WAYNE, N.J. – Junior BriAnna Lucas scored 25 points, and classmate April Smith contributed 21 tallies and 16 rebounds, to lift No. 20 William Paterson (24-3) to its second New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Women’s Basketball Tournament title in program history with a 63-49 victory against Rutgers-Newark (19-9) in the championship game Feb. 26 at the Pioneers’ Rec Center.
The Pioneers receive the league’s automatic bid to the 2011 NCAA Division III Tournament. The 64-team championship field will be announced Monday, Feb. 28, at 3:00 p.m. on www.ncaa.com.
Lucas, the NJAC Co-Player and Defensive Player of the Year, was 11-for-19 (.579) from the floor for her game-high 25 points, adding five rebounds, two assists and three steals. Smith, who joined Lucas on the All-NJAC First Team, knocked down eight of 12 (.750) field-goal attempts, and seven of her 16 boards came on the offensive end. Freshman guard Floriana Borova posted eight points while dishing out a game-high seven assists as William Paterson won its second NJAC title (1993, 2011) in its 11th conference championship game appearance (1990, 1992-94, 1996-98, 2004, 2007, 2010-11).
The NJAC Co-Player and Defensive Player of the Year, junior BriAnna Lucas scored 19 of her game-high 25 points during the second half.
The Pioneers, the top seed in the NJAC’s North Division, got out to an early 7-2 lead, thanks in part to back-to-back offensive putbacks to open the contest by Smith. Rutgers-Newark’s Jared Tactuk drained a three-pointer to cut William Paterson’s lead to one at 9-8 (15:14), and after the two teams exchanged misses and Borova converted a layup for the Pioneers (11-8, 14:03), Scarlet Raider senior guard Jaleesa Coleman knotted the score with a trey for a 11-11 contest with 11:37 remaining in the opening period.
Freshman ShaQuanna Marshall gave Rutgers-Newark its first lead with her wrap-around layup at the 11:05 mark, and a Coleman jumper and Marshall defensive rebound and transition layup gave the Raiders their largest advantage of the game, 17-11, with 9:18 on the clock.
Smith jump-started the Pioneers’ comeback with a turnaround jumper from the middle of the lane (17-13, 8:58), and following a Marshall turnover, Borova found a cutting Smith at the far block for an easy layup and a 17-15 score (8:17).
A shot-clock violation by the Raiders on their next possession was followed by a 1-for-2 trip to the free-throw line by freshman Jewell Palmer, pulling the Pioneers within one (17-16, 7:33). When Smith drained a 3-pointer from the left corner off an inbounds pass from Borova, William Paterson jumped ahead, 19-17 with 7:10 remaining in the first half, a lead the Pioneers would not relinquish for the remainder of the contest.
Two Borova treys sandwiched a Tatiana Javis 17-footer from the top of the key during the next 2:40 (27-17, 4:31), and the Pioneers’ 2-3 zone kept the Scarlet Raiders off the scoreboard for 5:16, a streak that finally ended when Brittany Smith’s off-balance shot somehow found the bottom of the net with 4:02 remaining before halftime (27-19). Those would be the last points of the period for Rutgers-Newark, as Smith followed with a pair of free throws, then Lucas went 1-for-2 from the stripe (30-19, 1:51) and took a Lindsey Callander pass and buried a 3-pointer from the left wing (1:29), handing William Paterson a 33-19 advantage at the intermission. The Pioneers turned the ball over just four times during the game’s first 20 minutes while forcing 12 miscues and 2-for-11 (.182) shooting from behind the arc by the Raiders, as WP owned a 20-0 edge in points scored off turnovers.
Coleman scored the first five points of the second period for Rutgers-Newark, and when teammate Kristen Venning put back a Coleman miss on a fast break, the Scarlet Raiders were within seven at 33-26 just 2:27 into the half. Lucas answered during the Pioneers’ next possession, taking Borova’s inbounds pass a foot behind the line on the left wing and sinking a deep 3-pointer (36-26, 17:07). Smith’s follow of a Jeter miss and a Lucas baseline jumper after she tracked down her own rebound quickly made it a 40-26 score with 15:27 remaining.
William Paterson’s lead hovered between 11 and 15 points for the next 10 minutes until Marshall stole the ball and laid it in on the other end for a 52-43 margin with 5:11 on the clock. The two teams traded baskets until Mercedes Glover drained a 3-pointer and pulled Rutgers-Newark to within eight (54-46, 4:05). A Pioneer turnover and a Newark miss led to three consecutive offensive boards for William Paterson, a possession that finally ended with a Smith bucket and a 10-point lead for WP (56-46, 2:42). Lucas’ steal and fast-break layup extended the margin to 12 less than 30 seconds later, and after Marshall sank a pair of free throws (58-48, 1:51), Jeter blocked Tactuk’s 3-point attempt. Smith collected the rebound and was fouled, the Raider’s sixth of the half, and Jeter later converted a jumper on the baseline (60-48, 1:04).
Seven of junior April Smith’s game-high 16 rebounds were offensive, and she made eight of 12 (.750) field goals for 21 points.
Another Rutgers-Newark turnover and foul put Jeter at the line where she made the front end of the one-and-one (61-48, 40.1), and Lucas later finished the scoring with a fast-break basket with 25 seconds remaining.
Rutgers-Newark, the North Division’s second seed making its first-ever appearance in the NJAC Women’s Basketball Tournament final, was led by Coleman’s 18 points, despite being limited by foul trouble that saw her pick up her third personal 3:45 before halftime. Marshall had 12 points, Smith contributed seven tallies and five rebounds, and Venning led the team with eight boards.