By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
Ewing — The College of New Jersey reaches their goal.
TCNJ was picked as the pre-season NJAC Championships. And yesterday afternoon, they would be able to prove that the individuals that picked them to win the NJAC Championship back in October made the right choice.
TCNJ was able to beat Kean University, 69-57, yesterday afternoon in the NJAC Championship game at Packer Hall on the TCNJ campus.
“I think that putting us as the pre-season favorite meant we had a lot to live up to,” said TCNJ Senior Alyssa Michella. “That set expectations high for us.”
With the high expectations, TCNJ’s three seniors wanted to go out on top. Michella, Hillary Klimowicz, and Lisa Koch would do exactly that.
“Me, Hillary, Lisa, our seniors going out, what other way would we like to go out?” said Michella. “With an NJAC Championship under our belt.”
It would be the first NJAC Championship for both Michella and Klimowicz after they both transferred into the school several years ago. Michella transferred to TCNJ from Bryant University, while Klimowicz transferred to TCNJ from St. Joseph’s University. This is Koch’s second NJAC Championship.
“It’s the best feeling in the World,” said Michella. “Coach says it wasn’t (revenge); it wasn’t revenge. But it was something that we owed to ourselves. We knew we deserved it. We knew this was our goal since Day 1 this season. And we did it, as we went undefeated on our (home) court.”
TCNJ’s last home loss came to Kean in the NJAC Championship game at Packer Hall last year. And this is their first NJAC Championship since the 2005-06 season.
“Its fun,” said TCNJ women’s basketball head coach Dawn Henderson. “It’s a fun time to cut down the nets. Last year, Kean cut down the nets in here and we didn’t want that to happen again. Winning a Championship never gets old.”
With the win, TCNJ receives an automatic bid into the NCAA playoffs. They will find out Monday morning around 11 am, who they will face in a playoff game and if they have a first-round home game.
“I think we would have moved on anyways,” said coach Henderson. “Its always nice to have the automatic bid and not leave it up to the committee. We’ll know Monday morning at around 11am and I think we’ll play on either Friday or Saturday. This could give us a home game.”
Klimowicz is hoping that TCNJ can host at least one more home game.
“We’re not sure its going to be our last home game,” said Klimowicz. “We’re looking forward to the NCAA’s and potentially hosting. Its my last home game as of right now — the fans are great, the players are great, the coaches are great — I’ve really enjoyed myself here.”
Kean tried to stop TCNJ’s lead in the second half by making several runs. And the Cougars would try the “Hack-a-TCNJ Lions” player strategy, hoping that they would miss from the free throw line. The Lions shot 81.3% from the free-throw line in the second half.
“Obviously, free throws win a lot of games, especially in close games,” said Michella. “We practice them each day in practice. And it obviously sealed the deal for us.”
TCNJ lead by as many as 21 points in the second half. That was with 7 minutes and 45 seconds left in the game. The closest Kean got was within 7 points several times in the second half.
“We are an inside-outside type team,” said Klimowicz.“We try to establish an inside game, then that opens up the outside game. That’s what we did (yesterday). It was beautiful to watch.”
Klimowicz lead the Lions with 19 points. She also had 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 7 blocks in 30 minutes.
“It’s just like any other game,” said Klimowicz. “I pretty much went out there and tried to get the job done.”
Three other Lions added 12 points. Nicole Díaz tied her career-high with 12 points, including 9 points from the free throw line. Michella also had 12 points, all coming from the three-point line. And Alexandra Gregorek had 12 points, all in the paint.
Keri Washington had 3 points. Kelsey Kutch had 8 points. And Koch had 3 points.
TCNJ also had 17 assists in the game. They had 9 assists in the first half.
“We’re one of the top teams in the country in assists,” said coach Henderson. “That’s normal for us.”
Kean was lead by Cardiss Jackson, who had a game-high 25 points in 39 minutes. Alysha Taylor had 10 points, while Ebony Jackson added 9 points.Danielle Brown had 6 points. Tiffany Patrick had 5 points. And Angelica Bermúdez had 2 points.
TCNJ lead 30-17 at halftime.
“I would have been disappointed if I left without a Championship,” said Klimowicz. “I’ve been grateful for playing with these girls and for the coaches. And I’m looking forward to the NCAA’s now. It’s going to be a nice ride.”
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