Defensive efforts keep Lions in playoff hunt; College takes down Cougars and Scarlet Raptors

Freshman Tiffany DeTulio takes off on a break away during a Lions’ win. (Tom O’Dell / Photo Editor)

The College’s women’s basketball team picked up two wins this past week, keeping them in the playoff hunt.

To begin the week, the Lions had a thrilling win over No. 2-ranked Kean University with a 68-65 victory on Tuesday, Feb. 1.

The team had similar success on Saturday by defeating Rutgers University-Camden, 59-49.

“We know we are still in the run for a playoff spot and are working really hard to make sure we get there,” junior guard Hannah Tait said. “We played with a lot of heart and pride this week, proving to ourselves and others how good we are when we play up to our potential.”

Heading into the second half, the Lions had a 40-34 advantage by playing outstanding defense. The lead extended to 11 with 8:32 to play in the second half, but evaporated soon after as the Cougars made a frantic comeback to tie the game at 65 with a mere 1:10 remaining. With only 15.5 seconds left in the game, senior guard Stephanie Prall knocked down a free throw to give the Lions a 66-65 lead. Tait then netted a pair of clutch free throws with three seconds left to seal the upset for the Lions.

“I can’t deny that it wasn’t nerve wracking but I knew my teammates and coaches believed in me, which put me at ease,” Tait said. “We practice foul shots in practice all the time, so I just kept thinking you can do it, just like practice.”

The Lions received great play as a team, having four players reach double figures.

Senior center Alex Gregorek led the Lions with 12 points and seven rebounds, while junior guard Jessica Imhof chipped in with 12 points and four assists.

With that said, the real story of the game for the Lions was their great team defense, holding the Cougars to a stingy 30.3 shooting percentage.

Saturday’s game against Rutgers University-Camden proved to be much of the same outstanding play by the Lions, netting a 59-49 victory.

“Every game we play must be played like it is the championship game. That is because we need to win our next three games in order to make playoffs,” freshman guard Tiffany DeTulio said. “I know our entire team including myself really wants to be in that position.”

Coming off the huge win against the Cougars, the Lions wanted to keep the momentum going. They did just that by leading for nearly 36 minutes. The Scarlet Raptors pushed for a comeback with just five minutes left in the game, cutting the lead to just two points.

Imhof silenced any talk of a comeback, by knocking down a huge 3-pointer to give the Lions some breathing room. From that point on, the Lions eventually pushed the lead to 10 to finish the game.

Gregorek continued her outstanding play by scoring 20 points and shooting an efficient 8 of 12 from the field.

Senior guard Keri Washington registered her first double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Similar to the defeat of the Cougars, the story of the game was about the Lions’ defense. The Lions held the Scarlet Raptors to a dreadful 25.0 shooting percentage and forced the Raptors to commit 18 turnovers.

The Lions were able to futher their playoff push Monday, Feb. 7, by taking down Rowan University by a score of 67-55.

Imhof led the way for the Lions with 22 points.

The Lions will have to continue to play at this level if they expect to earn a spot in this year’s playoffs.

“We know we have to play hard, play as a unit and play up to our potential in all of our upcoming games,” Tait said. “We aren’t doing anything new. We are working hard in practice and believing in ourselves which is basically preparing us both physically and mentally.”

The Lions will tipoff versus Richard Stockton College at home today in a critical conference matchup that could decide the Lions’ postseason fate.