Monroe Mustangs Take Championship
By Gary Axelbank
BRONX, NEW YORK, MARCH 3- Utilizing their deep and talented front line, not to mention their defensive intensity and breakaway speed, the Monroe Mustangs women's basketball team convincingly defeated Dean College at the MAC ,91-78 on Sunday afternoon to take the Region XV Championship. Technically it's their first Region title since the 2008-09 season when they were a DIII team (now they're DII), even though they've won two National and three District titles over that span.
Monroe accomplished their feat this weekend by defeating CCRI in the semifinal game, 83-70 on Saturday and following it up with the finals win over Dean on Sunday. Monroe is now 20-10 on the season.
"We've said all along that we were going to develop and be ready by playoff time," said Coach James Robinson Jr., "and clearly we are. I'm so proud of how hard they've worked to get here and we're going to use all the things we've learned about defense, about our running game, and about sharing the ball the rest of the way. We intend to play and conduct ourselves like champions and you saw what that means today."
Because two teams from the Region qualify for the Districts, Saturday's win was the one that got Monroe to next weekend's Tournament. Sunday's title win then became icing on the cake. Interestingly, in 2011-12, Monroe lost in the Region final, but went on to win the National Championship anyway.
Monroe's formula in both of the Region Tournament games was a trapping defense, superior inside play off the boards offensively in the paint, and an up-tempo style that left both the Knights and Bulldogs a step behind. Their deep bench was also a key.
The Mustangs had 30 more points in the paint than the Knights did. On Sunday, Monroe got an incredible 82 of their 91 points in the lane. Their fast break was also working, netting a total of 28 points in the two games.
Tiara Brown was a force all weekend, averaging 16.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in the two games, including an 18-point, 10-rebound double/double on Sunday. She shot a phenomenal 16/22 in the two games (72.7 percent). Eli Rojas was also key for Monroe averaging eleven points and 11.5 rebounds in the two games. She had 15 rebounds against Dean.
"It's really hard to single anyone out on this team," said Coach Robinson. "You could go up and down our roster and see that everyone contributed and that's the way we like it. The Mustangs are a team."
The District Tournament will be a two-round affair on Saturday, March 8 and Sunday, March 9 at Dean College in Franklin, MA. If Monroe wins two games they will qualify for their eleventh consecutive National Tournament. They'll play Manor College on Saturday at 4:00pm. The finals are set for Sunday at 1:00 p.m.