Monthly Archives: February 2014

Piscataway pushes past Bishop Ahr in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament Final

Piscataway's Taylor Nelson (23) fights her way toward the basket during the second half of the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament final on Thursday in Piscataway. Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

Piscataway’s Taylor Nelson (23) fights her way toward the basket during the second half of the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament final on Thursday in Piscataway. Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

PISCATAWAY — Just like she did as a junior in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament final, Kiki Bynes stepped up when her squad needed her most Thursday night.

With the game tied at 42, Bynes knocked down an elbow jumper with 2:16 to play and added a pair of free throws inside of a minute left to boost the second-seeded Piscataway High School girls basketball team to the conference title 50-45 over Bishop Ahr at the Louis Brown Athletic Center.

Bynes, who made the winning shot in the 2013 final inside of the final minute, finished with a team-high 14 points. After her jumper, Wande Adeyemo hit a pair of free throws and Bynes added a pair of her own to complete a game-long comeback for the Chiefs, who won their 10th GMCT title and sixth since 2006.

“In my head, I said we’re winning this game,” Bynes said. “But before I shot that jumper to give us the lead, I saw Wande underneath and got it to her for the tie. It takes a lot of pressure off of us when they have to come from behind. There was a target on our back all season and everybody plays their best game against us.”

Early on, it looked like the 12th-seeded Trojans were going to run Piscataway out of the RAC, with Brianna Foster scoring eight of her 11 points in the opening quarter. Bishop Ahr was up 14-6 after the first, but in the second quarter, the Chiefs cut it all the way down to two at 24-22.

It was in the second quarter when Piscataway amped up its defensive pressure and forced five of their 19 turnovers, while on a 10-1 run at the end of the half.

“I thought that was very big,” Bishop Ahr head coach Kevin Harper said. “We called timeout in the middle of it, but we had unforced turnovers in the middle of the court. I was surprised to see us lose focus during that time. We just had too many empty possessions.”

Lauren Barlow gave Bishop Ahr a big boost in the third quarter, knocking down three 3-pointers and scoring 10 of her team-best 14 points, but Piscataway chipped away in the final stanza and eventually drew within two with an Alleria McCoy layup midway through the quarter.

“We were really just looking for the open shots, but we started to turn the ball over,” Barlow said.

Kendrea Williams of Piscataway was named as the GMCT MVP, even after scoring just four points and collecting just a pair of rebounds Thursday night. Bishop Ahr put Ragen Reddick on Williams all night long, face-guarding her and not allowing the sophomore to get open looks at the hoop. Williams averaged 15.2 points per game in the tournament.

“She has a really quick release and we saw it against Monroe, so we forced them to go somewhere else,” Harper said. “It went pretty much how we wanted it to go; they didn’t shoot all that well from outside the arc, so I thought we did a good job against them.”

Piscataway ended up shooting just 18-54 for the game, but when it mattered most, the Chiefs went to Bynes. She had six of her 14 points in the final quarter, calmly knocking down two free throws after McCoy missed a pair with 1:20 to go.

Jenna Harsh scored 11 points to go with five rebounds for Bishop Ahr, which lost for the first time since Harsh returned from injury in the final week of the regular season. As a team, the Trojans shot 13-37 from the field and 11-14 from the line, but the 19 turnovers proved costly.

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NOTEBOOK: Harsh, Bishop Ahr ready to face Piscataway for GMC Girls Basketball Tournament title

The trip to the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament for 12th-seeded Bishop Ahr hasn’t been an easy one, not when you consider that three of its four victories in the tournament have been over Red Division teams and the one that wasn’t came against a squad they had lost to twice before in the regular season.

But since getting sophomore forward Jenna Harsh back from a shoulder injury on Feb. 11, Bishop Ahr is 6-0 and Harsh has averaged nearly a double-double per game over that stretch.

The Trojans will try and win their first GMCT title since 2001 tonight against second-seeded Piscataway at the Louis Brown Athletic Center at 6 p.m. While trying to end a 13-year drought of its own, Bishop Ahr will be trying to end a dominant run by the Chiefs.

In what should amount to another home game for Piscataway, the Red Division champions will be seeking a 10th GMCT title overall and sixth in the last nine seasons.

