The Rowan University women’s basketball team picked up a huge 75-69 victory over Montclair State during their “Senior Night” and last regular-season game. While grabbing the victory on Wednesday, Feb. 16, the Profs also secured the number two seed in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Tournament Championship.
Prior to the start of the matchup, the Profs honored two seniors on the squad, forward and center Jazlyn Duverglas and team manager Pam Goleniewski.
To open up the game, the Red Hawks went on a 7-0 run, which was quickly shut down by the Profs before they went on a 13-4 run of their own. Despite several lead changes early on, Montclair had the 24-17 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Profs battled back all throughout the first half, and despite being down 41-39, they shot 42.9% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. Junior guard Nicole Mallard added ten first-half points, going five for six at the free-throw line, followed by senior guard Grace Marshall and junior forward Eliana Santana who each chipped in with eight points.
After a battle in the first half, Head Coach Demetrius Poles reminded his players that there will be highs and lows all throughout the game, but it’s the little things that make a difference in the end.
“I always tell them the game is about ups and downs, it’s just like life and you just gotta keep fighting. Find something little, get a deflection, get a steal, play good defense and take away an option that they were looking for,” Coach Poles said. “Find something that’ll spark energy-making plays, take a charge, dive on the floor, things like that can turn everything around.”
In the third quarter, the Profs went on a 13-4 scoring drive led by Marshall and forward Kristina Johnson, a sophomore, who each made clutch shots for the Profs.
Rowan’s defense was also a game-changer throughout the night, as they held the Red Hawks to only 14 points in the third quarter but guard Julia Sutton, a senior, for the Red Hawks hit two three-balls to tie the game. The Profs were able to outscore Montclair State 18-14, while Profs’ guard and forward Dakota Adams, a junior, hit a jumper as the buzzer went off to propel Rowan to a 57-55 lead heading into the fourth.
Coach Poles raved about the team’s defense, especially in the second half, and how it led to production on the offensive end.
“The third quarter [defense] was great, we held them to several shot-clock violations, and they couldn’t find their rhythm,” Coach Poles said. “But the defense makes a difference, and we capitalized on the offensive end, and that was the even more important part, when we started getting those stops, we started getting some scores.”
Another huge contributor for the Profs was Eliana Santana, who made huge plays for the Profs in the second half. The combination of Mallard and Marshall in the backcourt and Santana’s presence in the paint proved to be too much for the Red Hawks to handle. Mallard tallied 20 points, six rebounds and six steals, while Marshall chipped in with 15 points and two assists. Santana finished with 15 points, five rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block.
“I think my offensive performance was good,” Santana said. “Somebody had to step up because we were in a slump. [We] almost could’ve lost that game, but I just had to be a leader to take that step to change the offense up.”
The final ten minutes of the game was a battle until the very end. In the fourth quarter alone, there were eight lead changes.
The Profs defense collapsed on Montclair State in their final possessions and Rowan got huge help on the offensive end. Santana sank back-to-back buckets, and Johnson and Mallard secured the victory going 3-4 at the free-throw line.
Coach Poles describes the impact that Santana had on the game and how she stepped up when she was asked.
“She was big for us, and we needed that,” Coach Poles said. “I told her, ‘we need you to be a bull in there [the paint] and draw some fouls.’ She went to the foul line, made some shots and then she converted on some post play, with a nice little hook shot, lefty. She played big for us and we needed that from her. She’s a big time player.”
In addition to Santana’s offensive contribution, the team came together and held the Red Hawks to two points in the last four minutes of the game.
“That’s the best defense I’ve ever seen us play, to be honest, [in] those last five possessions,” Santana said.
Rowan now cruises to the quarterfinals of the NJAC tournament where they will host the Stockton University Ospreys on Tuesday, Feb. 22, at 5:30 p.m.
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