Best Effort Clinches Playoff Spot

The women’s basketball team won both of its contests this week, including a huge upset win over Richard Stockton College and a comeback victory over Rowan University, to secure third place in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) South Division and a berth in the NJAC Tournament. With the wins, the Lions improve to 11-13 overall and 6-6 in the NJAC.

The team will travel to either Rutgers University-Newark or Montclair State University for the opening round of the tournament on Tuesday.

Junior guard/forward Sara Best put together a double-double on Saturday to help lift the College over Rowan 68-53 in Glassboro. Best netted a game-high 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to tie her career high, ensuring the Lions a playoff spot.

The Lions started off slow as they had 12 turnovers and were down 29-26 after the first half. A 10-0 run out of the locker room turned the game around and the Lions dominated in the second half. Best and freshman guard Karen Lassoni netted four points apiece and senior forward Breanne Depken also added a basket in the surge.

The Profs battled back to within a basket, but a 12-3 Lions run put the College up by 11 points with 6:37 remaining. Two Best free throws with six seconds remaining gave the Lions the 15-point win, their largest lead of the game. “We didn’t play too well (in the first half), but we came out more focused in the second half,” head coach Dawn Henderson said.

In addition to Best’s game-high 16 points, sophomore center Hillary Klimowicz added 11. Depken scored nine points and pulled down a game-high 12 boards. The Lions out-rebounded the Profs 50-37.

Stockton fell out of a first-place tie with Kean University thanks to the College’s 59-33 upset win last Wednesday night in Packer Hall. The Lions also snapped the Ospreys’ seven-game winning streak. Missing eight of their first nine field goal attempts did not deter the Lions, who woke up offensively to take a 24-16 lead at the half. The College also held Richard Stockton to a 25 percent shooting effort in the first half.

Klimowicz and her high school teammate, sophomore Jenn Russell of Richard Stockton, each led their respective teams in the first half. Klimowicz netted five points for the Lions, while Russell netted five for the Ospreys. Stockton junior guard Michele Auerbacher also added five of her team-high eight points in the first half. Best pulled down eight of her game-high 10 rebounds in the first session for the Lions.

The second half only got better for the Lions, as they shot 44.1 percent while holding Stockton to a dismal 17.2 shooting percentage en route to the 59-33 final tally.

Klimowicz led the Lions with a game-high 11 points, eight rebounds and eight blocks. Best finished with nine points along with her 10 boards. Auerbacher led Stockton with eight points and senior Lisa Neira added six.

“We played very well from start to finish against Stockton,” Henderson said. “We shared the ball well, got a lot of assists.”

The Lions dished out 18 assists, compared to the Ospreys’ six. Sophomore guard Lisa Koch led with five, while Klimowicz and Lassoni dished out three apiece.

Stockton is 8-4 in the NJAC after losses to the College on Wednesday and first-place Kean on Saturday. The Ospreys clinched the No. 2 seed for the NJAC Tournament.

While the NJAC South Division standings are in place already, the tournament pairings are still unknown because the NJAC North standings have not been settled. William Paterson locked up the top spot with a 10-2 conference record, while Montclair and Rutgers-Newark will duke it out for second place. They hold identical 8-3 NJAC records. Montclair visits Ramapo tonight at 6 p.m., while Rutgers-Newark travels to William Paterson at 6 p.m.

The Ospreys will be paired with the third-place team in the NJAC North, while the Lions will face the second-place team.

The Lions host Rutgers University-Camden at Packer Hall tonight at 6 p.m. for the final regular-season game. The first round of the NJAC Tournament is next Tuesday at 7 p.m., with the winners of the first round games advancing to face the No. 1 seeds on Thursday at 7 p.m.