Kean Falls Short of Final Four

Kean Falls Short of Final Four

UNION, N.J. (3/13/10) – The Kean University women’s basketball team fell one win shy of advancing to the Final Four, as the University of Rochester held off the Cougars, 68-65, down the stretch in the NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Elite Eight on Saturday evening. 

Junior Brittany Powell (Tinton Falls, N.J.) scored 17 points with five three-pointers and had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds, however her three-pointer from the left corner was long as time expired to advance the Yellow Jackets to the Final Four for the first time since 2003-04.  The Cougars were looking for the school’s first trip to the Final Four since the program’s only appearance in 1986-87

For the Yellow Jackets, junior Melissa Alwardt (Greece, N.Y.) had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds and added three assists in the victory, while freshman forward Amy Woods (Bala Cynwyd, Pa.) came off the bench with 14 points, six rebounds and three assists. 

One night after ending the undefeated season of Christopher Newport University, Rochester (23-6) ends the Cougars’ school-record 29-game winning streak and is the first Division III opponent to defeat the Cougars (29-2) this season.   It is also the second straight season the Yellow Jackets have eliminated the Cougars from the NCAA tournament, as Rochester defeated Kean, 66-59, a year ago in the second round at Rochester.

Kean, who set a school record with the 29 wins, opened the season with a loss at Division I Rutgers University before reeling off the 29 straight wins that included a perfect 13-0 mark in the New Jersey Athletic Conference regular season, a NJAC Championship and the program’s third appearance in the Elite Eight in the last four seasons.

With the game tied at 56-56, Woods gave Rochester the lead for good with a lay-up with less than six minutes to go and ignited a 6-0 run for the Yellow Jackets, as they extended the lead to 62-56 a minute later.   After the two teams traded free throws, Powell had a lay-up to trim the deficit to four points at 63-59 with less than two minutes to go.  Woods answered with a lay-up and after a missed three-pointer by the Cougars, she hit 1-of-2 foul shots to extend the lead out to a game-high seven points with 1:15 left.  

On the ensuing Kean possession, junior forward Tiffany Patrick (Piscataway, N.J.) Caroline Bernal-Silva (Mountain Lakes, N.J.) with 38 seconds left, before Kean rookie Naimah Clemons (Newark, N.J.) drained a three-pointer from the top of the arc to pull the Cougars to within four points at 68-64. 

The Cougars pressured the in-bounds and after forcing the turnover, Clemons was fouled going to the basket and she made the second of the two free throws to make it a one possession game with 22 seconds remaining.   Kean caught a break with a pair of missed free throws by Rochester, and after senior guard Cardiss Jackman (Tobyhanna, Pa.) grabbed the defensive rebound with 10 seconds left, the Cougars got the ball to Powell in the left corner with the shot to tie the game, however the shot was long and time expired as the ball hit the ground.

In the first half, the Cougars took their largest lead of the game with an early 11-6 lead on a jumper by Jackman less than four minutes into the contest.  After nine ties and four lead changes, the Cougars took a five-point lead on a three-pointer by Powell with 1:21 left in the half, before Rochester sophomore Jodie Luther (Gibsonia, Pa.) knocked down a jumper to trim the Kean lead to 36-33 at halftime.

Powell scored 12 points on the strength of four three-pointers in the first half to lead the Cougars, while Luther and Woods each had eight points to lead the Yellow Jackets.  The Cougars held Alwardt in check in the first half, as she had just two free throws after tying a career-high with 25 points the night before against Christopher Newport. 

Rochester scored the first five points of the second half to regain the lead, before a 6-0 run by Kean put the Cougars back up by five points following a three-pointer by Powell and a three-point play by Clemons.   The Cougars extended the lead back to six points as Patrick and junior forward Angelica Bermudez (Jersey City, N.J.) each hit two free throws. 

A 7-0 run by Rochester, highlighted by a three-pointer by Bernal Silva and capped by a lay-up by senior guard Jessica Mastronardi (Kendall Park, N.J.), regained the lead for the Yellow Jackets at 49-48 with 11:02 left in the game. 

The next three baskets all resulted in lead changes, as Kean senior guard Olivia Triano (Keyport, N.J.) knocked down a three, before Alwardt and Clemons each hit three-pointers, the latter of which gave Kean the 54-52 lead with 9:29 left.  The two teams then traded lay-ups, with the Cougars taking their final lead of the game off of a Triano steal and Clemons lay-up for the 56-54 lead with 8:06 remaining.  Alwardt tied the game on a jumper on the Yellow Jackets next possession, and Woods gave Rochester the lead for good with 5:47 left.

Clemons led the Cougars with 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting, while Patrick had her 15th double-double of the season with 11 points and 13 rebounds, while adding two blocks and three steals before fouling out in the final seconds of the game.  Bermudez also had a double-double off the bench, finishing with 10 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks. 

Kean All-American senior guard Melissa Beyruti (Union City, N.J.), who was injured in the conference championship game on February 28, played five minutes in the first half off the bench.  After missing the first and second round of the NCAA tournament, Beyruti played in both sectional games and became the NCAA Division III leader in all-time games played with 128.  The program’s all-time leading scorer, Beyruti closes out her career with 1,974 career points and a NCAA all-division record 397 career three-pointers. 

Jackman, who dished out a career-high seven assists in her final game, finishes her four-year career ranked fourth in school history with 1,351 points.