UNION, N.J. (2/21/12) – Junior guard Naimah Clemons and Brittanie Payne combined for 40 points and 18 rebounds to lead the Kean University women's basketball team to a 76-68 win over Montclair State University in the New Jersey Athletic Conference Semifinals on Tuesday evening.
With the win, the #23/24 Cougars (22-4) advance to face William Paterson University for the NJAC title at home on Friday, February 24, at 7 p.m.
Freshman forward Melissa Tobie led the Red Hawks (19-8) with a game-high 23 points and seven rebounds.
Clemons finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while Payne (pictured left) added 18 points and eight rebounds for Kean.
In the first half, the Cougars used a 14-4 run to open up a nine-point lead at 33-24 with 4:15 remaining in the half, as Payne capped the run with a layup. Tobie slowed the Cougars with a three-point play and a layup by junior forward Taylor Jeffers pulled the Red Hawks to within four, before the Cougars took the 37-31 lead at the break.
Payne hit 6-of-8 shots in the first half for 12 points, while Clemons dropped in 10 points. Tobie led the Red Hawks with 12 points.
Kean extended the lead to double-digits to open the second half, as Clemons knocked down a three-pointer and junior Simone Smith grabbed an offensive board and made the putback for the 42-31 lead. Tobie then sparked an 11-0 run with a layup and sophomore guard Theresa Towns scored seven of the team's next nine points, tying the game at 42-42 with a layup with 16:21 remaining.
A three-pointer by Kean junior guard Erika Jones halted the run and Jones would later give the Cougars a 50-44 lead with 14:40 remaining with another basket from beyond the arc. A 6-0 run by Montclair State would give the Red Hawks their first lead of the second half at 54-53 and the two teams exchanged the lead three times over the next minute, before Clemons sparked a 7-0 run for the Cougars who extended the lead to 62-56 with 7:38 left in the game.
Montclair State answered right back with a 7-0 run, regaining the lead at 63-62 on a pair of free throws by senior guard Jaime Ericson and the lead would once again change hands three times over the next minute before a three-point play by senior forward Danielle McFadden gave Kean the lead for good at 67-65 with 3:18 remaining.
Kean followed with six straight free throws and a layup by Clemons to extend the lead back to double-digits in the final minute en-route to the eight-point victory.
Jones (pictured right) finished with 14 points and eight rebounds for the Cougars, while McFadden added seven points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and three steals.
Towns scored 15 points for Montclair State, while Jeffers added 13 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
Kean hosts William Paterson for the NJAC title for the second time in the last three seasons. In the 2010 championship game, Kean defeated the Pioneers, 70-62, to capture the program's 13th NJAC title.