Rowan Women’s Basketball upsets Kean to reach NJAC Championship

Kate Herlihy dribbles the ball in front of a defender. Herlihy contributed 12 points off the bench against Kean. Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023. - Multimedia Editor / Lee Kotzen

The No. 3 seed Rowan women’s basketball team pulled off the upset in Union as they took down the No. 2 seed Kean University in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Tournament Semifinals on Wednesday, Feb. 22.

Thanks to a strong 5-0 run at the end of the first quarter, Rowan took a 15-12 lead, hitting 2-4 from three and knocking down six shots from the field. 

The second quarter began to heat up as the teams went through three ties and three lead changes, which left the Cougars in the lead 29-26 at the break.

Sophomore guard Kate Herlihy, who played a vital role off of the bench, discussed the differences in the two halves for Rowan.

“I think in the beginning of the game we were all a little bit nervous, or at least I was, and I think that caused us to make silly mistakes, but in the second half we came out way more confident and only thinking about winning,” Herlihy said. “I also think we communicated way better in the second half and played the way we know how to play.” 

Kean started the second half on a high note with key plays from fifth year Shannon McCoy, capping off an 11-2 run.

In retaliation, the Profs went on a 14-2 run over a three minute stretch, eventually tying the game 42-42 with a little more than two minutes remaining in the third quarter. 

To cap off the back-and-forth third, the Cougars grabbed the lead 45-42 heading down to the final stretch. Although the Profs had the lead in the first quarter, they were down at the half and at the end of the third. 

The fourth quarter was the strongest for Rowan because their offense clicked and they were able to lock down defensively.

Grace Marshall discussed the Profs’ game plan, noting defense was crucial in crunch time. 

“Going into the game we knew we had to focus on defense,” Marshall said. “Coach Poles [Head Coach Demetrius Poles] always tells us it starts with defense. We always knew that we had to be aggressive and attack the rim.” 

The teams found themselves tied again 48-48, with Marshall hitting a pair of free throws. Minutes later the score was tied again, but Herlihy netted a floater and a free throw within minutes to give the Profs the three point edge.

Although Herlihy has only started one game for the Profs this year, throughout the season she has played consistently with the other starters and was a key member in the closing minutes. 

“I love being a player coming off the bench, but I also really do love playing with the girls that usually start,” Herlihy said. “Playing at the end of the game down the stretch today [Wednesday night] was definitely a little nerve-wracking because of how close the game was, but it was so fun to be in there just doing our thing and hearing all of our teammates cheering us on.” 

Rowan eventually took a five point lead 57-52, forcing the Cougars to call a timeout to talk things over. With 1:50 to play, Marshall was fouled on a triple attempt, sending her to the line to make it a two possession game. 

Marshall, who has been clutch for the Profs throughout her career, provides insight on how she is able to step up time and time again. 

“I try to stay focused and in the moment with my team, my teammates motivate me so much. I play for them because they work so hard and they always have my back,” Marshall said. “They’re the reason I can lock in a focus on the game because I know they are by my side.” 

After Marshall hit the free throws, Rowan led by seven and had the momentum to seal the win. Herlihy described how the Profs were able to close it out on a high note.

 “The keys to winning this game was definitely our confidence, our communication, and just the general belief in ourselves that we could and would win,” Herlihy said. “I also think that the positive energy from all of us on the court and our teammates’ great energy helped a lot in us winning.”

The Profs outscored the Cougars 26-13 in the fourth to win the thrilling matchup. The team shot 39.6% from the field, and 35.7% from downtown. 

Dakota Adams led all scoring with 19 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals. Marshall finished with 18 points, and a career high 12-13 from the charity stripe. Danielle McCurdy added eight rebounds while Herlihy added 12 points off of the bench. 

The Profs will travel to Jersey City to take on No. 1 seed New Jersey City University in the NJAC Championship. This NJAC semifinals rematch from last season will take place on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 7:30 p.m. 

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