Women’s basketball ends regular season in tie for first place, gets second spot in tournament

Sophomore guard Summer Crilley looks to drive from the top of the arc in an 83-65 victory over William Paterson on Wednesday night. Following the tiebreaker, Rowan enters the conference championship tournament as the second seed and will receive a first-round bye. The team will face the winner of Stockton and Rutgers-Camden. -Assistant Photo Editor/Amanda Palma

It’s been six years since the Rowan women’s basketball team represented the New Jersey Atlantic Conference South Division in the NJAC tournament, but this year Rowan sits at 21-4 with a first-round bye and home-court advantage as the second-best team in the conference headed into the playoffs.

Despite an 83-65 win on Wednesday night against William Paterson, the brown and gold were given the second seed after a coin flip between them and Montclair State University decided the tiebreak.
“It was a typical NJAC battle. Both teams had something to gain in the game. I think in the end we were able to open things up with our pressure. Our shooting improved in the second half and I think that was the difference in the game,” head coach Gabby Lisella said. “Our conference is tough. [The] top three teams were tied going in, it happened to be the top three teams in the region. It came down to the wire, but at least we have a position to be in it.”

Grad student Kate Matthews emphatically said that home-court advantage would be most important. Fellow grad student Kaitlin Schullstrom echoed her feelings.

“I think we play better at home,” Schullstrom said. “The only game we lost was by one point.”

The Profs put that play on display in the third quarter against William Paterson, outscoring the Pioneers, 28-17.

Grad student Melissa Lake tied a career high with 16 points in the win.

“We came out strong. We were playing for something. We wanted to finish 4-0 at the end, but 2-2, you can’t complain,” Lake said. “I personally disagree with the coin flip. Either way we’re going to take care of business. We think this is our season. We’re confident.”

The Profs will utilize their opening-round bye to rest up before they return to action next week.

“We’ll work on some things, but we’re going to get a little bit of recovery in,” Lisella said. “We’ve played 25 games the way we play and it’s taxing on the body, so we’ll take a couple of days off. Then we’ll get after it.”

Rowan will face the winner of Saturday’s Rutgers-Camden and Stockton matchup on Tuesday, Feb. 23. The Profs were 2-0 against Rutgers-Camden this year, and split the season series with Stockton.

This season has been somewhat of a renaissance for the women’s team, which has posted 21 victories just a year removed from their 17-win campaign in 2014-15. It’s their best record since the 2003-04 season, when they finished with the first overall seed at 21-5.

“I think last year we were learning a whole new system, with [assistant coach Joe] Crispin coming in and doing a great job with the offense, it was about buying in,” Lake said. “I think this year we have experience and we’ve been working together. It shows on the court compared to last year. Everyone’s playing together offensively and defensively.”

Despite an early exit from the conference tournament last season, Lisella is confident with her team going forward.

“I think that we have done some really great things this year. When we play with energy and focus, we’re a tough team to beat,” Lisella said. “We’ve focused on us more than our opponents all year and we’ll continue to do that as long as we have the opportunity.”

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