“Bishop Ahr travels pretty well,” Bishop Ahr head coach Kevin Harper said. “We’ve got a pretty loud contingency, so I’m not worried about that.”

Even if he’s not worried about the crowd, a Piscataway team that’s coming off arguably its best game of the season will keep Harper and his staff busy.

Monday night in its win over Monroe, Piscataway got 50 points combined from Kendrea Williams and Kiki Bynes. The duo teamed up for eight 3-pointers on the night and controlled the pace from the start. Bynes, last season’s GMCT MVP, and Williams, who’s scored 10 points or more in 18 straight games, gave the Chiefs all they needed against the Falcons. When asked if it was the best performance of the season by his squad, Piscataway head coach Corey Floyd answered emphatically.

“I have to say yes; the other night everything just flowed very well,” Floyd said. “The chemistry between Kiki and Kendrea put everything in perspective.”

Piscataway is also riding a winning streak, having won seven in a row and 11 of its last 12. Floyd noted that when tournament time nears, the Chiefs just find another gear.

“This time of the year, we peak,” he said. “We’re starting to gel with the younger players becoming more comfortable with the older players. We just have to keep getting better every game.”

The two teams met in a regular season, non-division matchup on Jan. 11 in Piscataway, with the Chiefs winning 51-41. In that one, Harsh just missed a double-double (16 points, nine rebounds) and Foster pulled down 16 boards for the Trojans. Williams (13 points) and Bynes (13 points) once again paced the Chiefs, but Harper knows his team will not be phased by the atmosphere or the opponent Thursday night.

“It’s so helpful to see someone the first time,” Harper said. “We’ve experienced it in their gym and that’s a big deal. When we won in [the GMCT] in 2001, we came through the Red Division, so I liken this run to that one. It’s not going to be an ‘oh my gosh’ moment when we get on the floor.”

Bishop Ahr edges East Brunswick, earns spot in GMCT Final

Bishop Ahr's Lauren Barlow looks to pass over East Brunswick's Kaitlyn Roughan on Monday in South Brunswick. Photo by: Jason Towlen

Bishop Ahr’s Lauren Barlow looks to pass over East Brunswick’s Kaitlyn Roughan on Monday in South Brunswick. Photo by: Jason Towlen

MONMOUTH JCT. — For the first time since 2001, the Bishop Ahr High School girls basketball team will play for the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament title, thanks to a convincing 41-35 victory over East Brunswick Monday night.

The 12th-seeded Trojans took the lead for good with 1:45 remaining in the third quarter and never looked back, knocking down clutch free throws in the final minutes to clinch the win.

Freshman Elle Cimilucca calmly made a pair of free throws with 1:32 remaining to push a three-point lead into a five-point one, providing a final bit of breathing room.

“This is tremendous. We have had teams that were more highly seeded and came up short. But this group, we got piled on early because we didn’t finish our schedule and we were seeded where we belong, but we got healthy and started playing the right way,” Bishop Ahr head coach Kevin Harper said. “The younger kids grew up and they started playing better. I had a vision and it just took a while for everything to come.”

The front-court duo of senior Brianna Foster and sophomore Jenna Harsh combined for 19 points and 20 rebounds, dominating the top-seeded Bears in the paint all night long.

“That’s a big part of what we do,” Harper said. “The outside shooting comes and goes but the inside game is consistent. I thought East Brunswick did a good job of leaning on the big kids inside and not making it easy for them, so a lot of credit to them. It took us a while to get it together this year but that’s what we lean on.”

Lauren Barlow led the Trojans with 13 points, connecting on 4-5 free throws in the game. As a team, Bishop Ahr shot 15-23 from the line.

Harsh continued her strong play since returning from a shoulder injury in Bishop Ahr’s second-to-last regular season game, posting 12 points and four rebounds. She had seven of her points in the second quarter, converting a key and-1 to give the Trojans a lead.

East Brunswick, which didn’t blow through 16th-seeded Metuchen or 24th-seeded South Amboy in its two prior GMCT games, got off to a good start Monday night, jumping out to an 11-10 lead after one quarter and only trailing by four at the half. But the Bears scored just 15 points in the second half, and committed five turnovers down the stretch.

