Stockton University (22-4) faced off against The College of New Jersey (10-14) in the opening round of the New Jersey Athletic Conference tournament on Tuesday night. While the Ospreys ended the first half with the 15-point lead, TCNJ rallied back in the second half but ultimately fell short with Stockton taking the win 71-67 and advancing to the NJAC Semifinals.
This was Stockton’s sixth straight win and Junior Kadian Dawkins led the way with 18 points. Dawkins also recorded a career-high in rebounds with nine and had five assists all while playing almost the entire game.
TCNJ won the opening tip but Stockton junior DJ Campbell was able to poke the ball free and bring it up the other end. Campbell’s first shot would not fall and TCNJ’s first shot also missed. About two minutes into the game we saw the first made shot as TCNJ junior Jim Clemente scored it from inside the paint to give the Lions a 2-0 lead. But Stockton wouldn’t have to wait too much longer for a bucket as on the next possession, Campbell hit a three to get the Ospreys on the board.
About five minutes into the half, Stockton junior Rynell Lawrence definitely got the fans packed inside of Big Blue out of their seats as after hitting a three to give Stockton a 10-7 lead, Lawrence kept up that energy on the defense side of the ball and blocked a Clemente layup. This was just the start of a few great defensive plays from the Ospreys and on the next possession, Campbell was able to steal it from TCNJ’s Anthony Dicaro and lay it off the glass to give Stockton a five-point lead.
With ten minutes left in the half, Stockton went on a 9-0 run after a three from Dawkins and two consecutive threes from Lawrence to give Stockton an 11-point lead. But on the next possession, TCNJ was able to get back on the board courtesy of a three from Naysean Burch.
After Jordan Williams hit a three to give Stockton a 12-point lead, the Ospreys put their foot down for the rest of the half by only giving up six points in the last nine minutes and headed into the locker room with a 40-25 lead. Lawrence and Campbell were the leading scorers for the Ospreys with 11 points each. TCNJ’s Danny Bodine was the leading scorer for the Lions with 11 points. Stockton shot 15-33 (45.45%) from the field and 8-19 (42.11) from beyond the arc while TCNJ shot 10-31 (32.26%) from the field and 3-16 (18.75%) from deep.
When the second half got underway, TCNJ was able to get on the board first after a Bodine three. Dawkins was able to answer that TCNJ three-pointer with one of his own to give Stockton their first basket of the half. When the Ospreys got the ball back, senior Alan Glover scored inside while also drawing a foul, giving him a chance at a three-point play. Glover missed the free throw and TCNJ wasn’t able to connect on a shot at the other end after getting the rebound.
After Dawkins knocked down a three about seven minutes into the half, Stockton found themselves leading 53-33. But this is when TCNJ tried to make a comeback as they scored five quick points thanks to a lay in from Bodine and a three from Jacob Hopping. At this point in the game, it had been nearly three minutes since Stockton last scored but Lawrence changed that after drawing a foul and sinking one of two free throws.
With 8:05 remaining, Lawrence was once again able to make a great defensive play by recording his second block of the night after sending back a layup attempt by Matthew Okorie.
As the clock continued to tick, TCNJ was trying to eat into Stockton’s lead and eventually made it a single-digit game with 5:42 remaining after Bodine and Burch scored respectively. With 4:22 left, Campbell was fouled and hit both free throws to give Stockton a comfortable 15-point lead.
But the lead wouldn’t be double digits for long as Jason Larranaga knocked down a three to bring the deficit to 12. But Larranaga’s impact wouldn’t stop there as when TCNJ got the ball back again, Larranaga took it inside and connected on a layup. Larranaga was fouled on the play and sank the free throw to bring the game back within nine.
On the next possession, Burch fouled Campbell and Campbell was able to hit one of the free throws. On the other end, Bodine was able to draw a foul on Campbell and sink both free throws to make it an eight-point game. As Stockton tried to inbound the ball with 2:25 left, TCNJ was pressuring on the defensive end causing head coach Scott Bittner to call a timeout. After the timeout, TCNJ continued to play great defense as Bodine recorded his fifth block of the night after sending back Lawrence’s jumper.
With 1:48 left, Burch connected on a clutch three to bring TCNJ within five. On the other end, Dawkins hit a close-range jumper to bring the lead back to seven. With 56 seconds left in the game, Larranaga drew a foul and sank both free throws to bring it back to five.
Stockton sophomore Jamar Johnson, got a clutch to steal off of DiCaro, and Larranaga was forced to foul Campbell with 37 seconds left. Campbell sank one of the two free throws and after inbounding the ball, Larranaga single-handedly got TCNJ within three after hitting back-to-back threes.
With the score of 70-67 and ten seconds remaining, Campbell was fouled by Larranaga. He stepped up to the line and missed the first shot. If Campbell were to make the second one, it would put the Ospreys up by four and make it almost impossible for TCNJ to come back. Campbell did just that and DiCaro threw up a prayer on the other end. The shot was no good and Stockton hung on to win 71-67.
By virtue of this win, the Ospreys will face off against #4 seeded Montclair State University in the NJAC Semifinals on Thursday night in Big Blue.