The Rowan women’s basketball team outlasted Ramapo College on Saturday, Feb. 18, in the opening round of the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship Tournament 69-65.
The No. 3 seed Profs and No. 6 seed Roadrunners exchanged blows throughout the game, but a fourth quarter surge in crunch time sealed the deal for Rowan.
The Profs swept the regular season matchups against the Roadrunners, and used a team effort to get it done for the third time this season. They did this without their regular season leading scorer Nicole Mallard, who is the only player to average double figures for the Profs.
Things started slow for Rowan, as they trailed early on 10-4 in the opening quarter, which was the largest lead of the day for Ramapo. The Profs cut the deficit and eventually tied it at 12 with a three pointer from Kristina Johnson, the first of three from her.
Rowan was down 21-19 at the end of the first and both teams started off the second quarter slow. The Roadrunners made their first field goal of the quarter with 4:14 left, and only scored seven throughout the quarter. Rowan answered with nine points in the quarter, leading the score to be tied 28-28 at the break.
Leading the way offensively for the Profs was Dakota Adams, who had nine points and nine boards at the half.
“I knew that it was really important to execute because it’s survive and advance,” Adams said. “I don’t want to be done yet, I want to win. I had to step up, it was all a mind game and I finished.”
Head Coach Demetrius Poles discussed the slow start to the game, and how the Profs were able to bounce back.
“We came out kind of soft, not ready to fight I think not as aggressive as we’d like to. They had us on our heels, we couldn’t break away,” Coach Poles said. “But we fought to the end and made some adjustments, made a lot of subs, we put some special situations where we executed and we made some big plays at the end.”
In the middle of the third quarter, Rowan grabbed a six point lead in a game that featured nine lead changes and seven ties. The Profs entered the fourth quarter with a three point edge 46-43.
Johnson added two more three pointers in the fourth, finishing with a total of 11 points on the day. She understood that not only was the offense important in this playoff matchup, but the Profs had to step up defensively.
“I just had the mindset that we needed to get stops and scores,” Johnson said. “I was really defensive minded and I knew the offense was going to come.”
Rowan took two six-point leads in the fourth but were unable to maintain them, which allowed the Roadrunners to grow their lead to five with just over two minutes remaining. The Profs’ Danielle McCurdy hit a layup to cut the deficit to three while Grace Marshall began a string of clutch buckets, including a tough layup through contact to put the Profs within one.
With 30 seconds to play, Marshall set herself up in the left corner and knocked down a triple to give Rowan the one point edge, 67-65.
“We made some big plays at the end, Grace’s [Marshall] three pointer, her layup. We just finished the game well in the last minute,” Coach Poles said. “It was a tough one, it wasn’t easy and we don’t expect anything to be easy.”
Ramapo called a timeout to try and set up their offense, and after a missed opportunity Rowan got the ball back with five seconds remaining.
Adams hit a wide open layup to seal the deal and beat the Roadrunners 69-95. She explained how the Profs were able to close it out in the end.
“Urgency,” Adams said. “We knew we could do it because it was kind of trading basket for basket, we just had to put our minds to it and get it done.”
Adams collected her second double-double of the year with 17 points and 13 boards, Johnson added 11 points, Marshall had 13 points and four assists, while Kate Herlihy added nine points and four rebounds in the win.
With this victory the Profs will move on to face the No. 2 seed Kean University in Union on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m. in the NJAC Semifinals.
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