COLTS NECK — Basketball is a game of runs and on Saturday afternoon, the Monroe High School girls basketball team was on the wrong end of a back-breaking run that ultimately led to the end of its season.
Colts Neck used a 13-0 run between the third and fourth quarters to turn a 27-27 game into a 40-27 advantage and the third-seeded Cougars knocked down six free throws in the final minute to win 49-36 in a NJSIAA Central Group IV semifinal matchup.
Seventh-seeded Monroe got within 40-32 with back-to-back jumpers from Demi Rousseau and Erica Junquet, but the Falcons could not keep Colts Neck off the line in the waning moments.
Colts Neck got to the line seven times in the final quarter, knocking down 10-14 to pull away from Monroe.
“We wanted to stop the clock and get some more scoring opportunities if we could, but we had some missed opportunities at the end,” Monroe head coach Leigh Vogtman said.
Monroe couldn’t get a shot to go down in the second half, shooting just 5-for-18 after halftime and just 3-for-12 in the fourth quarter. Erica Junquet did all she could to keep Monroe in the game, scoring seven of her team-best 14 points in the final stanza, but the Falcons were thwarted by a strong Colts Neck defense.
“They played really good defense; you have to give them credit for that. I knew that when I scouted them that we’d have to take care of the basketball and make good passes,” Vogtman said. “We falter sometimes when we see some pressure and make the wrong pass or the wrong shot.”
The Falcons turned the ball over 20 times in the game, including 13 in the second half, all while trying to keep themselves in the game at the defensive end. Vogtman used a box-and-one defense against Cougars star Lauren Zborovancik, and while she scored just 13 points, Colts Neck was able to adjust and get Zborovancik free for a couple of open jump shots.
“She was a kid that scored a lot of points in the last four games and even with the box-and-one she was able to shake the defenders we put on her and knock down a basket,” Vogtman said. “When we had the box-and-one on, we did a good job of limiting their scoring opportunities, and they adjusted after halftime. We went into this game thinking we needed to have multiple defenses to stay in it.”
Erin Seppi came out flying, scoring 10 points in the first half for Monroe, but she picked up her second and third fouls on back-to-back possessions early in the third quarter and didn’t score again. The sophomore forward still finished with a double-double, collecting 11 rebounds in the game. Monroe won the rebounding battle 31-17, but shot just seven free throws in comparison to 24 for Colts Neck.
Cindy Foresta chipped in seven points and 11 rebounds and senior Demi Rousseau, one of three fourth-year players on the Monroe roster, scored five points in her final game. Rousseau, Nichole Tatte and Victoria Porpora helped lead the Falcons to their first divisional title since 1988 and won a school-record 22 games this season, something that Vogtman was especially proud of in her first season at the helm.
“I’m proud of the three seniors who stepped up and played whatever roles they were asked to play, however big or small, and how these kids played as a team,” she said. “We were a grounded team and we were able to accomplish things as a team.”