Montclair State wins 6th straight NJAC Women’s Basketball Tournament Title
Winning their sixth straight NJAC Tournament Title did not come easy for the Montclair State Red Hawks women’s basketball team at the Panzer Athletic Center, Friday night.
The Red Hawks faced off against a formidable opponent in TCNJ (21-6). During the regular season, the teams’ spilt the series with the outcome of each game being decided by three points apiece.
The Lions displayed no signs of being intimidated in the NJAC Tournament Final on Montclair State’s home court and exuberant fan base. Down just four points at halftime with freshman forward Shannon DeVitt an offensive force in the paint tallying 12 of her team high 18 points on the night.
Rallying from a 38-31 deficit midway through the third quarter to tie the game up in the late stages of the period. In the fourth quarter, Montclair State held on to a thee-point lead a couple of times but TCNJ tied up the contest at 49-49 on a pair of free throws by Samantha Famulare with 5:06 remaining.
The tie would not last long as junior forward Domonique Wirsing put the Red Hawks back on top 11 seconds later with an off balance jumper off the glass. However, the real difference maker on this night would be two-time NJAC Player of the Year, three-time first team all-conference, senior Katie Sire.
After scoring 11 points and grabbing 19 rebounds in a semifinal win over Rowan on Wednesday, Sire dropped in 15 of her game-high 25 points while pulling down 11 rebounds in the second half including draining three of her seven free throws made on the night leading Montclair State (23-3) to the 58-51 victory and sixth consecutive NJAC Tournament Title. Second all-team conference and senior Taylor Harmon added 15 points. Montclair State held Lions leading scorer Jen Byrne to 11 points and TCNJ to 30% overall shooting in the game.
“We knew this wasn’t going to be easy and I thought that was the best defense we played against TCNJ,” said NJAC Co-Coach of the Year Karin Harvey. “Offensively we did some good things, but at the end of the day we handed it to Katie Sire and said this is yours and she carried us with a couple of big possessions there and getting some big buckets.”
“They decided to play man and we said to Katie you are going to be asked to do a lot today and what she does. She is an All-American and one of the top 10 players in the country and her hard work and will is fun to watch and proud of her.”
“Domonique Wirsing (six points) was huge for us defensively today and on the offensive end. I’m so happy for Taylor Harmon, this is a kid that did everything right for us for four years and never had an individual meeting with her in four years and she has never complained or asked any questions and just said whatever you want me to do coach and I’ll do it and you can yell in my ear and I’ll keep doing it. Worked hard for four years and see the benefits of it in her senior year. She deserves it as anyone of them and playing she is at the right time of the year is awesome.”
Sire, on the tournament championship game win, “It’s a great feeling and we knew this would be a big game going and really tough. They’re a great team and made every play hard for us and capitalized on a lot of our mistakes. Rowan made it tough for me on Wednesday night sitting in the paint. I knew TCNJ played man both times so I drove into the lane and open to take the shot or create something for my teammates. I never thought this what it’s going to be and been nothing less than perfect.”
Harvey, on the home crowd at the Panzer Athletic Center, “The crowd has been phenomenal for us all year, they travel and the place is packed and could not ask for anymore. We have a great following on the Montclair State campus and so many people here. We had every alum come back from last year and in the house tonight and had every alum but one from the last three years. I had a former assistant coach drive seven hours to come to this game. We’re family and that is what I wanted to create when I came here and means the most.”