Shields ignites second-half run, Lions advance

The College defeated Rutgers University-Newark 68-54 in the first round of the New Jersey Athletic Conference tournament on Monday night at Packer Hall. The College now advances to the semifinals for a rematch with Montclair State University tonight in Upper Montclair.

Senior center Danica Miller led the Lions with 14 points and senior forward Erin Frank collected a game-high 12 rebounds and eight points.

“We played our game tonight and when we play our game and not worry about the other team’s (game) we can beat anybody,” Frank said.

Senior guard Alexa Shields helped the Lions’ cause, scoring nine of her 12 points in the second half. And it was Shields who hit perhaps the most important bucket of the night.

Midway through the second half, with the College clinging to a 45-42 lead, Shields hit a big three-pointer and a lay-up on consecutive possessions. This keyed a 17-7 run that helped the College build a 62-49 lead with less than three minutes to play and put the game out of reach.

The first half was back and forth, with the Lions starting the game on a 13-4 run. The Scarlet Raiders fought back to make it a two-point game with just under nine minutes to play. The College rallied to put together a 9-2 run to take a 28-19 lead into the locker room.

Sophomore Sara Best added 10 points off the bench for the Lions and senior Tiara Simpkins returned from injury to add 11 points.

Rutgers-Newark’s senior center Christyal Anderson had a season-high 21 points, while shooting an impressive 7-8 from the field and 7-8 from the foul line.

The College split its season series against Montclair State, with each team winning on their home court.

“We have to be better prepared for that environment,” Megan Hueter, junior forward who added four points in the win, said.

“It’s a loud gym, but this time we know and we’ll be better prepared.”

Head coach Dawn Henderson said the College’s offensive production will be the key to tonight’s playoff match-up. In the Lions victory over Montclair State, they scored 67 points en route to a 67-63 win. But in the loss, the College was held to just 37 points.

“When you hold a team like Montclair to under 50 points, you hope you win the game,” Henderson said. “But when we don’t score, it’s not what the other team is doing to us, but what we’re not doing. The key is not to shoot ourselves in the foot.”

Last week, the College fell to Montclair State 47-37 on Wednesday in Upper Montclair. With the win, the Red Hawks clinched the No. 2 seed in the NJAC tournament, denying the College a chance for that spot.

“We beat them once before and that shows they’re a beatable team,” Frank said. “It’s more important to concentrate on our win against them than the loss.”

Sophomore Michelle Madej and junior Stephanie Machin led Montclair State, each scoring 11 points. Best led the College with a game-high 18 points.

The College ended its regular season on Saturday with a 58-38 win over New Jersey City University (NJCU) at Packer Hall.

With the victory, Henderson collected her 250th win at the College during her 13-year tenure. Her overall record is 251-92 at the College and 297-142 overall in 17 seasons as a college coach.

Shields and Frank led the way with 15 and 14 points respectively, while Best continued a recent surge in scoring with 12 points. Frank also collected 11 rebounds to post a double-double.

The Lions held a 23-19 lead at the half, but used a 21-4 run early in the second half to put the game out of reach. The Lions forced 20 turnovers and held the Gothic Knights just 28 percent from the field.

Junior Latrese McNair led NJCU with a team-high 11 points, along with five rebounds and three assists. The College avenged a 54-52 upset at the hands of NJCU earlier this season.