By Malcolm Luck
The phrase “third time’s a charm” proved to be true for the University of Rutgers-Newark women’s basketball team. Despite falling to the Lions twice earlier in the regular season, Rutgers-Newark bested the College in the second round of the New Jersey Athletic Conference tournament by a final score of 52-45. Both teams traded blows early, starting with a layup from Rutgers-Newark less than 30 seconds in the game to open scoring. On the next possession, junior forward Jen Byrne drained a three-pointer to give the Lions an early lead.
Two possessions later, a bucket in the paint from sophomore forward Shannon Devitt put the Lions up by three; however Rutgers-Newark refused to go away. With 1:35 remaining in the first quarter, the score was knotted at nine. A timely steal and fastbreak score from Rutgers-Newark freshman guard/forward Dorian Capurso put her team up by two, but she gave the points back after committing a late foul on Lions’ senior guard Sam Famulare. Famulare sank two free throws to tie the game up at 11 at the first quarter’s buzzer. The second and third quarters proved to be the downfall for the Lions, as they were outscored 31-16 in the middle portion of the game.
The College found itself with a 16-15 lead after Byrne scored down low with 4:51 remaining in the half until a three-pointer from Rutgers-Newark junior guard/forward Hannah Ashby sparked a late run. Ultimately, Rutgers-Newark outscored the Lions 9-2 in the final 4 minutes of the quarter, sending the players into the locker room with a comfortable nine-point lead.
Despite the intermission, the Lions had no offensive answer in the beginning of the second half. A short-lived bucket off the fastbreak from Devitt put the College behind by seven, but Rutgers-Newark showed no mercy, as the lack of scoring for the Lions kept them out of contention. Another late 13-5 run for Rutgers-Newark put the proverbial nail in the coffin for the Lions, burying them by 15 with just one quarter remaining. The Lions did not go down without a fight, though. A three-pointer from senior guard Nicole Shatsky inspired hope. A few minutes later, another bucket in the paint from Devitt closed the gap to 10 points.
With 27 seconds left in the game, the College fought back to a slim four-point deficit, but clutch free throws from Rutgers-Newark put the game on ice. In the end, a poor offensive outing proved to be the Lions’ downfall, withholding them from back-to-back NJAC Championship appearances.
In the end, the Lions’ season was no disappointment. A late seven-game winning streak propelled them to the top of conference standings. The women’s basketball team ultimately finished with a 17-9 overall record and a 15-3 conference record, which was tied for its best conference record since the 2008-2009 season.