MONTCLAIR, N.J. – Fifth-seeded William Paterson (15-12, 10-8 NJAC) put a scare into top-seeded Montclair State (20-6, 15-3 NJAC), but the Red Hawks eventually came away with a 71-62 New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Women's Basketball Tournament semifinal victory Feb. 23.
Senior guard Brittany Harden (Millville, N.J./Sacred Heart) paced the Pioneers with 18 points. Sophomore guard Jackie Rodriguez (Sayreville, N.J./Sayreville War Memorial) had 16 tallies, and senior forward Alex Milne (Howell, N.J./Howell) added 15 points and seven rebounds.
WP scored the first 11 points of the game, including six from Milne, but the Red Hawks answered with a 10-0 run and the two teams ended the first quarter tied at 16-16.
MSU opened up a seven-point margin in the second period (29-22, 2:41), but Harden scored the final five tallies of the half and the Pioneers entered the break trailing by just two, 29-27.
WP reeled off seven unanswered points to surge ahead by a 38-33 count midway through the third period before Montclair State fought back with eight straight points of its own (41-38, 3:17), and the Red Hawks owned a 48-44 advantage at the end of the quarter thanks to a Zoe Curtis three-pointer at the buzzer.
MSU surged ahead by nine (56-47, 6:01), but Rodriguez knocked down a trey and sophomore forward Ariana Gomez (Garfield, N.J./Garfield) made a pair of free throws to cut the lead to four at 56-52 with 3:58 remaining.
When Katie Sire pushed the Red Hawks' lead back to eight with a three-pointer (61-53, 2:07), each team turned the ball over before Harden was sent to the charity stripe and went 2-for-2 (61-55, 1:27), and she then converted a layup to make it a four-point margin at 61-57 18 seconds later.
Sire sank a pair of free throws (63-57, 0:56), and after a Pioneer miss and MSU rebound, Sire made the second of two attempts from the stripe to extend it back to a three-possession game (64-57, 0:44). Curtis and Harden exchanged free throws (66-59, 0:34), and WP had hope following a Red Hawk turnover, but the Pioneers gave it back with a turnover of their own, and Montclair State made three of four free-throw attempts down the stretch to secure the victory.
Sire and junior Rachael Krauss each scored 18 points for the Red Hawks. Sire added eight rebounds and five steals.