By Malcolm Luck
With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, the women’s basketball team knows that a New Jersey Athletic Conference loss has significant postseason implications.
The team responded by winning four consecutive games against NJAC opponents, which propelled the Lions to the top of the conference standings after a win at Ramapo College on Saturday, Feb. 2.
The College began the week with a dramatic 45-43 win at Rutgers University-Newark on Jan. 28. The match was rescheduled following the postponement of the original date originally intended for Jan. 19.
The closely contested match had Lions ahead 17-15 at the end of the first half. Following a three-pointer from junior forward Jen Byrne to put the Lions ahead by eight with 7:04 left in the third quarter, Rutgers-Newark responded with a 10-0 run before junior guard Lauren Barlow sank a free throw to break the streak. The Lions entered the fourth quarter down 32-28.
Rutgers-Newark extended the lead to 38-30 with 4:42 remaining on the clock, but the College refused to roll over. A three-pointer on the next possession from senior guard Nicole Shatsky cut the lead down to five.
The Lions found themselves down by four with a minute left. Byrne scored a bucket in the paint to cut the lead in half. With 10 seconds left on the clock, a clutch and-one conversion from sophomore forward Shannon Devitt put the game on ice and secured the victory for the team.
The College returned home on Jan. 30 to take on Rutgers University-Camden. The Lions rode the momentum from their previous game and glided past their opponent, dominating the floor in an assertive 76-47 victory.
The Lions scored at will in the first quarter, which set the tone for the rest of the game. Senior guard Sam Famulare opened scoring with a three-pointer within the game’s first minute.
In dominating fashion, the College’s offense scored on almost every possession in the first quarter. The team posted 27 points and commanded an 11-point lead just after the first quarter.
After out scoring Rutgers-Camden 25-21 over the next two quarters, the College thwarted any attempt at a comeback by dropping another 24 points in the final quarter of regulation. By the time the final buzzer sounded, Famulare, Byrne and Barlow had over 10 points each, putting up 19, 11 and 11 respectively.
The last game of the week came at Ramapo, who had a 4-11 conference record on the season. Finding themselves down by one point after the end of the first quarter, the Lions exploded for 25 points following a 12-0 run to open the quarter, which was ignited by Shatsky’s two early three-pointers. Byrne contributed one of her own, followed by freshman guard/forward Rachel Gazzola with 1:50 remaining in the half. A late three-pointer closed out the half as the Lions never looked back on their 14-point halftime lead, eventually emerging with an 84-70 victory.
Now boasting a 14-8 overall record and 12-3 conference record, the Lions look to keep the top mark in the NJAC in their final three regular season games. The Lion’s final three games will not be against teams in the half of the conference, beginning with a road game at New Jersey City University tonight at 6 p.m.