Julia Simoes led East Brunswick with 10 points and Dayna Sclafani just missed a double-double with eight points and 11 rebounds, but the Bears shot 12-47 from the field and didn’t knock down enough jumpers to close the gap.

“We saw some film on them and we were worried about them driving-and-kicking and so we just tried to keep them on the perimeter and live and die with the threes,” Harper said. “But rebounding helps and we did a good job of limiting their second chances.”

The Trojans will face second-seeded Piscataway, a 62-48 winner over Monroe earlier Monday, in the GMCT final Thursday night at the Louis Brown Athletic Center at Rutgers, looking for their fourth county championship.

Having already seen Piscataway during the regular season — a 51-41 Chiefs victory on Jan. 11 — is something that should help Bishop Ahr, according to Harper.

“It’s so helpful to see someone the first time,” he said. “We’ve experienced it in their gym and that’s a big deal. When we won in 2001, we came through the Red Division. So I liken this run to that one. We’ve already played five Red Division teams this season, so it’s not going to be an ‘oh my gosh’ moment when we get on the floor.”

Monroe uses rare 4-point play to stun Sayreville in GMCT quarters

EDISON — With her team trailing by four and the clock winding down, Monroe High School sophomore Ashlyn Petersen stepped up and made the biggest shot of the day.

After getting multiple screens along the baseline, Petersen popped out in the right corner and knocked down a 3-pointer while being fouled to send the Monroe bench into a frenzy.

After she stepped to the line and knocked down the free throw, the game was suddenly tied and third-seeded Monroe had miraculously forced overtime.

In the extra session, the Falcons got yet another huge 3-pointer from senior Demi Rousseau and held on for a 53-51 victory over sixth-seeded Sayreville to advance to the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament semifinals.

“I was very surprised I got fouled and I was equally surprised that I made it, but when that happened all the adrenaline just went through my body,” Petersen said. “I was so excited for myself and for my team, but there were a lot of nerves when I was stepping to the line because I knew I needed to hit that as well in order for us to get to overtime.”

Petersen finished with a team-high 20 points to go with six rebounds in leading Monroe into a meeting with second-seeded Piscataway Monday night at 5:30 p.m.

The Falcons trailed by as many as nine points in the third quarter, as they went through a stretch of more than 10 minutes of game time without a point. After scoring 15 points in the first quarter, the Falcons registered just two points in the second. But late in the third quarter, Cindy Foresta knocked down a pair of free throws and Petersen came up with a steal and a layup before Linda Wallentine canned a long 3-pointer to cut the lead to 27-26.

In the final stanza Sayreville refused to go away, turning to 1,000-point scorer Jackie Rodriguez for a scoring boost. The senior guard scored eight of her game-high 22 points in the fourth, adding six more in overtime.

A Ryane Brush layup with 27.4 remaining pushed the lead to 40-36, setting up Petersen for the heroics.

“That last play in regulation, we set it up for Ashlyn off a double-screen, which amazingly worked,” Monroe head coach Leigh Vogtman said. “These girls are so resilient and they had it in their heads to fight back and keep their heads in it.”

In overtime, Monroe scored the first five points, with Rousseau’s second 3-pointer of the game forcing Sayreville to use a timeout. The teams went back and forth after that, with Amanda Quintero knocking down a triple before Petersen answered with one of her own. Petersen broke the final tie of the game with a layup after collecting an offensive rebound to put Monroe up 51-49.

Playing without leading rebounder Erin Seppi, Monroe was out-rebounded 40-23. Quintero had her way inside for Sayreville, collecting 12 rebounds to go with eight points. Denby added 10 points for the Bombers.

Erica Junquet had another all-around game, scoring nine points — all of which were in the fourth quarter and overtime — to go with seven steals and three assists.

“Erin is huge on the boards; she positions herself well to get rebounds, so everybody had to step it up today,” Vogtman said. “We struggled underneath, but we stressed that it was going to be something we’d have to pay attention to.”

Piscataway throttles Woodbridge in GMCT quarters

EDISON — Behind a stifling defense and the steadying offensive punch from Kendrea Williams, the Piscataway High School girls basketball team raced past Woodbridge 48-28 in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament quarterfinals.

