After beating William Paterson University in their last two meetings, Lions head coach Dawn Henderson was a little worried that the third game would not go as well.
It turns out she had no reason to worry, as the Lions took care of the Pioneers with a 67-58 win.
The victory puts the Lions (7-3 conference, 11-8 overall) ahead of the Pioneers (6-4 conference, 11-9 overall) into second place in the Blue Division of the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC).
The day belonged to senior center Adrienne Warner, whose hook in the first half made her the 11th player in Lions history to score 1,000 points on her career. She finished with 16 points on 8-for-13 shooting and six rebounds.
“I wasn’t really thinking about it,” Warner said. “I had an opening, took a shot and it went in.”
The home crowd of 341 gave her a standing ovation following her milestone basket.
Sophomore guard Alexa Shields led the Lions with a career-high 19 points, shooting 8-for-9 from the field and 3-for-4 on three- pointers.
“We expect big things from Alexa,” Henderson said, calling her an important leader on the team.
The Lions shot an impressive 51 percent from the field for the game.
They did this without their leading scorer, senior forward Liz Martin, who was in Florida for a graduate school interview.
“We’ve got a lot of people who could score,” Henderson said, pointing out the many Lions players who have put up high scoring games.
Freshman forward Melissa Moore led the Pioneers with 17 points, a career high, and seven rebounds.
The key to the game was the Lions defense, which held the Pioneers to 27 percent shooting for the game and a dismal 19 percent field goal percentage in the first half.
“We switched defenses a lot,” Warner said. “We kept them guessing, and we had great communication.”
The Lions were also able to control the Pioneers’ top scorer, senior guard Kat McPhail, who scored 13 points but only shot 4-for-26 from the field. She missed her first 15 shots and did not get a field goal until the second half.
Despite the Lions’ solid play defensively, they still allowed the Pioneers to get 27 offensive rebounds, a problem that has plagued the Lions all year.
The Pioneers scored 24 points on second chance opportunities.
The Lions came out to a 9-0 lead and held the Pioneers scoreless for the first 5:44 of the game. Sophomore guard Deana Cuozzo hit a three-pointer toward the end of the first half to put the Lions up 33-18 at halftime.
The Lions extended their lead at the start of the second half, stretching their lead to as many as 22.
The Pioneers did eat away at the Lions’ lead, pulling to within seven with 4:13 remaining. They frustrated the Lions with a full court press and improved on offense.
However, the Lions once again pulled away, getting key baskets from Warner and Shields in the final three minutes.
The Lions’ next game will be against division leading Montclair State University in a battle for first place.
Henderson knows exactly what the team needs to work on to prepare for the upcoming contest. “Taking care of the ball and defensive rebounding,” she said. “And taking away the drive.”
Warner was very optimistic about playing Montclair, noting that the Lions have already defeated them this season.
“We just need to bring our confidence and play our game,” she said.
While losing feels bad enough, losing on a put-back of a missed shot with one second remaining hurts even more.
That is exactly what happened to the Lions earlier in the week. Rutgers University-Camden sophomore guard Lisa Geiger made the last second shot and handed the women a disappointing 64-62 loss.
“It wasn’t as close as it looked,” Henderson said. “We didn’t play that well.”
The Lions took a 30-28 lead into halftime but allowed the Raptors to come out strong in the second half.
The Raptors led 58-48, their biggest lead of the game, before the Lions went on a 12-2 run to take a 62-60 lead.
“We were coming from behind the whole game, which was unfortunate,” Henderson said. “We had a great run with four minutes left.”
However, the Raptors scored the final four points of the game, including Geiger’s heartbreaker with one second remaining.
The Lions shot only 33 percent from the field and 35 percent from behind the three point line.
“We never got comfortable with their defense,” Henderson said. “They play a pretty good match-up zone and they switch defenses up. We either took bad shots or rushed shots.”
Junior forward Theresa DiMedio led the Lions with 14 points and nine rebounds. Warner added 11 points and seven rebounds.
Freshman guard Kelly Stafford led the Raptors with 14 points, including consecutive three-pointers in the second half to take the lead. Three other Raptors players joined her in double digit scoring.
With important conference games coming up, Henderson wants to see the team play to its full potential, which she feels has not happened in most games this season.
The Lions will travel to Montclair State University for another NJAC match-up today at 6 p.m.