Ready for takeoff: Lions clip Ospreys’, Blue Jays’ wings

After dropping a heartbreaking game one week ago to long-time New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) rival Kean, the women’s basketball team returned to their winning ways, taking four straight, including a conference win on Saturday over Richard Stockton College.

The Lions rolled past the aggressive Ospreys, 69-58.

Despite the game being a mismatch on paper, the 5-17 Ospreys played hard-nosed basketball, setting the tone early by draining a pair of three-pointers on their first two possessions.

Both teams struggled to score during a defensive-minded first half. Neither team had more than a four-point lead by break.

The second half was a different story, as the Ospreys held a one-point lead on two separate occasions early, but the Lions ripped off a 10-point run to take the lead for good. Senior center Hillary Klimowicz, who leads the NJAC in points per game, was the high-scorer on the day with 29 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots. Senior guard Alyssa Michella also made a major contribution as she sank four shots from downtown for a total of 12 points.

“Overall it was a great team effort and we fought it out,” Klimowicz said.

The team closed out the non-conference part of their schedule claiming a road victory over the Blue Jays of Elizabethtown College (10-11) 80-56 on Thursday.

This game was ugly from the start, as the Lions scored the first seven points of the game and had a 39-27 advantage at the break. Before the final buzzer, the Lions extended their lead to as many as 25 points.

No surprise to the crowd, Klimowicz again paced the College with 23 points on an incredible 11-of-12 shooting and 12 boards. Junior forward Alex Gregorek chipped in down low with 19 points and Michella poured in another four shots from beyond the arc for a 12-point effort.

Without a great start, there cannot be a great finish, and the Lions proved just that with their 69-58 win over the Bears of Ursinus College on Feb. 3.

The Lions took a comfortable 17-point lead into halftime, leading 36-19. Klimowicz netted 12 points in the half, and Michella added nine of her own. Once the final buzzer sounded, Klimowicz and Michella had 28 and 14 points, respectively.

After leading by as many as 24 points in the latter half, the Lions’ lead was cut to seven. But the team persevered, draining 12-of-15 second-half free throw attempts.

Lions head coach Dawn Henderson earned her 350th career victory. She now has 304 wins since taking over the reins at the College 16 years ago.

“I think Coach’s win was a great milestone for her in her career,” junior guard Karen Lassoni said. “But I know she is more focused on winning an NJAC championship and making it to the NCAA tournament than personal accomplishments.”

After winning their fourth in a row, the Lions now stand at 18-4 on the campaign and 8-2 within the conference. The Bears drop to 4-14 on the season.

“I think the team has evolved so much from the beginning of the season and we will continue to rely on each other for support to be successful,” Lassoni said.

The Lions will complete the season with a series of in-conference games. They head south to take on the Scarlet Raptors of Rutgers University-Camden tonight at 6 p.m.