Lions win nail-biter after tough loss to Kean

WbasketballTL05The College experienced a rollercoaster week in women’s basketball in two conference games against Kean University and Montclair State University.

Candace Vigo goes for the layup (above) while Katie Occhipinti searches for an open teammate (below). (Tim Lee).
Candace Vigo goes for the layup (above) while Katie Occhipinti searches for an open teammate (below). (Tim Lee).

The Cougars came in riding a 17-game winning streak and proved to be too much for the Lions to handle. The preseason favorite to win the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) took home its 18th straight victory by defeating the Lions 79-43.

The loss was only the second time the Lions have lost since the new year began and it also snapped a four-game win streak.

The Lions recorded the games first basket, but it was all Kean from there. The Cougars scored 18 straight points after the Lions’ initial score on the way to securing a 51-18 lead at halftime.

“Kean is an outstanding team and we had some trouble early due to the fact that we were missing a few players,” head coach Dawn Henderson said.

The Lions refused to give up though and played the Cougars strong in the second half, scoring 28 points to the Cougars 25 in the last 20 minutes.

Sophomore guard Jessica Imhof led the Lions in the losing effort with 12 points and seven rebounds. Behind Imhof were junior guard Stephanie Prall and freshman center/forward Megan Hartline who each finished with seven points.

The Lions could have gone into the tank for their next game against the Red Hawks, but they bounced back with an emotional 65-61 victory.

The day began with some fun as some of the old Lions players faced off in the annual Alumnae game in the morning and the current Lions squad carried that good cheer into their play Saturday afternoon.

Sophomore guard/forward Hannah Tait started the game off strong by hitting two three-pointers. Tait led the way for the Lions most of the game hitting five buckets from behind the arc on her way to a game-high 19 points.

Imhof built on her strong performance earlier in the week versus Kean by adding another double-digit scoring effort with 15 points against Red Hawks — nine of those coming from the foul line.

Junior forward Kelsey Kutch also had a strong impact in the game by providing 15 points of her own from the floor.

The biggest effort, however, may have come from the Lions defense. Coach Henderson couldn’t have asked much more of her defense in the first half.

The Lions now sit at 11-8 on the season.
The Lions now sit at 11-8 on the season.

The Lions held the Red Hawks to 7-of-25 from the field and forced 10 turnovers to take a 22-16 lead into the locker room.

“We always play pretty good defense,” Henderson said. “We make defense a priority and this effort was not anything less than I’d normally expect.”

The Red Hawks did not lie down in the second half though. Junior forward Kisandra Ayanbeku and senior forward Catherine Cristino showed the Lions why the Red Hawks came into the game leading the conference in field goal percentage.

Ayanbeku finished with 14 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, while Cristino put up 14 points, eight rebounds, and three blocked shots.

Their efforts were not enough though as Tait hit a clutch three-pointer with 4:30 left in the game.

From there the Lions kept a lock on their lead by draining shot after shot from the foul line. The victory puts the Lions at 11-8 overall on the season and 4-3 in the NJAC.

The Lions continue their conference schedule on Jan. 27 when they play host to Richard Stockton College.