In what was one of the most emotional and highly anticipated contests of the year, the Lions brought their A-game on their home floor last Wednesday night as they took down the Cougars of Kean University 73-61. With the win, the Lions clinched the top spot in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) and a first- round bye in the NJAC playoffs.
“We wanted to have fun and put ourselves in position to win this game, obviously,” senior center Hillary Klimowicz said. “We tried to not too much pressure on ourselves, either, and I think Senior Night allowed us to have fun playing together.”
The game was quick-paced and physical from the start, as the Lions and Cougars went blow for blow from the beginning. The College would end up taking control for the most part, however, as they took a 36-27 lead into the break.
This lead was not as safe as it may have seemed, as the stingy Cougars defense forced 22 Lion turnovers and showed no signs of letting that up throughout the entire game.
“Last time we played them, they forced 25 turnovers,” Klimowicz said. “So we’ve definitely honed in on that in practice and made sure we were taking care of the ball.”
In that first half, Klimowicz tallied a double-double, as she poured in 10 points and pulled down 10 boards. She finished off the game with 21 points and 18 rebounds and is now only 26 rebounds away from 1,000 for her career.
“I’ve been told these things, but don’t follow it much,” Klimowicz said. “It is another milestone, and it’s exciting, but I hope we keep playing on. With me being 6’3, I should be getting boards anyway.”
As the second half commenced, the Cougars got as close as four, trailing 46-42 with 12:09 left in regulation. But the Lions took full control beyond that deficit, as they went up by 15 points just seven minutes later. This all took place in front a raucous crowd of Lions and Cougar fans.
“I really enjoyed the game, and I enjoyed that Kean brought their fans to the game because that made it exciting,” Klimowicz said.
As Klimowicz mentioned, it was Senior Night, and senior guard Alyssa Michella notched 15 points for the Lions. Senior guard Lisa Koch also contributed with four points and six dimes.
The College ends the regular season with an overall record of 21-4 and an 11-2 mark in the NJAC. Kean University finished up their regular season at 19-6, with an 11-2 mark in conference.
Despite failing to take home the first round bye and NJAC South Division crown, Kean University made quick work of Rutgers University-Newark, pounding the Scarlet Raiders 68-33 on Saturday. They move on to face Montclair State University tonight at 7 p.m.
“I don’t think they (Rutgers University-Newark) matched up well with Kean, and they were probably riled up coming off our game anyway,” Klimowicz said. “As for our game, we’re focused on William Paterson because they’ll be competitive, and we’re happy it’s at home, too.”
After their first-round bye, the Lions are back on the court tonight for their first playoff game, as they host the No. 2 seed from the North Division, the Pioneers of William Paterson at 7 p.m. in Packer Hall in search of an NJAC Championship.