Williams — who reached double-figures for the 17th straight game — led all scorers with 14 points, going 8-8 from the free throw line. She scored four points in the first, third and fourth quarters, helping lead a balanced attack for the second-seeded Chiefs.

“Woodbridge came out with a box-and-one against Kendrea and we told her that she just needed to help her teammates; set screens and pass out of traps and get open in other ways,” Piscataway head coach Corey Floyd said. “But it was a good team effort today. Everybody played well and that’s what we were looking for.”

Taylor Nelson scored 13 points and come away with four steals and Kiki Bynes, last season’s GMCT MVP, scored eight points to go with seven rebounds, handling the point guard duties for the latter stages of the game.

“We let Kiki freelance on the wing and that allowed Taylor to handle the ball for the most part,” Floyd said. “Kiki stepped into her old role and settled everything down for us.”

The 10th-seeded Barrons had a miserable time getting the ball through the net, shooting 8-47 from the field and 11-26 from the free throw line. Gabby Jones just missed a double-double, with eight points and 11 rebounds and Jordan Vasquez came off the bench to score eight points and seven rebounds.

The Chiefs will continue their run towards back-to-back GMCT titles Monday evening against third-seeded Monroe at 5:30 p.m., in a matchups that pits the Red and White Division champions against one another.

“Right now, we can’t overlook anybody,” Floyd said. “I got a chance to see them today and they have some good shooters. We’re going to have to toughen up and if we can make them put it on the floor and not let them get open jumpers, we’ll see what we can do.”

Bunion leads Rahway boys at NJSIAA Group II Indoor Track Championships

TOMS RIVER — For the Rahway High School boys track and field team, Thursday’s NJSIAA Group II Championship at the Bennett Center was a coming out party for junior Deshawne Bunion.

In the meet’s first event, Bunion won the 400-meter run in 50.32, besting Anthony Forrest of Buena by 0.24, and in the final event, he helped Rahway win the 4X400-meter relay in 3:26.28.

Bunion qualified for both events at the March 1 Meet of Champions.

“I came in here with the mindset that I was going to win the 400; that’s my mentality every time I run the 400, no matter who I’m going up against,” Bunion said. “But Anthony said that he respected me a lot from a prior meet and I didn’t even know who he was. He knew me and if there’s someone out there that knows who I am like that, I just have take them down one at a time. Today, that’s what I did. I came out a fought and worked hard and he and I have a new respect for one another.”

After cooling down from his first-place finish at the outset, Bunion ran third in the 4X400, taking the baton from Thorne Roberts and handing off to Harlan Clarke. The Indians beat out Camden by more than a second, with Clarke’s final two laps extending the lead.

“We had to come out here and prove a point in the 4X400, because there are people that doubt us. We came in and tell everyone that no matter who you are, we’re going to try and beat you. We’re going to try and beat everyone in our path,” Bunion said.

Clarke added a third-place finish in the 800-meter run, finishing in 1:58.07, meaning he’ll join in competing in two events Bunion at the Meet of Champions.

Rahway tied for second in the team competition, finishing with 34 points to match West Deptford and finish 17 points behind Highland Regional.

Kurt Williams rounded out Rahway’s impressive day, finishing second in the 55-meter hurdles with a time of 7.77. Williams made up a considerable amount of time after his qualifying run of 7.92 seconds.

He said that there were some nerves going through him before the gun was fired, but once he got himself off the blocks, he was calm in his race.

“I was nervous at first, but I felt like I got a good take off, and that led me to pick up some speed and I came in a good spot for me,” Williams said. “I am ready to take it to the next level at Meet of Champs. I just need to catch some more speed through the hurdles if I’m going to win.”

For Rahway’s girls, the final event of the meet proved fruitful, as the foursome of Gabrielle Charles, Nina-Simone Murriell, Alana Peterson and Assata Edwards finished fourth in the 4X400-meter relay. With Edwards running the anchor two laps, Rahway crossed the finish line in 4:12.32, two seconds behind Rumson-Fair Haven, which won.

