July 20, 2019 | 78° F

Rutgers women’s basketball team deserves praise for WNIT championship

Letter to Editor

As a Rutgers alum, I want to congratulate Coach C. Vivian Stringer and the Rutgers women’s basketball team on their WNIT national championship, especially the determined, gritty way they sidestepped a furious University of Texas-El Paso rally to take the lead back and win. The Scarlet Knights triumphed despite a grueling eight-day road trip of three straight road games, jet lag, no time to adjust to the 3,500-foot elevation at UTEP and a screaming arena of 12,000 UTEP fans (who, by the way, proved El Paso a great city for basketball).

I’ve followed Rutgers women’s basketball for a good many years, and I have to say that Tyler Scaife’s end-to-end bucket to win is one of the top three moments I know about in Rutgers women’s basketball. The other two are Tasha Pointer and Tammy Sutton-Brown leading Rutgers to beat #1 and undefeated Notre Dame back in the 2001 regular season and Epiphanny Prince going end-to-end to beat Duke in the final minute in the 2007 Sweet Sixteen. Tyler Scaife is officially a Rutgers immortal along with the rest of the national champion team and the coaches.

I got to sit behind the Rutgers bench at the Louis Brown Athletic Center for the first game of the tourney, and I was impressed at how level they all are. There was no panic, no alarm when they fell behind to Delaware, just resolve. In my women’s basketball blog, I called this “Rutgers’ Steely Eyes.” We’ll see this resolve next year in the NCAA Final Four (you read it here first).

All the players had great moments during the tough, six-game run to national glory. Kahleah Copper deserved the tournament MVP. Essy Davis terrorized opponents with lightning strikes so fast I’ve dubbed her “The Cobra.” Betnijah Laney is the heart of the team, its natural leader, and Rachel Hollivay dropped in some key free throws when we needed them. Briyona Canty picked us up whenever she came in (nice double double off the bench!) and the bench players each had key moments.

Finally, I give my deep respect to Coach C. Vivian Stringer. She is truly a national treasure, an inspiration to women and men, athletes and students alike. Her understated style means she isn’t often enough mentioned with the greats of college women’s basketball coaches like Pat Summitt and Geno Auriemma. But that’s the club she belongs to.

 I look forward to the ringing of the Old Queens bell again next year when this team reaches the NCAA Final Four.

Mark Fogarty is a 1977 Newark College of Arts and Sciences alumnus.

By Mark Fogarty

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