Montclair, NJ – Senior forward Melissa Tobie (Elizabeth, NJ / Roselle Catholic) posted a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds while senior guard Janitza Aquino (Kearny, NJ / Kearny) added 13 points as No. 7/8 and top-seeded Montclair State made it a three-peat as the Red Hawks captured the New Jersey Athletic Conference championship with a 59-42 win over Stockton University on Saturday evening.
The Red Hawks (26-1) earned the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament as it extended its winning streak to 12 games while capturing its fourth title overall. MSU also won the NJAC crown in 1995. Montclair, which will make its third consecutive Division III Tournament appearance, will learn its NCAA fate on Monday, March 2 at 2:30 pm when the entire bracket is announced on NCAA.com.
Montclair State became the first NJAC team to win three straight conference title since Rowan captured four in a row from 1996-1999.
NJAC Rookie of the Year Sasha Williams (Cherry Hill, NJ / Cherry Hill West) finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Ospreys (21-6), who will now wait to see if it will be among the at-large teams selected. Stockton, which was held to a season-low for points, lost for just the second time in 11 games with both losses coming against MSU in the last 10 days.
The teams split their two previous meetings this season by a combined four points however the Red Hawks made sure it wasn't that close with a solid defensive first half holding the Ospreys to just 30 percent shooting and 18 points. Tobie, the NJAC Player of the Year, scored 11 points in the opening period with Aquino netting 10.
Tied early on, Montclair scored six straight points to take the lead. Aquino, Tobie and Taylor Harmon (Saddle Brook, NJ/ Saddle Brook) each had baskets staking MSU to a 14-8 lead with 12:14 to go in the opening period. Two free throws from the Ospreys got the score within 16-12 but Montclair responded with a 17-3 run including 12 in a row. Tobie scored the first five and a three by Aquino made the score 26-15 with 5:26 left.
Katie Sire (Hazlet, NJ / Raritan) finished off a fast break for the Red Hawks and a layup from Kate Tobie (Elizabeth, NJ / Roselle Catholic) gave MSU a 17-point bulge before Melissa Tobie's free throw gave Montclair a 33-15 with 54 seconds to play.
Montclair, which led 33-18 at the break, shot 14-of-29 from the field and turned 13 Stockton turnovers in to 12 points.
The Red Hawks maintained their advantage before the Ospreys made a six-point run to get within 44-34 on Sara Farrell's (Marlton, NJ / Cherokee) jumper with 6:59 left. Sage Bennett (Sicklerville, NJ / Winslow) stopped the run with a free throw before Melissa Tobie delivered a staggering blow with a three-pointer from the right corner with 6:14 to play restoring the lead to 48-34.
Tobie added four assists, three blocks and four steals as she moved into second-place on the all-time MSU scoring list. Tobie vaulted past Tracey Brown (1,924 points from 1979-1983) and now has 1,936 for her career. Aquino also etched her name into the record books as her three three-pointer gave her 162 for her career breaking the mark of 161 set by Jaime Ericson from 2008-2012. Aquino currently has 67 three this season, two shy of her own single-season record set last year.
Sire added nine points, five rebounds and three steals while Bennett posted seven points along with four rebounds. MSU committed just nine turnovers in the game and scored 20 points off Stockton's 22 miscues.