Lions looking strong as playoffs approach

After losing to Dickinson College on Jan. 18, Lions’ head coach Dawn Henderson said that the team needed to improve on their weaknesses and try to distance themselves from the rest of the teams in the conference.

Mission accomplished.

The College’s women’s basketball team extended its winning streak to six games with three more victories last week. The Lions remain in first place in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC), improving to 12-1 in conference play and standing at 18-3 overall. With four games remaining before the conference tournament, they are four games ahead of second-place William Paterson University.

Last Monday, the team survived a late rally by Marymount University to pull out a 66-59 win.

“At this time of year, every game is a hard game,” Henderson said. “We don’t spend a lot of time worrying about a specific opponent. We try and focus on what we need to do to be successful.”

It was a see-saw first half as neither team held a lead greater than three until the Lions took a 21-14 lead at the 3:47 mark, resulting from a 10-2 run in which senior guard Sofia Ojeda put up six points.

The Lions took a 28-20 lead into halftime and led by as many as 15 points. But the Saints began to chip away at the Lions’ lead with a 21-9 run to only trail by three, 60-57, at the 1:10 mark with a three-pointer from junior guard Randi Jones.

However, the Lions hit six free throws to seal the win as Marymount missed its next three field goal attempts before Jones scored her team’s final basket with two ticks left on the clock.

Lions junior forward Erin Frank collected her second consecutive double-double with 10 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.

The Lions had four players in double digits with junior guard Alexa Shields leading the way with a game-high 14 points. Senior Theresa DiMedio added 12 points and Ojeda contributed 11 points and career-highs of three steals and two blocks.

For the Saints, forwards Kacee Grogan and Meghan Denham each poured in 14 points, while Jones scored 13 and sophomore guard Nikki Rowland chipped in 10.

“I truly believe that the key to this teams’ success is the fact that they want to play well and win for each other,” Henderson said.

The next win came easy for the Lions, who stomped Rutgers University-Camden 80-43 last Wednesday.

“We go out there with a lot of focus and energy and do what we have to do to win,” Ojeda said.

The Lions never trailed in the game, boasting a 20-point lead on three occasions in the first half. The Lions finished with 51 percent shooting from the floor, including 12-of-20 from three-point range and received 29 points from their reserves. The Scarlet Raptors shot 27 percent.

Shields led the Lions with 15 points. For the Scarlet Raptors, junior Carmen Zimmitt poured in a game-high 16 points, while Rulon registered a double-double on 15 points and 11 rebounds plus two blocks.

In their latest victory, the Lions took down the Roadrunners of Ramapo College in a 79-54 victory at the Bradley Center in Mahwah.

The Lions led by as many as 20 points in the first 20 minutes and led by as many as 33 in the game. The Lions shot 48 percent for the game while Ramapo shot 35 percent.

Frank led the Lions with a career-high 15 points. Shields netted 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting from downtown, while junior center Danica Miller added nine points. Frank grabbed a game-high six rebounds as well.

For the Roadrunners, junior Vanessa Vargas and senior captain Janine Cappadonna led the team, sinking 18 and 13 points, respectively, while sophomore Keona Palmer added 10. Vargas grabbed game bests of five steals and four assists.

“It feels as though 18-3 sort of snuck up on us,” Henderson said. “We have put ourselves in a great position heading into February. If we take care of our own business and maintain our focus on our goals game to game, we should be able to finish the season in a strong fashion.”

The Lions will host Rowan University on Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. in NJAC action.