Ellie Yepez and Brittany Gasser posted qualifying marks in the 400-meter run for Woodbridge’s girls. Yepez finished third in 59.42 seconds and Gasser was fourth in 59.75 seconds. Both advanced to the Meet of Champions, where they’ll look to improve on those times, but Gasser pulled up at the end of her 800-meter run with an apparent leg injury. She did walk off on her own power, which is encouraging for Woodbridge.

Yepez, along with Olivia Martinez, Temi Odukale and Elisantte Marine, took part in the 4X400-meter relay, running the third leg in the fifth-place finish for Woodbridge. The quartet crossed the line in 4:07.84, less than one second out of the third spot.

Voorhees’ Clarissa Modde finishes second in 3,200 in Group II Indoor Track championships

TOMS RIVER — With the help of a teammate, Voorhees High School distance runner Clarissa Modde posted the second-fastest time in the 3,200-meter run the NJSIAA Group II championships Thursday evening at the Bennett Center, qualifying for the Meet of Champions in the process.

Modde, a senior, finished the race in 11:05.00, 1½ seconds behind Julia Guerra of Indian Hills, to secure a spot in the March 1 Meet of Champions.

“I started off pretty strong; I wanted to take the first mile pretty steady and really pick it up in the last mile,” Modde said. “I felt really good and I really picked up the pace with about 800 meters to go and it was really good.”

Modde said that having teammate Erin McLaughlin in the race with her was a big positive, as McLaughlin ran in the same pack with Modde for the majority of the race before fading a bit at the end. But McLaughlin will join Modde at the Meet of Champions after finishing in 11:12.61, good for fifth place.

“It always helps having a teammate in there with me,” Modde said. “I like running with my teammates and this is a good step for us. The goal was making it to Meet of Champions and I really wanted to win today, and I got really close. There wasn’t much more I could do, but I feel like I have some momentum now going into that next meet.”

Voorhees’ girls finished in a five-way tie for 11th place, with Modde and McLaughlin scoring the only 10 points of the meet.

Also scoring a trip to the Meet of Champions from Voorhees was Anthony Capone, who finished sixth in the 1,600-meter run. Capone, a senior, finished in 4:29.41, which was just eight-tenths of a second behind fifth place Nicholas Rivera of Camden.

Alex Livernois of Scotch Plains-Fanwood, who came in third in the 3,200-meter run at 9:35.13, also qualified for the Meet of Champions.

Rounding out the local winners was Moneta-kai Price of Plainfield, who scored a sixth-place finish in the 55-meter hurdles in Group III. Price crossed the finish line in 8.03 seconds, improving over his qualifying time of 8.08 earlier in the day.

NOTEBOOK: South Amboy a surprising winner

The Greater Middelesex Confercne Girls Basketball Tournament has reached the quarterfinal stage after Wedmesday’s second round whittled thew field down to eight — and the surprise of the tournament has to be 24th-seeded South Amboy.

The Governors, a 56-50 winner on Wednesday over Timothy Christian, have shown that seeds don’t always count.

South Amboy, along with 19th-seeded Old Bridge, had been the only two teams that played in last Saturday’s preliminary round to advance through two rounds and into Wednesday’s action. Old Bridge fell to Monroe in its game.

South Amboy, a team that won just eight games in the regular season, earned itself an easy win over Perth Amboy Tech (57-39) in the preliminary round, using a 28-14 spurt in the middle quarters to pull away. But what’s more impressive was that leading scorer Amanda LaVigne – who averages 17.4 points per game – scored just nine points and the Governors were able to win by 18.

Beth Kudelka scored 21 points to go with seven rebounds and five blocks, while Beth Noble added a big double-double of 11 points and 17 rebounds.

Against ninth-seeded Dunellen in the first round (a 56-52 win), LaVigne got loose, scoring 34 points. She rounded out her night with seven rebounds, six steals and five assists, as South Amboy held on late for the four-point victory. Kudelka chipped in a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds to aid the Governors’ cause.

In two regular-season meetings with Timothy Christian, South Amboy was 0-2, losing both games by a combined 40 points, so Wednesday night’s victory was a bit of redepmtion for the Governors.

