NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Monroe Women's Basketball Head Coach Garfield 'Ricky' Johns transformed the team into national contenders in less than two seasons. In his first year, the team had just 10 wins. On Friday, they won the District 3 Championship with a 68-57 victory over Harford and are heading to Nationals. The team's overall record for the year is 21-6.
The leader for the Mustangs was the Region XV Player of the Year, Shania Johnson. The sophomore guard scored a game-high 21 points to go with eight rebounds. Cristina Soriano, another All Region honoree, posted a double-double of 19 points and 14 rebounds. Aneisha Lyons also totaled 12 points and 10 boards.
Two buckets by Soriano and another from Fatoumata Coulibaly put Monroe up 6-2 early in the contest. The Fighting Owls eventually took the lead late in the first quarter, but a free throw from Jada Banks with 0:25 left in the first gave the Mustangs an 11-10 advantage after one.
Harford opened the second quarter with an 8-0 run and led 18-11 with 7:56 left. Trailed 20-13 with 7:23 left, Monroe used a 7-0 run to even the score at 20-20. The points on the scoring spree came from Soriano and Lyons. The Mustangs closed out the quarter with an 8-0 run to lead 32-24 at the break. The points came from Lyons, Soriano, Banks, and Lisana Burnett.
A three-pointer by Johnson halfway through the third pushed the Monroe lead into double digits, making the score 40-30. The Fighting Owls responded with a 17-5 run over the next 3:45 of game time to take a 47-45 lead. Harford led 51-48 after three quarters.
The final 10 minutes of action saw Monroe take the lead with 8:40 left on a trifecta from Lyons. A Soriano jumper on the next possession made the score 56-52. Later, a three-point play from Johnson and another bucket from Soriano made the score 61-52 for the Mustangs. A Johnson jumper with 2:42 left made the score 65-54, Mustangs. The eleven-point lead was the largest of the game. The Mustangs went on to win 68-57.
Monroe's Women's Basketball team will open play at the upcoming NJCAA tournament in Lubbock, Texas on March 20 against a team to be named.