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Women’s basketball arrives in NJAC quarters

EWING, NJ – A huge lift from the bench Kaitlyn Deiter and company was just what the TCNJ women’s basketball team needed to shake off a slow start and keep its season alive with an 85-54 victory over Rutgers-Newark in the first round of the NJAC tournament on Saturday.

Deiter notched a career-high 10 points and added eight rebounds, five assists and three blocks to help the Lions advance to a quarterfinal against top-seeded Kean on Tuesday night. Julia Setaro scored 10 of his 14 points in the third and Sidney Blum added 13 points and six rebounds for TCNJ, who shot 55.3 percent (26 of 47) after the first period and committed just seven turnovers in the first three frames.

Thirteen different players entered the Lions roster, and TCNJ connected on 11 3-pointers for the afternoon.

TCNJ (12-12) ended up beating the Scarlet Raiders (4-19) easily for the third time this season. Unlike the first two meetings, including a 62-31 rout on Wednesday night, this one wasn’t always a rocking chair trick. The Lions only led in the second quarter, but thanks to Deiter and his reserve teammates, the hosts managed to take control late in the period before Julia Setaro and the starting cavalry arrived to put away the game in the third.

Unlike Wednesday night, the Lions hung out in this one. In fact, Rutgers-Camden was ahead or tied for the entire first quarter, moving ahead until six (13-7) late in the first quarter.

In a bit of funk, it was Deiter who came to put the Lions back on track. She scored on a couple of identical post moves, using a drop-step before mounting hard with a left hand, the second bringing TCNJ within two at the end of the period. Deiter had five points, two rebounds and a block in seven minutes in the first quarter.

The home side weren’t followed once the second stanza began, getting ahead for the first time on Blum’s right wing 3-pointer on his first possession. Izzy Leazier scored on a one-shot basis and, after a Newark basket, Setaro swept a pull-up from the foul line to make it 18-15 and force a timeout.

The Scarlet Raiders overturned a five-point deficit and found themselves in two more draws, but Arianna McCleod took control from there with seven points in a rapid-fire streak. She scored on a wide-open layup after an offensive rebound and a flat from Deiter, then put TCNJ on top to stay at 25-22 with a 3-point corner on the next trip.

One discount by Emily Toya nice pass from Deiter to a cutting McCleod, and a trey in the right corner from Nina Branchizio all followed in quick succession, and suddenly the Lions had opened up a double-digit margin at 32-22 with 1:59 left in the first half.

The 10-0 push took less than two minutes of playing time and left Newark chasing the rest of the way, but it wasn’t quite over. Deiter extended it with a putback plus the foul, making it 35-22 with conventional three-point play. Rutgers-Newark stopped the bleeding with a field goal just before intermission, but the damage was done.

Blum put an exclamation point on a great third quarter streak, smashing a Scarlet Raider shot and grabbing the rebound to spark a transition opportunity that ended in a 3-pointer from Setaro. After Leazier knocked down a straight triple, the Lions had taken a 46-29 lead with 5:53 on the clock.

The Lions continued to mobilize their entire workforce, with Nikki Alexatos connection on a front shaft Isabelle Cafaro scored on an inside feed from Deiter after a scintillating tic-tac-toe passing streak. Blum’s transition triple extended the lead to 56-31 with 2:28 left in the third.

The lead grew to 31 points in the fourth quarter, during which Jordan Herwood drained a 3-pointer, Alexis Voorhees buried a deep two, and Beth Grosman scored on a nice pick-and-roll with Alexatos.

Branchizio, Cafaro and McCleod each scored seven points for the Lions. Alexatos had six to go with four rebounds and three assists, while Voorhees and Leazier added five each, with the latter adding four assists.

The next step is a date with the top-ranked Cougars. TCNJ kept things close in the teams’ only regular season meeting, dropping a 58-49 decision to Union.