 1:16) to help put the finishing touches on the victory for William Paterson.

Lucas scored 18 of her game-best 29 points during the second half, adding six rebounds and three steals while making all 11 free-throw attempts as well as four of six from three-point range.  Smith, who joined Lucas on the All-NJAC First Team, finished with 18 tallies and a game-high 13 rebounds while dishing out four assists.  Freshman Dana Jeter (Hamilton, N.J./Steinert) added five boards and a game-best six assists, and Borova came off the bench to score 14 tallies and collect five steals.

Ayanbeku's 17 points gave her 1,313 for her career, good enough for seventh all-time in program history.