No. 8 Montclair St. Pushes Past Kean into NJAC Championship Game, 76-62

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Montclair, NJ – The Montclair State women's basketball team got outstanding performances from the NJAC's Player of the Year Melissa Tobie (Elizabeth, NJ, Roselle Catholic) and Defensive Player of the Year Nicosia Henry (Bolingbrook, IL, Bolingbrook) as the top-seeded Red Hawks knocked off fourth-seeded Kean University, 76-62 in the NJAC Tournament semifinals on Tuesday evening.

Tobie scored 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds while Henry added a double-double of her own with 19 points, 14 rebounds and seven steals helping MSU (24-2) to its second straight conference title game and fifth overall. Montclair State, ranked in the Top 10 by both and USA Today Division III Poll, will host local rival William Paterson on Friday, February 28 at 7:00 pm.

It will be the second consecutive year the Montclair and the third-seeded Pioneers, who defeated second-seeded TCNJ 81-70 in the other semifinal, will square off to decide the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament which begins next week. Last year, Montclair State posted a 75-54 win for its first NJAC title in 18 years.

Senior center Simone Smith (Colonia, NJ / Colonia) had 16 points and eight rebounds for the Cougars, who fell to 15-12. Kean will be among the teams in consideration for a berth in the ECAC Tournament which also begins next week. Selections for the ECAC will be announced on Monday, March 3.

Montclair State topped the Cougars for the second time in 10 days and earned its first NJAC Tournament win over Kean after seven previous attempts. However it was a hot-shooting Kean team that used an 11-1 run early in the first half to take a 16-7 lead on Jazmine Davis' (Tinton Falls, NJ / Monmouth Regional) layup. The Cougars connected on 11 of their first 15 shots in the game.

MSU cut that lead back to 20-17 five minutes later but consecutive three-pointers by Jaquetta Owens (Bloomfield, NJ / Bloomfield Tech) and Aysha Harris (Freeport, NY / Freeport) along with a layup by Smith with 9:29 to go gave Kean a 28-17 advantage.

The Red Hawks countered with a 23-5 run that closed out the first half for a seven-point lead at the break. Tobie scored eight of her 12 first-half points in the run, including back-to-back three pointers that would give Montclair State the lead for good. Henry and Smith traded the final baskets of the period as MSU led 40-33.

In the second half, a Davis layup brought Kean within 42-36 but layups by Tobie and Sarah Kluth (Lynbrook, NY, St. Mary's) along with two free throws by Henry boosted the lead back to 49-38 with 15:36 left. AnnaRose Pierre (East Orange, NJ / Newark Tech) scored to bring the lead back under double digits before Kayla Ceballos (Brooklyn, NY, Christ the King), who finished with 13 points off the bench, drained a three from the top of the key to make the score 52-40.

Kean continued to battle and pulled within 61-53 with 6:20 left as Davis scored on a layup. But Ceballos came up big again with a three-pointer, restoring the lead back to 11 and the Cougars got no closer the rest of the way.

Janitza Aquino (Kearny, NJ, Kearny) had 11 points as the Red Hawks got three assists from Henry and three assists, three blocks and two steals by Tobie. Montclair also outrebounded Kean 41-33, including 20 offensive rebounds and the Red Hawks took advantage at the foul line hitting on 24-of-28. Tobie was 9-of-10 with Henry making all seven of her chances.

Davis finished with 14 points and seven rebounds for the Cougars which got 15 points, four rebounds, four assists and six steals from Owens.