Montclair, NJ – No. 15 Montclair State got its customary performances from NJAC Player of the Year Katie Sire and All-Conference selection Kate Tobie on Wednesday evening. But it was the sharp-shooting of senior Rachael Krauss the proved to be the difference and it sent the top-seeded Red Hawks into the championship game of the NJAC Tournament.
Krauss scored a game-high 25 points, including an MSU single-game record eight three pointers as MSU moved past fourth-seeded Rowan University, 76-67 at the Panzer Athletic Center. Sire posted a double-double of 23 points and 10 rebounds while Tobie dished out 13 assists.
The victory put Montclair State (24-2) into the championship game for a fifth consecutive year as it will face sixth-seeded Rutgers-Newark (12-15) at home on Saturday, February 25 at 1:00 pm with the winner earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Championship.
Rutgers-Newark pulled off its second straight upset in the tournament knocking off second-seeded Kean University 77-71. The Scarlet Raiders defeated third-seeded Stockton University in the first round last Saturday.
Montclair State, won the two regular-season meetings posting a 62-49 win in Newark on December 3 and a 69-56 triumph at the Panzer Athletic Center on January 21.
Back to Wednesday's action where the Red Hawks looked to knock off the Profs for the third time this season. However Rowan jumped out to an early 6-0 lead and was in front for most of the third quarter before MSU took its first lead on a layup by Sage Bennett with 1:35 to play. Kailyn Sytsma answered for Rowan with a layup however two free throws by Sire gave Montclair an 18-17 lead after one period.
The teams would stay within 3-5 points of each other in the second with MSU taking its biggest lead 29-24 with 4:09 to go on another Bennett layup. Zoe Curtis added a three-point play later in the period however three-free throws by Valerie Garofalo in the final 1:42 allowed Rowan to pull within 32-31 at the break.
The third quarter would belong to Montclair, which outscored the Profs 27-10 in the period. It started with seven straight points, the last a three by Krauss for a 39-31 advantage. Sire scored back-to-back layups to get the lead to double digits before Tamera Webster trimmed the lead back to six 45-39 with 4:3 left. Montclair State exploded on a 14-2 to end the period. Sire had five points and Curtis electrified the crowd with an acrobatic layup that turned into a three-point play as the Red Hawks led 59-41 after three quarters.
Rowan scored the first eight points in the fourth to whittle the lead back to 10 points but Krauss killed the Profs' momentum each time. Getting within 69-59, the Red Hawks' all-time leader in three-point field goals drilled one from the left side and hit again on the next possession after a Rowan three that put Montclair up 65-52 with 5:28 left.
Rowan would get as close as eight points the rest of the way with that coming at 75-67 with 10 seconds to play.
Krauss finished 8-of-16 from behind the arc as she tied Janitza Aquino' 2014 mark set against William Paterson. Curtis finished with 10 points and four rebounds while Bennett totaled 10 points, three rebounds and four blocks.
MSU, which has won six consecutive games will look to capture its fifth straight NJAC Championship and become the first team to win five consecutive conference titles since Kean claimed the first nine championships from 1983-1991.