Women’s Basketball Wins NJAC Championship; MSU Headed to NCAA’s After Beating WPU, 75-54 Montclair Captures First Title, Earns NCAA Bid for First Time Since 1995

2/23/2013 6:43:00 PM
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Montclair, NJ – Senior forward Taylor Jeffers (Franklin Township, NJ, Franklin) scored a game-high 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead undefeated Montclair State University to its 27th straight victory with a 75-54 win over second-seeded William Paterson University in the championship contest of the New Jersey Athletic Conference Championship Tournament Saturday afternoon at the Panzer Athletic Center.

Jeffers, who notched her fourth “double-double” performance of the season, scored 11 of her points in the second half to help the Red Hawks break the game open.

Montclair State, ranked fifth in the nation on the D3Hoops.com Top25 Poll and seventh on the USA Today/Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Poll, remains one of two unbeaten teams in NCAA Div. III this season at 27-0. The top seed following a perfect 16-0 mark in NJAC play, MSU captures its second conference title in as many championship game appearances. The Red Hawks, who won their previous NJAC championship in 1994-95, will now receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Championship, which begins March 1. Selections will be announced on Monday, Feb. 25 at 2:30 p.m. on NCAA.com.

The tournament second seed, William Paterson had a seven-game winning streak snapped in dropping its record to 20-7 on the year. The Pioneers, who were making their 13th championship-game appearance, including the last four in a row, were denied in their bid for a third straight NJAC Tournament title and fourth overall.

This season, MSU has set school records for the best start to a season, for consecutive victories and wins in a season. The basketball team also claimed the longest winning streak by any athletic team in school history, breaking the 26-game winning streak by the softball team in 2008. The Red Hawks, who have also won their last 20 games at home dating back to last season, have defeated William Paterson three times this season, the first time since 2001-02 that they have beaten the Pioneers in three straight meetings. Montclair State, which leads the all-time series 41-34, posted its first win in four tries against WP in the NJAC Tournament.

The first half was tightly-contested with the lead changing hands 11 times and the score deadlocked on 11 other occasions, the last at 33-33 at the halftime intermission. The lead was larger than three points by either team only twice in the opening stanza. William Paterson held the half’s biggest margin at 19-14 at the 9:55 mark.

Montclair State, which has been victorious by double digits in every game this season, finally broke the game open in the second half. The half opened much like the first with three more ties, the last at 41-41 with 13:44 remaining. MSU then held WP scoreless for the next five minutes while scoring 12 straight points, including six by Jeffers, to start an 18-3 scoring outburst that would give them a comfortable 15-point bulge at 59-44 with 5:35 left.

William Paterson, held to just 21 points in the second half, was unable to rally. The Pioneers shot just 25.8 percent (8-for-31) from the field in the half.

Ranked second in the nation in scoring margin (28.7 ppg.) and eighth in scoring defense (45.3 ppg.), Montclair State continued to increase its lead to as much as 21 points twice, the last at the game’s end. MSU won by 20-plus points for the 21st time this season while allowing more than 50 points for just the fourth time.

The nation’s leader in steals per game (18.3), Montclair State was held to just 13 in the contest. The Red Hawks, who also rank third in turnover margin (12.42), forced William Paterson into 23 turnovers.

Three other MSU players reached double figures in scoring. Sophomore guard Janitza Aquino (Kearny, NJ, Kearny) scored 15 points and sophomore forward Melissa Tobie (Elizabeth, NJ, Roselle Catholic), the NJAC Player of the Year, collected 10 points, six rebounds and a game-high six assists. Reserve freshman forward Jen Kuczynski (Springfield, NJ, Jonathan Dayton) scored 12 points, including 3-of-4 from three point range, to help in the Red Hawk victory.

Junior guard Floriana Borova (Cresskill, N.J./Cresskill), the NJAC”s leading scorer this season, topped William Paterson with 19 point. Freshman guard-forward Shakira Negron added 11 points and junior forward Dana Jeter (Hamilton, N.J./Steinert) grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds for the Pioneers before fouling out of the contest.

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NJAC Commissioner Terry Small Presents the Championship Trophy to Head Coach Karin Harvey and Team Captains (L-R) Jenny Malone, Taylor Jeffers and Melissa Tobie

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