By Miguel Gonzalez
While the Philadelphia Eagles flew high this week for a Super Bowl win, the women’s basketball team killed two birds of the New Jersey Athletic Conference.
On Wednesday, Jan. 31, the Lions defeated Rowan University, 87-77, in Packer Hall. The team then trekked north to Mahwah, New Jersey and plowed through Ramapo College, 74-55, on Saturday, Feb. 3.
The Lions were on top of Rowan throughout the game. Senior guard Charlotte Schum scored the Lions’ first points off a jump shot. Afterwards, senior forward Nikki Schott caught a defensive rebound and sent a pass to sophomore forward Jen Byrne.
Byrne dribbled across the court and scored a layup on a fast break. The Lions never looked back, taking a commanding 23-10 lead by the end of the first quarter.
In the 11th minute of the game, Rowan began to fight back. Senior center April Szymczyk hit back-to-back layups. Freshman forward Taylor Gardner and sophomore guard Dominique Peters followed up with layups of their own to diminish the Lions lead to 25-20.
The Lions responded with offensive plays of their own. In the 17th minute, Schott jumped high for a putback layup. On the next play, Byrne went on a fast break and scored a layup.
Despite the Lions building a 42-27 lead by halftime, Rowan was not finished. The Lions’ defense endured a series of layups and free throws by Szymczyk, Peters and senior guard Summer Crilley. In the last two minutes of the third quarter, Schott slowed down Rowan’s momentum by making four free throws and a layup. By the fourth quarter, the Lions held a slim 60-54 lead.
The remaining 10 minutes of the game was a back-and-forth roller coaster for the Lions and Rowan. Rowan senior guard/forward Alex Raring started off with a jumper. Byrne responded with a mid-range basket of her own on the next Lions possession. Raring then sunk another jumper. On the next play, Schott jumped into the action and drained a three-pointer.
Raring proceeded to score a three-pointer of her own to cut the Lions lead down to 70-64. With one minute remaining, Byrne sealed the Lions victory by sinking six free throws. She finished the game with a towering 30 points and 12 rebounds.
Head coach Chessie Jackson was impressed with Byrne’s dominating performance.
“Jen came out against Rowan with a ton of energy and focus,” Jackson said. “She’s naturally talented, no doubt, but Rowan was a great representation of how her talent can pair with energy to help her statistically. I played her a ton of minutes and she rose to the challenge.”
On the road at Ramapo, the Lions offense ignited with double-digit scoring performances by sophomore guard Lauren Barlow, junior forward Samantha Famulare, junior guard Kate O’Leary and Byrne. The team’s defense also had a stellar performance and forced 19 turnovers against Ramapo.
Jackson says the team’s growing chemistry is leading them to immense success.
“We’ve been talking about the pressure and the expectations that can come along with winning,” Jackson said. “Our team is staying hungry and focused on our goal. We’re getting tougher every day, becoming more and more competitive and building chemistry as a group.”
The team will be playing its last two home games this week in Packer Hall.The Lions will face William Paterson University on Wednesday, Feb. 7, and Montclair State University on Saturday, Feb. 10.