UNION, N.J. — No. 9 William Paterson’s BriAnna Lucas scored all 15 of her points in the second half to lead the Pioneers to a come-from-behind 79-69 win against host No. 23 Kean for the New Jersey Athletic Conference championship on Friday evening.
The Pioneers (25-2) captured the program’s second-consecuitve NJAC title and earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
For the Cougars (22-5), who will likely earn an at-large bid to NCAA playoffs, Naimah Clemons finished with a game-high 18 points and five steals, as all five Kean starters finished in double-figures.
|TOP 25 SCORES|
|No. 4 DePauw 69, Wittenburg 59|
|No. 11 William Paterson 79, No. 24 Kean 69|
|No. 17 Ill. Wesleyan 96, Milikin 74|
|No. 22 La. College 59, Hardin Simmons 53|
In an up-tempo first half, William Paterson took a 12-7 lead following back-to-back layups by April Smith. Kean tied the game following a 3-pointer by Erika Jones and a layup by Clemons, the first of three ties and seven lead changes over the next five minutes of action.
With William Paterson ahead 23-20 with 10:32 remaining in the opening half, the Cougars answered with an 8-2 run, as Brittanie Payne gave Kean the 28-25 lead with a jumper at the 8:41 mark.
Leading 30-29, the Cougars surged ahead to a double-digit advantage at 42-32, with Clemons netting five points and Jones capping the 12-3 run with a 3-pointer with 83 seconds left in the half.
The Pioneers pulled back to within single digits at the break when Lindsay Callander knocked down her third 3-pointer of the half, as Kean went ahead 44-37 at the break.
Clemons and Jones each had 13 points to lead the Cougars in the first half, while Callander led the Pioneers with 11 points on 4-5 shooting, including 3-3 from beyond the arc. April Smith added 10 points and seven rebounds at the half for William Paterson.
The Cougars opened the second half scoring with a layup by Simone Smith to extend the lead to nine points, however William Paterson used a 12-4 run to pull within 50-49 with 14:37 left in the game. Lucas opened the run with a 3-pointer and scored seven points in the spurt and a layup by April Smith pulled the Pioneers to within one point.
Kean would push the lead back out to five points at 56-51 on a layup by Payne and again at 59-54 following a 3-pointer by Clemons with 10:16 remaining. The Pioneers quickly scored five consecutive points, as Lucas knotted the game at 59-59.
A layup by Payne gave the Cougars one last lead at 61-59, before a layup by April Smith tied the game and a Lucas 3-pointer put the Pioneers ahead to stay. A pair of free throws by Lucas extended the run to seven consecutive points for the 66-61 lead with just over five minutes left.
Back-to-back layups by the Cougars cut the deficit to one point at 66-65 with 4:38 remaining, however the Pioneers pulled away down the stretch, as Floriana Borova knocked down all four of her free throws in the final 68 seconds en-route to the double-digit victory.
Payne finished with 14 points and seven assists for the Cougars, while Jones finished with 13 points and nine rebounds. Simone Smith and
Danielle McFadden each finished in double-figures, combining for 22 points and 13 rebounds.
April Smith, the NJAC Player of the Year, posted a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Borova added 15 points, five steals and five assists, while Callander chipped in with 14 points on 5-7 shooting.