Old Bridge, which finished fifth in the GMC Red Division in the regular season, cruised past 30th-seeded Highland Park (64-22) in its opener and came from behind to knock off 14th-seeded Middlesex (49-36) Monday night, allowing just 58 points in the two games.

While the Knights held Monroe to 48 points, the offense just couldn’t generate enough to get the win on Wednesday night.

Freshman Amanda Carney was the focal point against the Owls, pouring in a game-high 17 points and senior captain Taylor Torre added 13. In the win over Middlesex, the Knights came from 17-6 down after the first quarter with a 25-8 run spanning the second and third quarters. Carney had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, but it was Erin Halstead who led the team in scoring, with 16.

“Maybe in the smaller divisions, you get freshmen that succeed. But in the Red, Amanda came out of nowhere,” Old Bridge head coach Dan DiMino said. “I saw her in eighth grade, but I saw a lot of potential. She’s very confident and mature. Amanda’s like a sponge; she’s an ultimate freshman. She has no attitude and she’ll do whatever it takes to win.”

Before Wednesday’s game with Monroe, a team the Knights did not face in the regular season, DiMino acknowledged that his squad would need to play a great game to advance.

“This team doesn’t want this season to end,” DiMino said. “Monroe is a great team; I don’t see flaws. But this is why you play the games. We’re not going to back down.”

East Brunswick squeaks by Metuchen in OT of GMCT

East Brunswick's Dayna Sclafani (3) goes around Metuchen's Lianne Cifrodelli on Wednesday in East Brunswick. Photo by: Ed Pagliarini

East Brunswick’s Dayna Sclafani (3) goes around Metuchen’s Lianne Cifrodelli on Wednesday in East Brunswick. Photo by: Ed Pagliarini

EAST BRUNSWICK — Down by a point with nine seconds remaining, the East Brunswick High School girls basketball team was facing an upset in the eyes against 16th-seeded Metuchen.

The Bulldogs had just taken the lead and head coach Keith Lane called timeout to set up a play for junior Dayna Sclafani. As the guard drove towards the hoop, she was fouled and made the first of two free throws. But Sclafani missed the second and the game went to overtime.

“To be honest, when I was standing at the line to tie the game and I missed the second free throw, I thought we were down by two, and I thought the game was over,” Sclafani said.

In the extra session, Sclafani knocked down 4-5 free throws to ease her nerves and help the top-seeded Bears survive, 54-48, to advance to Saturday’s quarterfinals against 24th-seeded South Amboy.

“As soon as we got to overtime, it was go-time,” Sclafani said. “We went into this one focused and this was a great win. When it came to the last couple of seconds, I just felt happy. This was the best accomplishment for us right now.”

Sclafani made a pair from the line with 12 seconds left in the extra session and on the ensuing inbounds play, she stole the ball, got fouled again and calmly sank another pair to put the game out of reach for good. Sclafani finished with a team-high 19 points — 9 of which came in the fourth quarter and overtime. In between the two sets of free throws, she said that the only thing going through her head were nerves.

“But when I got to the line, I just took a deep breath and just shot and it went in,” she said.

In the fourth quarter, East Brunswick saw a five-point lead go away completely when Cassie Smith drilled a long 3-pointer to tie the game at 39-39 inside of a minute to play. After a Bears miss at the other end, Sam Streckfuss was fouled for Metuchen and she knocked down 1-2 from the stripe to give the Bulldogs the lead.

In overtime, Smith hit another 3-pointer and Lianne Cifrodelli canned a triple of her own, giving Metuchen a two-point lead. But Smith got a little out of sorts and missed her next three shots and East Brunswick capitalized at the line.

“My team is a lot tougher than I thought they were,” East Brunswick head coach Keith Lane said. “We talked about them being a little nervous, being the No. 1 seed, playing the 16-seed and the girls felt like they had a lot of pressure on themselves and it showed in the early part of the game. But at the end, they pulled themselves together and were confident and made some big foul shots.”

Smith, the conference’s leading scorer, nearly gave her squad a huge upset all by herself, scoring 13 of her game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter. She finished with seven rebounds and five steals, shooting 8-20 from the field and making all eight of her free throws.

“For the most part, I was pretty happy with how we defended her,” Lane said. “We got some good pressure on her, but she’s a really good player.”

