By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
Ewing — Hillary Klimowicz had a career afternoon.
The 6-foot-3 senior center from Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School broke one school-record and nearly broke two others on her way to helping The College of New Jersey Lions to a big Conference win. She was previously tied with a former Lion for most points scored in a single-game, before her career-high performance yesterday.
Klimowicz’s career-high 35 points were enough to help TCNJ beat NJAC Conference rival, the William Paterson Pioneers, 69-65, yesterday afternoon at Packer Hall on the TCNJ campus.
“There was a rebound in the first half — a defensive rebound — where I could tell that she meant business in the first half right in front of me,” said TCNJ women’s basketball head coach Dawn Henderson. “She was like this is mine and get out of my way. And she just stepped up her game. She’s played injured the entire season and was dying out there. With two minutes left, I asked her if she could keep going. And her free throw shooting hasn’t been great. She’s been practicing those during practice. She’s just a big-time player.”
Klimowicz previously held the record with former Lion Kimm Lacken, who played from 1984-to-1988. They both scored 33-points in a game, including Klimowicz accomplishing the feat twice.
“We got the ‘W,’ ” said Klimowicz. “That’s what it means. Its good.”
Klimowicz almost broke Lacken’s single-game rebound record as well. Klimowicz had 22 rebounds in the game and Lacken’s record is 24 rebounds in a single-game.
Klimowicz also had 6 blocks, which could be a single-game record.
“I didn’t know that I had 22 rebounds or 35 points,” said Klimowicz. “We talked in the beginning of the game about how they are a very aggressive team. And how its going to be a 5-player team to box out.”
Klimowicz scored the final two baskets for the Lions. She scored those two points from the free-throw line, where she went 9-for-9 on the afternoon. Nicole Diaz made a big free throw late in the game with 26 seconds left to increase the lead.
“We needed two, but got one,” said coach Henderson. “Nicole’s a good free throw shooter. She’s a clutch kind of player. And I had full confidence that she was going to make that one. She’s good at that, which is why she’s in the game late in the game.”
With the win, the Lions are undefeated on their home court. They improved to 14-and-3 overall on the season, including 6-and-1 in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) South Division. The Lions have won 11 straight games.
The Pioneers dropped to 14-and-5 overall on the season, including 6-and-1 in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) North Division.
“It’s our home court,” said coach Henderson. “And we haven’t lost here yet. Our goal is to always win in January. We want to be undefeated in January.”
In the second half, the Pioneers got out to a 12-to-4 run in the first 3 minutes, before a Klimowicz basket. They went on a 26-to-8 run in the first 9 minutes to get a 49-44 lead. Both teams were tied at 42 points in the second.
The Pioneers outscored the Lions 42-34 in the second half. The Lions outscored the Pioneers 35-23 in the first half.
“Its two halves,” said coach Henderson. “We need to put together two good halves. I’m not pleased with how we came out in the first 5 minutes of any half so far this season. We have a tendency to not be the aggressor.”
Around the 9 minute mark left in the game, Alyssa Michella would score her only basket — a three-point basket from the top of the key — in the game. She went 1-for-6 from the field, including 1-for-4 from the three-point line, in 32 minutes. She came into the game averaging 10.3 points per game.
“She struggled,” said coach Henderson. “Everybody has their good games and their bad games. She’s a good shooter when she sets her feet. I think that was probably the only time that she set her feet. Kids have their ups-and-downs. I tell them all the time how great is it that we have a whole bench full of players, who have played in really important games at really important times. If somebody’s down a little bit, somebody could pick it up. We’re lucky to have that.”
In the final four minutes, it was a back-and-forth game. Both teams would swap the lead from 3:56 left until the final seconds when Diaz made her free throw shot. The Lions went 13-for-15 from the free throw line in the second half, including 78.3% in the game, to get the win.
“Its huge,” said coach Henderson. “Its big for a lot of reasons, just in terms of the Conference. They were 14-and-4 and undefeated in the Conference. We lost early to Montclair (St. on December 6th). I didn’t feel like we played one of our better games in that game. What we didn’t do in that game that we now know that we can do is — we didn’t have any mental toughness at all against Montclair — we made mistakes and just fell apart; we just didn’t show any fight. (Yesterday) we showed a lot of fight.“
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