Rowan men’s basketball clinches its second-straight regular season NJAC title after an overtime thriller against Montclair

Rowan men's basketball holds up the regular season NJAC champion banner. Rowan will host TCNJ in the semifinals of the NJAC playoffs on Wednesday, Feb. 21. - Photo via Rowan Athletics

On Wednesday, Feb. 14, the Rowan’s men’s basketball team traveled to Montclair, NJ to play the Redhawks of Montclair University. Just about a month prior, the Profs were able to defeat the Redhawks 98-88 in Esby Gym, however, in the regular season finale, Rowan was unable to complete the regular season sweep as the Profs fell 113-110 in a double-overtime thriller.

Despite the loss, the Profs repeated as regular season New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) champions thanks to Stockton’s loss against Kean University. Rowan will now have a quarterfinal bye and home-court advantage throughout the NJAC playoffs. 

First-year Head Coach Eric Brennan was able to guide a Rowan team that had many nuances throughout the season and struggled to get off to the same start they did last year, to a 19-6 record and the number one seed in the NJAC.

“It’s something that the guys should be proud of,” Brennan said. “We started off 0-2 but the season is a long one so to be able to grind out the whole season and come back from essentially last place in the conference is a great feeling.”

The Profs were able to hold onto a 50-37 lead after one half of play against the Red Hawks, but the second half belonged to Montclair, as they took the lead within the first 10 minutes of the half and held onto it until the last minute of regulation.

“There were too many turnovers in the second half and we didn’t play well enough defensively, but the guys still played hard and didn’t back down,” Brennan said.

All hope looked lost for the Profs, as Montclair stepped to the free throw line up six with 59 seconds to go. However, the Red Hawks would miss both free throws and senior Marcellus Ross was able to come down and hit two three-pointers to give the Profs a chance and force the game into overtime.  

“I know we can win every game we’re in and we knew playing a team like Montclair that it would be a game of runs,” Ross said. “I know if I get a clean look with a set amount of time left I gotta take it and I’m confident in my ability to make a big shot and to do it back to back when needed.”

The game had a chance of going to a third overtime period, but unfortunately, junior Khalif Meares’ three-point attempt was unable to fall for the Profs, handing Montclair the 113-110 win.

On Wednesday, Feb. 21, the Profs will take on the Lions of TCNJ in the NJAC semifinals in Esby Gymnasium after the Lions were able to defeat the Ramapo Roadrunners in the first round. Rowan and TCNJ split the regular season series against each other, with each team picking up a win on the other’s home court.  

Despite the Profs ending the season with a better record than the Lions, Rowan wants to keep that in the past, as they understand that records no longer matter in the NJAC playoffs.

“It’s a whole new season now,” Ross said. “Everything we’ve done up to this point is over now and at this point, we gotta be able to take care of business on Wednesday and defend home court.”

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