Sire rising to the occassion

Montclair Coach Harvey on Sire: "Sometimes when I think she can’t get any better, she does more."
Montclair State athletics file photo

Katie Sire is a scorer. She’s also a talker. On a possession against Rutgers-Newark on Saturday, Sire not only recognized a scoring opportunity but also communicated with a teammate to make it happen.

“She read what the post defense was going to do and just yelled ‘I’m slipping,’ so that the kid would find her,” Montclair State head coach Karin Harvey said. “I don’t know a lot of players that can do that, in that moment, and she’s doing it not just as an anomaly. It’s constant.”

Harvey was referring to the talking, but the scoring is constant as well. Sire leads the NJAC with 21.7 points per game and is shooting 51.7 percent from the field. Montclair State (6-1, 3-0 NJAC) is aiming for a sixth straight conference championship, with Sire—the reigning NJAC Player of the Year and a D3hoops All-America third team selection last season—leading the way.

“Sometimes when I think she can’t get any better, she does more,” Harvey said. “We need her to score this year—there’s a lot of pressure on her—and she just rises to the occasion.”

Sire opened the season with 30 points against Farmingdale State, tying her career high. Overall, the senior guard/forward has scored 20 or more points in five of the Red Hawks’ seven games. She had 17 points on 7-for-14 shooting against Rutgers-Newark.

“She always seems to score when we really need a bucket,” senior point guard Kate Tobie said.

Sire is the centerpiece of a team that lost three starters to graduation and has a total of just 10 players, four of whom are freshmen. Last year, she led the Red Hawks with 16.7 points per game and made 47 percent of her field goals. This year, her scoring average and field-goal percentage are career highs.

“They take away her first, second, third move at some points, and then she finds a fourth way to score,” Harvey said. “She shoots the three, she drives the lane, she offensive rebounds, she’s got that little step-back, and now she’s adding post moves, because that might be the only way she can score in that particular game.”

“I’ve always had post moves, but I usually haven’t really used them because I’m kind of undersized,” said Sire, who is 5-foot-10. “Now that I’ve done it a couple times and it’s worked, I just keep incorporating it in my game now.”

Sire was not always Montclair State’s primary scoring option. As a freshman, she averaged 8.2 points per game while playing with two All-Americans. But Harvey saw her potential—to an extent.

“We knew when we got her she was going to be a very special player,” Harvey said. “I didn’t know all the ways that she would grow her game. I didn’t know how tremendous her work ethic would be. And I think that’s the other piece of it. She just works so hard. She never takes a possession off, ever. Ever.”

She never takes a game off, either. A four-year starter, Sire has played in every game since joining the Red Hawks. She is averaging 33.7 minutes per game this season.

As a senior and captain of a young team, Sire has become more of a leader, Harvey said. In addition to guiding players during games, like on that possession against Rutgers-Newark, “she’s having to teach every minute of practice.”

Of course, Sire also leads through her play. Besides scoring, she is Montclair State’s top rebounder with 8.1 boards per game. She has grabbed at least four offensive rebounds in four games this season.

“Last year, we had more help in that sense,” Sire said. “So this year, I’m really trying to crash the offensive boards a lot more to kind of set a tone and example for other players.”

For Harvey, Sire has set a tone in so many ways.

“I’ve coached a lot of great players,” Harvey said. “But she’s just unbelievable."

NJCU exceeding expectations thus far

After losing five seniors, including three starters, from last year’s NJAC runner-up, New Jersey City head coach Marc Brown did not envision much success for his team.

“I was expecting a rebuilding year,” he said.

Instead, the Gothic Knights are 7-0 overall and 3-0 in conference play, and just entered the D3hoops Top 25 this week. But that perfect record includes several imperfect wins. After leading 48-30 at halftime on Saturday, for example, New Jersey City escaped with an 86-83 victory at Rutgers-Camden. The Gothic Knights’ previous game was an 87-83 overtime win against William Paterson.

“We haven’t played that well,” Brown said. “But we’ve played well enough to win.”

Though New Jersey City is the only NJAC team without a loss, it is one of four NJAC teams without a conference defeat. Ramapo, Rowan, and TCNJ are also 3-0 against league opponents. At least one team will fall out of the unbeaten ranks on Wednesday, when Rowan hosts TCNJ.

Rutgers-Newark trying to build from Cinderella to contender

Rutgers-Newark reached the NJAC championship game last season, where the Scarlet Raiders fell to Montclair State 71-61. In the teams’ first meeting since that game, Rutgers-Newark lost 54-43. But aside from the second quarter on Saturday, when the Red Hawks outscored the Scarlet Raiders 11-2, the two teams were fairly evenly matched.

“Our defense was really good,” head coach Ashley Cieplicki said. “We have bigger players now this year, so we’re able to switch things more, and we’re able to press a little bit more and get back into a man a little bit more, and there’s not really a player out there that we need to hide defensively.”

Junior guard Faith Ashby led all scorers with 19 points for Rutgers-Newark, while sophomore forward Barbara Hairs-Jackson added 13 for the Scarlet Raiders.

“We’re just a team of kids that never, ever, ever give up,” Cieplicki said.



Sarah Sommer

Sarah Sommer is a freelance journalist in New York City. She began writing for D3hoops.com in March 2015, when she covered the women's NCAA Tournament. She is excited to continue covering Division III basketball as the Atlantic columnist.
2011-2015 columns: See Around the Atlantic/Mid-Atlantic