By Sean McChesney, Sport Director
It was during the opening monologue of the New Jersey Athletic Conference Championship game broadcast on WMSC on Friday, February 26 where play by play announcer Craig Gorbunoff called the awaited matchup between Montclair State and Rowan University “The war at Panzer.” What the fans in the Panzer Athletic Center and the WMSC broadcast team did not realize was, Gorbunoff was going to be right. At the end of it all, the Red Hawks found themselves repeating history for the 4th straight year as they knocked off the Profs to win the 2015-2016 NJAC Championship.
The Panzer Athletic Center was nothing short of electric on Friday night as Red Hawk and Profs fans came together to pack Panzer in what was the biggest crowd all season long. In the NJAC semi final matchup against William Paterson University, the Red Hawks came out slow and went down 11-0 in the first three minutes, and had to fight their way back to get the win. They would not let history repeat itself. The Red Hawks went down 2-0 in the first minute and after that, the Red Hawks got right to work and ended the first quarter of action with a 23-11 lead. The Red Hawks did not lead the semi final against William Paterson by more than 10 one time and already in the NJAC Championship the Red Hawks were looking to write that wrong and make a statement.
The second quarter of action was more of the same, the Profs were able to gather up some momentum with the help of some great full court press and key shots from behind the arc and in the paint, but the Red Hawks went into the locker room at halftime with a 35-26 lead.
As good as the Red Hawks first half was, they were starting to loose momentum. Top players like Katie Sire, Rachael Krauss, and Sage Bennett were already finding themselves in foul trouble, the Red hawks were only shooting 43.8% from the field, and the Profs outscored the Red Hawks in the 2nd quarter 15-12. Whether anybody knew it or not, the Profs were just minutes away from turning the tables on the Red Hawks.
The third quarter had begun and from the first minute to the last, Rowan controlled the pace of the game. The Profs outscored the Red Hawks 21-13 in the third quarter, Sire sat for the majority of the third quarter after committing her third foul with just 7 minutes to go in the quarter. As the minutes started to tick away, the Profs were slowing storming back when finally with just 2 minutes to go in the quarter, Rowan was able to tie the game at 45 a piece after a pair of free throws by Kate Matthews and Summer Crilley, the third quarter ended with the Red Hawks up 48-47.
From the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Profs controlled the momentum of the game. Only down by one with 10 minutes to go, the Rowan fans who traveled two and a half hours from Glassboro can smell their first NJAC championship since 1998-1999. However, if there is one thing that Red Hawks head coach Karin Harvey is known for, it is finding news way to win.
The last ten minutes of Rowan vs Montclair State was nothing short of a classic. Kaitlin Schullstorm got it started for the Profs right away in the first minute with a three pointer to give the Profs their first lead since the opening minute of the game as they went up 50-48. MSU quickly responded back to tie it at 50 a piece with a layup by Sire. The Red Hawks and the Profs would trade punches and go back and fourth for eight minutes. Then with two minutes to go, Schullstorm hits a layup after a great pass by Anyssa Sanchez that gives the Profs a 62-60 lead. The two teams then traded fouls and missed shots where finally with 53 seconds to go, the Profs called a timeout.
The Red Hawks found themselves in trouble, at this point in the game Katie Tobie recorded 4 personal fouls, Sire had recorded three personal fouls, and Bennett who previously fouled out in the semi final against William Paterson had 3 personal fouls. With the Profs and their fans on the verge of victory, the Red Hawks knew it was time to show the Profs just why they have won three straight NJAC conferences up to this point.
Harvey sent her team out on the court with 53 seconds to go with one last chance to make history. Cruelly missed a layup for Rowan with 39 seconds left which was rebounded by Sire of MSU, then it was passed to Bennett, then the ball was passed to Tobie, and then Tobie passed it to Krauss who was wide open in the left wing behind the three point line. Two years ago in the NJAC Championship game against William Paterson, former Red Hawk Janitza Aquino found herself in that same exact spot as she recorded a game winning three pointer with 7 seconds on the clock. Lightning was about to strike twice at the Panzer Athletic Center.
Krauss was wide open in the left wing behind the arc and the second she had possession, the Red Hawk fans stood as one as the ball went into the air and right into the net. The three pointer was good, the Red Hawk fans went insane, and the Red Hawks were up by one as they took a 63-62 lead with 29 seconds on the clock as Harvey quickly called a timeout.
The Red Hawks never looked back, the Profs could not get a shot in the net in the final two minutes of play, the Red Hawks would add five more points to their total with the help of Rowan fouls, and when the clock hit zero and the final buzzer sounded, the Panzer Athletic Center erupted as the Red Hawks won the 2015-2016 NJAC championship with the final score being 68-62. The Red Hawks have become the first team since the 1998-1999 Rowan Profs to win four straight NJAC Championships. The Red Hawks will play in round one of the NCAA Division III women’s basketball tournament on Friday, March 4. After the selection show on Monday, March 1, the Red Hawks will know where they will end up on Friday. “The war at Panzer” was nothing short of that, and in the end, it was the Red Hawks that found themselves as the last ones standing on top of the women’s basketball New Jersey Athletic Conference for the fourth straight season.