Photo Courtesy of Tony Maddox

Gigi Gamble leads Kean to dominating victory over Montclair State

The playoffs are rapidly approaching for Kean and the intensity continues to increase for the Cougars. Cougars star guard Gigi Gamble, who's been a terror for opposing defenses all season, put on a show for her home crowd Saturday evening, 92-60. From the start of the game, it was clear the Cougars came into the game focused and established nearly a double-digit lead within the first opening minutes of the game. Gamble began to establish rhythm early and never let up.

"It was Senior Day, I came into this game with the mindset that I'm doing for my seniors," Gamble explains in the post-game conference. "I love the growth of this team, before the start of the season, we had some ups and downs. However, we always had the potential and now we're all realizing that, therefore we're all on the same page."

The Cougars began to reign down an onslaught of threes and transition points as the game progressed. Gamble concluded the game with 32 points, six assists, and four steals in just 34 minutes. While Gamble performed quite well, she was complimented by star senior point guard Brittany Graff, who recorded a double-double (12 points and 11 assists). Shahd Badeer added to Kean's attack on the defensive side of the ball, picking up four blocks in addition to 13 points. Naturally, this team appears well-rounded, experienced, and very hard to prepare for moving forward. 

"This team [Cougars] is tremendous in transition, they have Graff [Brittany] playing unbelievable as a senior and then they have the freshman, Gigi Gamble, playing like a fifth-year senior she so good," Montclair State head coach Karin Harvey emphasizes after the game. "I think they have a nice, well-rounded team; I'm happy for Mandy [King]. Previously, she graduated a big group, so to be able to be back in this spot after losing key players like Shannon McCoy is all credit to her and I wish them the best of luck in the playoffs."

Culture and Its Impact of the Kean's Chemistry

Throughout the game, it was evident that these women love playing for one another and with each other. The energy on the court poured through the stadium as they screamed in support when any of their teammates made a shot or key play. This energy was so contagious that it relayed over into their play style. The Cougars recorded 27 assists for the game and shot over 50% from the field. One can admit that there's a hint of 'Showtime Lakers' with their playstyle that allows the fans to enjoy as much as the players and coaches. 

"I think the trust that lies between the team is what makes the culture, just knowing I trust her and she trusts me makes us more confident," Graff emphasizes. "I'm always happy if one of my teammates scores just as much as myself, possibly even more. It starts with me and anyway I can get us a win I'm going to do it, whether that be through scoring or facilitating."

This is pivotal heading into the playoffs for the Cougars. Being in one accord will help elevate them and ultimately help them succeed. Throughout the game, Cougars head coach Mandy King was overflowing with joy from her girls and the overall atmosphere of Senior Night. After the game, she expressed how grateful and happy this team is and how far they've come. Heading into the playoffs, trusting in one another will carry on both ends of the court, making the Cougars even more of a threat than they currently are. 

"This has been one of my favorite seasons I've ever had, and we graduated seven seniors just a year ago," King states. "Many were considering this a rebuilding year, however walks in this incredible freshman combined with great leadership. They've worked hard at building trust with one another while accepting one another for who they are."

"There's an unselfishness to our program that they don't care about who gets the credit, they just like creating a 'Showtime' atmosphere," King continues. "Honestly, our best possessions are when all five guys touch the basketball and the ball moves inside and out. We've talked about as the season moves along the pressure only increases, and we're built for this."

What's Next for Kean?

The Kean Cougars are set to play the Rowan Owls in the first round of the NJAC Tournament at home on Saturday afternoon.