Undefeated Montclair falls to Christopher Newport

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In the regular season, Montclair State University utilized a full-court press defensive scheme to great success, and it worked to be only other undefeated school in Division III along with DePauw.

The Red Hawks came in ranked No. 1 in scoring margin (+28.6), and No. 1 in steals per game (17.8).

But Christopher Newport University was prepared for the defensive plot, and came out ahead Friday evening in the Neal Fieldhouse. The Captains used a 12-2 run in the second half after being tied at 33 at the break. Montclair (29-1) tallied 13 steals, and forced 22 turnovers from Christopher Newport (29-2), but it wasn't enough to continue its record-breaking season.

"I'm not disappointed at all," Red Hawks senior forward Taylor Jeffers said. "We did everything we needed to do, our coaches told us in the locker room that we shouldn't hang our heads after this. I can't complain about the season we had.

"No one thought in the beginning we'd be able to go 29-0 and make it to the Sweet 16. We surpassed our goals."

From the outset both teams employed a full court press that favored Montclair. After three minutes, the Red Hawks scored on back-to-back buckets when they stole away an in-bound pass and converted a layup.

"That's our style. That's our signature - that press," Montclair head coach Karin Harvey said. "We've pressed all year long, and I think it's intimidating and sometimes we can score some transition points off of it."

Christopher Newport turned the ball over 16 times in the first half to the Red Hawks 11. Both teams shot better than 45 percent from the field, and Kelly Halverson - the Captains only senior on the roster - led all scorers with 12 points. For Montclair, Jeffers led the way with 11 points on 5-7 shooting from the field.

At the half the score was knotted at 33, and the lead changed hands nine times and was tied on three occasions.

"Part of it was the nerves and we were not used to seeing people that big and that athletic," Christopher Newport head coach Bill Broderick said. "Some of those turnovers we created by ourselves. Once we relaxed and started playing our game that really helped us out."

During the decisive 12-2 run in the second half, Broderick - a first-year head coach for the Captains - said his team switched to a zone defense that stifled briefly the offense of the Red Hawks.

"I think for us switching to the trapping zone made the difference," he said. "I hadn't seen a lot of people zone them.

"When we were doing that we started getting some easy buckets."

Tia Perry led the way for the Captains with 24 points, and four others tallied point totals in double figures.

Christopher Newport shot 53.8 percent from the field while Montclair shot 38.1. The Red Hawks did hold the edge in rebounding, 37-31. The Captains tallied just six turnovers in the second after 16 in the first.

"I thought Christopher Newport did a good job today," Harvey said. "They did everything they had to do to beat us. I'm proud of the effort today, even though it is very disappointing to see your season end. This team has done everything I've asked of them."

The Captains will face DePauw University (31-0) on Saturday in the Neal Fieldhouse at 7 p.m. in the NCAA Division III round of eight.