March 7, 2009

Courtesy TCNJ Athletics

Bethlehem, PA… The College of New Jersey women’s basketball team faced Tufts University in the regional championship game of the 2009 NCAA Division III Championships at Moravian College. Ranked 25th in the latest WBCA National Poll, TCNJ to advance in the NCAA tournament to the round of 16 as they posted a 57-55 victory. TCNJ improves to 25-4, while No. 19 Tufts University finishes the season with a 22-5 mark.

The Lions have now won 22 of their last 23 games and advances to the Sweet Sixteen for the second time in Head Coach Dawn Henderson’s career. The Lions are now 13-11 overall in NCAA tournament play in program history.

TCNJ’s senior captain, center Hillary Klimowicz (Scotch Plains, NJ/Scotch Plains-Fanwood) added a game-high 28 points with eight rebounds and a blocked shot to prevent a winning three-point basket. The Lions’ leading scorer this year, Klimowicz now has 1,336 career points at TCNJ is the program’s No. 2 all-time leading scorer in just three seasons of play with the Lions. Overall on her collegiate career, she boasts 1,611 points and 1,020 rebounds.

TCNJ would open the night with the lead until the Jumbos tied the action at 10-10 with 11:10 left in the first half. Tufts took their first lead of the game at 9:05 with a 15-14 edge, but TCNJ would not go away and took a 25-23 halftime lead into the locker room as junior Nicole Diaz (Egg Harbor Township, NJ/Egg Harbor Township) hit a layup at the buzzer.

Klimowicz would hit her first four straight baskets from the floor and by the half had made 7-of-10 field goals for a game-high 16 points. TCNJ shot 37.0% from the floor in the first stanza as they were 10-for-27 and collected six steals.

Tufts’ junior guard Vanessa Miller (Cincinnati, OH) paced her team with six first half points as the Jumbos shot 8-26 from the floor (30.8%) and committed 10 turnovers.

Tufts would open the second half on a 14-2 run through the first eight minutes and held a 37-27 lead. Sophomore guard Colleen Hart (Needham, MA) would pace the Jumbos during the run with eight of the squad’s points.

TCNJ would not go away and pulled within four points, down 44-40 with seven minutes left to play. Klimowicz hit a jumper with 5:20 left to pull TCNJ within two points, and became the College’s No. 2 all-time leading scorer in the process as she surpassed Shelly Brown (1,327 points, 1992-1996).

Tuft’s center senior Katie Tausanovitch (Lyme, NH/Hanover) fouled out with 3:51 left after scoring five points with two rebounds, sending Klimowicz to the line where she hit two free throws and pulled the Lions within one, point, 48-47.

Klimowicz returned to the line at 3:20 and gave the Lions a 49-48 lead after making two more free throws. Tuft’s junior Julia Baily (Farmington, CT/Miss Porters) would foul out at 2:12 after adding 14 points and 10 rebounds. Her foul sent the Lions’ freshman Hannah Tait (Staten Island, NY/Notre Dame Academy) would make the first of two free throws as TCNJ held a 52-48 lead.

Tait went back to the line at 1:26 and made two more free throws for a 54-50 Lion lead. Rookie Rachel Figaro (Windham, NH) hit a three-point basket with 37.7 left to play and pulled her team within one point, 54-53. Klimowicz made a layup at 24 seconds and gave TCNJ a 56-53 lead before the Lions’ Washington fouled Hart with 6.5 seconds left for the one and one play. She hit made the pair putting TCNJ up 56-55. On the in-bound play, Tait was fouled and went to the line to shoot two with 5.9 left to play and hit the first.

TCNJ advances to the Sweet Sixteen where they will face the University of Rochester in the round next weekend at a host site yet to be determined.