William Paterson Women’s Basketball Clinches NJAC Tournament Birth

A dominant second half performance ensured a crucial Pioneer victory.


Alex Evans

Alex Evans, Opinions Editor

The William Paterson University Pioneers (14-11, 9-9 NJAC) defeated Kean University (16-9, 13-5 NJAC) by a score of 77-63 on senior night at the Rec Center. The win secured them a spot in the NJAC Tournament and brought and end to William Paterson’s four-game losing streak. The Pioneers were able to upset the Cougars with tough interior play and big performances from multiple players.

Going into the fourth quarter, the Pioneers and Cougars were tied, 56-56, and shots for both teams weren’t falling. However, a few three-second violations on behalf of Kean helped William Paterson go on a 7-0 run early on and extend their lead. They finished the quarter outscoring Kean 21-17, and had as much as a 15-point advantage at times.

Kean led William Paterson 35-34 at the half due to solid contributions from their bench. The Pioneers were led by sophomore guard Julie Rovito who came into the game and had an immediate impact, taking two charges and creating a spark for her team. She finished the game with 12 points, two assists and shot 46 percent from the field.

William Paterson’s dominance in the paint, highlighted by their 40 points compared to Kean’s 24 in that category, were another reason the Pioneers were able to beat the second-best team in the NJAC. The Pioneers also out-rebounded Kean 48-35, with junior forward Tori Woetzel leading both teams with 13 rebounds, while adding 12 points and two assists.

Sophomore guard Ashley Castillo had one of the best games of her career thus far, scoring 19 points and three steals while shooting 35 percent from the field. Castillo made big contributions in her 28 minutes on the floor, and her jump shot was working all night long. She has battled through injuries throughout the course of this season and, when the Pioneers needed her most, she came through.

The game got physical during the second quarter between both sides, especially with what was at stake for the Pioneers. A few questionable calls from the officials didn’t help either, but it was mainly due to Kean’s frustration from a lack of scoring at times. The Pioneers outscored the Cougars 20-15 on second chance points; often missing layups on fast breaks, only to have those misses rebounded by teammates who crashed the boards hard and capitalized on second and third chances.

Freshman guard Gabby Harris as well as others did a great job of containing Kean’s dual scoring threat of Marajiah and Miesha Bacon to a combined 25 points. Marajiah Bacon led the NJAC in points per game with 23, but Harris’ unrelenting pressure on Bacon, with help from her teammates, held her to just 11 points and rendered her a non-factor throughout the game.

Before heading into their first-round NJAC Tournament game against Rowan University, the Pioneers need to figure out how to fix their problems beyond the arc. They were 0-for-8 from three-point range in the first half before Ashley Castillo hit a three with 50 seconds remaining in the half. Their three-point percentage of 15 to Kean’s 40 percent is a ratio that won’t bode well in a game with as much magnitude as this weekend’s will have.

Seniors Janea Clark, Nikole Williams and Ashley Palmieri were honored during a pregame ceremony for their hard work and dedication to the William Paterson women’s basketball program over the past four years.

The Pioneers will face Rowan University (17-8,11-7 NJAC) in Glassboro, New Jersey this Saturday, Feb. 18, with tip-off set for 1 p.m. If they beat Rowan, William Paterson would face the winner of Rutgers-Newark and Stockton on Feb. 22 in the tournament semifinals.