Sclafani said that Sydney Greenspan, one of East Brunswick’s taller players, asked for the assignment of defending Smith one-on-one.

“Before the game, at halftime and before overtime, Sydney said she was going to lock Cassie down and she did. It was great,” Sclafani said.

Cifrodelli chipped in seven points and Kelly Beck knocked down three jumpers for Metuchen, while Allie Warren supplied a bit of help for Sclafani, scoring nine points to go with seven rebounds.

Julia Simoes and Greenspan each added eight points for the Bears, who will play the surprising Governors from South Amboy in the fourth of Saturday’s four quarterfinal games at 6:30 p.m. South Amboy was a 56-50 winner over Timothy Christian Wednesday.

“When you get to this point in the season, everybody is bringing their A-game and everybody is playing hard,” Lane said. “We’re going to get everybody’s best shot, so we’ll talk strategy and we just need to play hard.”

Gerhart carries Wardlaw-Hartridge to victory over Perth Amboy in GMC Tournament

EDISON — When a team has a star player capable of scoring at will, that team is never out of the game.

Saturday afternoon the Wardlaw-Hartridge High School girls basketball team was rescued by its star, Taylor Gerhart, who dragged her squad out of a 10-point halftime hole to a 53-47 victory over Perth Amboy in the preliminary round of the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament.

The 23rd-seeded Rams advance to Monday’s first round against 10th-seeded Woodbridge.

Gerhart led all scorers with 30 points, including 21 in the second half, when Wardlaw-Hartridge used an 18-6 run to erase the halftime deficit and take its first lead since early in the second quarter with 6:30 to play. Gerhart made all 13 of her free throws in the game, including 8-8 in the final eight minutes, to go with 12 rebounds, five steals and three assists.

“I feel like in games like this, where there’s more pressure on us, it’s easier to play well,” Gerhart said. “Once I’m into the game, nothing else matters and I just play.”

In the third quarter, Gerhart out-scored Perth Amboy by herself, 8-6, knocking down a long 3-pointer and converting all three free throws after being fouled behind the arc. But the Rams still trailed by five heading to the fourth quarter, before Joanna Brautigan gave Gerhart and Wardlaw-Hartridge a boost.

“Joanna is always a big rebounder for us. Sometimes she gets into foul trouble, so we just try to keep her on the floor,” Wardlaw-Hartridge head coach Mike Howell said. “And when she gets into a rhythm, she’s really good for us inside and she’s a good free throw shooter. That was a big help and she fought really hard. She always seems to be around the ball.”

Brautigan scored seven of her 10 points in the fourth quarter, adding five rebounds in the final eight minutes to help take some of the pressure off of Gerhart. As a team, Wardlaw-Hartridge made just 5-14 shots in the stanza, but Brautigan and Gerhart knocked down 11-14 free throws.

“The difference for us today was just having everybody step up,” Gerhart said. “We started talking on defense and we really got into it. Our problem this year has been that we haven’t wanted it enough, but we really came out in the second half and stepped it up. Having Joanna grab some rebounds and put them back was huge.”

Wardlaw-Hartridge opened the fourth quarter on a 12-2 run to put 26th-seeded Perth Amboy away for good. The Panthers looked like they’d spring the upset early on, when Desirae Rivera went off for 13 points in the second quarter. The freshman guard finished with 22 points, including three 3-pointers, to go along with six rebounds.

But only two other players scored for Perth Amboy and Howell said his defense locked down in the second half to earn the win.

“We put pressure on their guards, which was key,” he said. “Desirae carried them in that second quarter, so we knew that would happen. But we locked down in the second half and we didn’t underestimate Perth Amboy. They play in a tough division and they’re a good team.”

Oldania Perez scored 14 points and added nine rebounds and Sam Nunez chipped in 10 points for the Panthers, who scored just 16 points in the final 16 minutes.

With the win, Wardlaw-Hartridge will get a chance to take out two Red Division teams in three days, when they travel to Woodbridge. To keep this run alive, Gerhart believes it has to be about more than her.

“Everybody has to contribute; it’s a five-person sport,” she said. “We can’t have just one player or even two play well. But as long as we play defense, we have a chance.”