March 14, 2009

Rochester, NY...The College of New Jersey women's basketball team punched its ticket to the Final Four for the first time in program history as the Lions rallied past the University of Scranton by the score of 54-48 on Saturday in Rochester, NY.

Next up for the Lions in the 2009 NCAA Division III Championships will be undefeated and second-ranked George Fox (30-0) as they defeated third-ranked Hope College (Holland, MI) by the score of 58-46. That game is set for Friday, March 20 at Hope College at a time to be determined.

The win extended TCNJ's winning streak to 13 straight and they have been on a tear since early December winning 24 of the last 25 games. The Lions, appearing in the NCAA Tournament for the 12th time, are now a 27-4 on the season adding to their school-record for victories in a season. The path to the Final Four was not an easy one for the Lions, but they have met each challenge defeating four ranked opponents along the way with the 15th-ranked Royals being the latest.

After both teams struggled to score from the floor for most of the second half, TCNJ took advantage of its chances from the charity stripe in the final minutes scoring their final 11 points from the line. Those free throws wiped out a one-point deficit and gave TCNJ a lead it never relinquished. Senior Karen Lassoni (East Rutherford, NJ/East Rutherford) came up big scoring the team's final five points and adding a key rebound and steal in the final seconds keeping TCNJ's season alive.

Scranton finished its successful season with a record of 26-5.

The game was tight from the start with a couple of ties in the opening minutes, before the Lions put together a modest 9-3 run to take a 20-14 advantage. Junior Alexandra Gregorek (Mahwah, NJ/Academy of Holy Angels) accounted for six of those points, all coming in the paint, while senior Alyssa Michella (Washington Twp., NJ/Immaculate Heart Academy) knocking down a 3-pointer.

TCNJ continued its push extending the lead to 25-16 scoring both on the inside and from the perimeter. This time it was senior Hillary Klimowicz (Scotch Plains, NJ/Scotch Plains-Fanwood) from down low and senior Nicole Diaz (Egg Harbor Township, NJ/Egg Harbor Township) from behind the 3-point arc.

The Lions maintained the lead into the break as sophomore Keri Washington (Ewing, NJ/Pennington Prep) scored in the final seconds sending TCNJ into the half with 29-23 advantage.

The Royals quickly erased that margin starting the new half with a 7-0 run taking a 30-29 lead with Megan Kopecki (Millington, NJ/Watchung Hill Regional) sparking that run with a 3-pointer. The teams then remained close setting up TCNJ's final rally to secure its first trip to the national semifinals.

Klimowicz led the Lions with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Gregorek and sophomore Kelsey Kutch (Hillsborough, NJ/Hillsborough) each finished with.

Kopecki led all players with 19 points.