By Anthony Caruso
The College’s women’s basketball team ended its season on a high note on Wednesday, Feb. 17, when the Lions were able to defeat the Kean Cougars, 65-62, at the Harwood Arena in Union, N.J.
The Lions ended the season with a 13-12 record, finishing the season with a 9-9 conference record within the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC). The team is now seventh in the conference.
The game against Kean closed out the careers for senior guards Angelica Esposito and Jess Lynch and freshman forward Christina Merlin. Merlin was not able to play in her career finale due to an injury.
The seniors ended their collegiate careers with 65 wins. They also made three NJAC playoff appearances.
“The past four years have been incredible and there is no one else I would have rather spent it with than Christina and Ange,” Lynch said. “Other than being great basketball players, they are just incredible people… They truly have become a part of my family.”
“We were going to do whatever it took to win this last game,” Esposito said. “For myself, having that many points is an accomplishment, but I would not have had them if it weren’t for my teammates finding me when I was open and always believing in me.”
Kean jumped out to an early 4-0 before Lynch and Esposito scored back-to-back baskets. The Cougars made it 8-4 before freshman guard Kate O’Leary cut the lead to 8-6. Kean ended the first quarter with a 16-10 lead.
To begin the second quarter, junior guard Taryn Corrigan scored six straight points. The burst of scoring from Corrigan tied the game at 16 before junior guard Jacquetta Owens made a three-pointer to put the Cougars up, 19-16. The game was tied at 21 when junior forward Katy Amato scored a basket.
“Taryn Corrigan was definitely a huge spark in the first half for us,” Lynch mentioned. “We started off playing a little timid, I think, but when she came in, everything just started to flow again.”
Esposito gave the College a 30-26 halftime lead when she had five straight points. After Amato made a basket, Esposito gave the Lions a 27-26 lead — their first lead of the game.
The Lions scored 27 points in the third quarter and Esposito led with 15 points in the quarter. Junior forward Cindy Napolitano scored two three-pointers, while sophomore guard Charlotte Schum had four points and Lynch had a basket.
Late in the game, Esposito made two free throws that sealed the win. With the free throws, she ended the game with 29 points. The career-high allowed Esposito to end the season with a 14.7 points per game average.
The two free throws by Esposito were two of eight points by the Lions in the fourth quarter, but the Cougars outscored them, 26-8, in the quarter. Lynch had two free throws while Corrigan and Amato scored baskets, as well.
“All the games I have played in over the years have prepared me for moments such as that,” Esposito said. “While a million different thoughts were on my mind at the time, the one that stands out the most is I don’t want to let my teammates or coaches down. As a senior, I have had more experience than most of my teammates, and being able to hit free throws under pressure situations, such as the one in that game, is something that is expected of myself as a leader.
“The moment that Kean missed that last three-pointer and we won the game is a feeling that you always remember,” she added. “This last game was more about pride for the TCNJ women’s basketball program and as individuals, it was about our passion for the game. I think that winning this last game proved that our hard work throughout the season was worth it and it let us end our 2015-16 season on a positive note.”