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UNION, N.J. (2/27/10) – The Kean University women’s basketball team captured the program’s 13th New Jersey Athletic Conference Championship, defeating #8 William Paterson University, 70-62, at Harwood Arena on Saturday evening.
The #2 Cougars (26-1) won their school-record 26th straight game and earned the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III women’s basketball tournament. Sophomore guard Brittany Powell (Tinton Falls, N.J.) came off the bench to score 16 points, while junior forward Tiffany Patrick (Piscataway, N.J.) had a double-double with 16 points and 15 rebounds for the Cougars, who have won three of the last four NJAC titles.
William Paterson (25-2) suffers just their second loss of the season, both at the hands of the Cougars, despite 16 points from senior guard Julie Haledjian (Montvale, N.J.). It is also the second time in the last four seasons Kean has defeated the Pioneers in the NJAC title game, with the Cougars winning the first of their back-to-back championships in 2006-07.
In the opening half, the Pioneers scored the first four points of the game and took a 9-4 lead less than three minutes into the contest. The Cougars trimmed the lead to 9-8 and would take a 13-11 lead on a three-pointer by freshman Naimah Clemons (Newark, N.J.) with 11:42 to go in the half. The lead would seesaw back and forth with eight more lead changes and four ties, before Patrick scored the final four points of the half to give Kean a 36-33 lead at the break.
Patrick, the NJAC Defensive Player of the Year, had nine points, six rebounds and two blocks in the opening half, while Powell knocked down three-of-four from beyond the arc for nine points off the bench.
The Cougars would use a 15-4 run, capped by nine straight points, to take a 55-44 lead with 8:17 remaining and would again lead by 11 at 64-53 on a three-pointer by Powell with 5:08 to go. William Paterson answered with five straight points, pulling to within six points on a lay-up by Haledjian with just under three minutes remaining, and would get as close as four points at 66-62 just 65 seconds left, however the Cougars would hit 4-of-6 free throws in the final 32 seconds to seal the championship win and advance to the NCAA tournament for the 14th time in program history.
Junior forward Angelica Bermudez (Jersey City, N.J.) hit 6-of-8 shots from the floor and had 14 points and six rebounds off the bench for Kean, while Clemons, who won NJAC Rookie of the Year earlier in the week, finished with 14 points. Kean senior guard Melissa Beyruti (Union City, N.J.), the NJAC Player of the Year and the NCAA all-time leader in three-point field goals made, was held scoreless before leaving the game with under 10 minutes to go with an injury.
For William Paterson, sophomore guard BriAnna Lucas (Hamilton, N.J.) hit 11-of-14 from the foul line, but just 1-of-12 from the field to finish with 13 points, while junior forward Absatu Mustapha (Somerset, N.J.) came off the bench to score 10 points. Senior guard Erin Cook (Princeton, N.J.) chipped in with 14 points and eight rebounds.
The Cougars await the announcement of the NCAA tournament field on Monday, March 1, with games starting on Friday, March 5th.