Two easy wins have Lions cruising toward playoffs

The women’s basketball team dispatched Ramapo College and Rutgers University-Camden this week to solidify their third-place position in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) playoff picture. The wins raised the College’s record to 13-7, 10-4 in the NJAC.

“I think we’re right in the mix of things, which is where we want to be,” head coach Dawn Henderson said. “We’d like to be in the top two in the conference and we’ve got a shot at second place.”

The College defeated Ramapo 61-44 on Saturday in Packer Hall behind double-doubles from senior forward Erin Frank and junior center Breanne Depken. Frank scored 15 points with 12 rebounds and Depken added 11 points and grabbed 10 boards off the bench.

Frank and Depken paced the Lions in the first half, each scoring eight of their points to help build a 30-20 halftime lead. But the Roadrunners opened the second half on a 12-7 run to pull within five at 37-32 with just 13 minutes left to play in the game.

That was as close as Ramapo would come. From there, the College pulled away, outscoring Ramapo 24-12 in the final 13 minutes. Forwards Sara Best and Megan Hueter helped the Lions’ cause by chipping in 11 and 12 points respectively.

The Lions’ defense put up a solid effort, forcing 25 turnovers and holding the Roadrunners to under 30 percent shooting from the field, while grabbing 22 steals.

“We’re playing steady defense and getting a few different people scoring, which is exactly what we want to do,” Henderson said.

On Wednesday, the College easily handled Rutgers-Camden in a 79-50 blowout victory on the road. This was the College’s fifth straight win over Rutgers-Camden.

In a game where the Lions never trailed, senior guard Alexa Shields led all scorers with a game-high 16 points. Senior center Danica Miller had 14 points and seven rebounds, while junior guard Margo Buchalski chipped in with 12 points in just 12 minutes on the court. Depken also had a solid game with four points, five steals and seven rebounds.

Shields scored 12 of her 16 points in the first half to help build a 34-21 halftime advantage, and the Lions never looked back.

Freshman center Crystal Pezzano led the Raptors with 14 points and a game-high eight rebounds. Fellow freshman Melissa Whitten added 10 in the losing cause.

The College dominated most statistical categories, shooting 49 percent (34-69) from the field and a very impressive 50 percent (10-20) from behind the arc. They also dominated the boards with a 42-31 edge in rebounds.

“We’re hitting some shots right now,” Henderson said. “For a while we went through a stretch where we weren’t making any shots, but now we are.”

With four games remaining in the regular season, the Lions are in solid contention for the NJAC playoffs, where the top six teams advance. They will travel to Glassboro tonight for a 6 p.m. showdown with traditional rival Rowan, who the College easily defeated 78-52 in early November. “They haven’t had as good a year as previous years, but we don’t take any game for granted,” Henderson said of Rowan.

With three of their last four games against lower-ranked opponents, the Lions hold the key to their own playoff destiny. “We have four games left and we’ll look at each game the same, no matter the opponent,” Henderson said.