Lions gain ground in tight playoff race

By Anthony Caruso
Staff Writer

The Lions play their way into playoff contention. (Photo courtesy of the Sports Information Desk)
The Lions play their way into playoff contention. (Photo courtesy of the Sports Information Desk)

The College’s women’s basketball team has been perfect in conference play this week, winning both games, and continuing to fight for a spot in the New Jersey Athletic Conference playoffs.

The team moved into a tie for fifth place with Kean University and Rutgers-Newark. However, while all three teams are tied, Kean is the leader with a 12-10 record, followed by the College also at 12-10, while Rutgers Newark has an 11-11 record.

“For me, especially as a senior, I’m looking at one game at a time,” guard Kelly Coughlin said. “Once one game is over, it is immediately time to prepare for the next one. As nice as it is to have won the last three games, we need to cherish each game we have left and place equal importance on each of them.”

On Wednesday, Feb. 4, at Packer Hall, the Lions won 57-48 over Rowan University.

Senior Jessica Goldbach had 15 points and eight rebounds. This was the second time that she had 15 points this season.

“Jess  has been playing great and is a big reason we were able to win the last couple games, Wednesday included,” fellow senior Kylie O’Donnell said. “She is a tough player for teams to defend because she is tall and can make tough catches and layups in the paint, but she can also step outside and knock down shots from three. She has not only been great on the offensive end, but has also played a huge role defensively and on the boards.”

O’Donnell also had 14 points. She had 17 points combined in her previous three games.

“Wednesday night was an important game for us in the conference, and as a team, we talk about doing whatever it takes to get a win,” O’Donnell said.  “Sometimes my team needs me to distribute the ball to get the offense going, and other times they might need me to score more.  I just try my best to play whichever role is needed each game.  I happened to score some points on Wednesday, but the awesome part about our team is any player is capable of stepping up on any given night.”

Additionally, on Saturday, Feb. 7, the Lions won 62-53 over the Gothic Knights of New Jersey City University. In the all-time meeting, the Lions lead 53-3, including 13 straight wins.

Coughlin lead the team with 16 points. in her first 16-point performance since William Paterson on Saturday, Jan. 17.

“Yesterday, my shot just felt natural to me,” Coughlin added. “Coach was telling me to feel the rhythm of the game, and my teammates kept encouraging me to take the open shot, so I did my best to shoot when they left me open and drive when they tried to get up on me.”

Junior Angelica Esposito also found her shot with 11 points, coming off her worst game with just three points against Ramapo College on Wednesday, Jan. 7.

She’s had 16 double figure games this season, including a career-high 23 points against Rutgers-Newark.

“Ange plays a huge role on this team whether it be scoring or leading the offense as a point guard,” Coughlin said. “She’s an excellent passer and is such an aggressive player that can drive or hit a long range three pointer. Yesterday was no different in that she was able to produce points and get our offense going through a variety of play calls.”

On Wednesday, Feb. 11, the team travels to Ramapo College for a 5:30 tip-off. This is their final road contest of the regular season before hosting the final two games at home on Saturday, Feb. 14 against William Paterson and Wednesday, Feb. 18, against Kean University.

“At this point in the season, every game is basically like a playoff game,” O’Donnell said. “We look at Wednesday’s game at Ramapo as the most important game of the season. That is our team’s mentality.  One game at a time.  We will practice hard and prepare on Monday and Tuesday and head up to Ramapo Wednesday with the goal of getting a win and getting better as a team.”