Hot-shooting Haddon Township ends Metuchen’s run

Metuchen's Cassie Smith goes up with a basket against Haddon Township's Alayxiah Carr during the first half on Thursday in Deptford. Photo by: Peter Ackerman

Metuchen’s Cassie Smith goes up with a basket against Haddon Township’s Alayxiah Carr during the first half on Thursday in Deptford. Photo by: Peter Ackerman

DEPTFORD — Some nights, no matter what a team throws at the hoop, the ball goes in.

Thursday night in the NJSIA Group I semifinals, Haddon Township made it rain from the perimeter en route to a 70-42 victory over Central Group I champion Metuchen at Deptford High School.

The Hawks — the South Group I champions — shot 29-48 as a team (60 percent) and knocked down nine 3-pointers, with Bella Preziosi’s 28 points leading the way.

Morgan Lenahan added 21 points, including 17 in the first half, and the Hawks jumped out to a 37-21 halftime advantage and never looked back.

“I said at halftime that they weren’t going to shoot like that in the second half, but they made a liar out of me,” Metuchen head coach Pat Mayo said. “We did so many things right on defense and in the second half, we tried man-to-man and a triangle-and-two and they were still able to score with people in their faces.”

Haddon Township made 14-26 shots in the opening half and came out of the locker room flying in the third quarter, connecting on 12-16 shots to blow it wide open. Preziosi scored 11 of her points in the third quarter and three others scored four points apiece in the stanza to spoil yet another historic night for Metuchen’s Cassie Smith.

With her first points of the second half, Smith surpassed Artie Flaherty for the most points in Metuchen history — boys and girls — with 2,053. Smith finished with 27 points on 10-18 shooting (6-10 FT) to finish her career with 2,062 points. In a season in which she surpassed any female player in school history and eclipsed the 2,000-career point milestone, Smith continued to stay humble and do her best to get teammates involved.

“I’m proud of each and every one of them,” said Smith of her teammates. “It’s sad, but I’m looking forward to the future.”

The Bulldogs shot just 16-50 as a club on the night and couldn’t get enough stops on defense to cut into the Haddon Township lead.

“Haddon is a well-coached team and I wish them well,” Mayo said. “We knew we had a good chance in this tournament and we believed as a coaching staff that we could get here.”

Haddon Township will play state-power Shabazz Sunday afternoon for the Group I State crown.

Junior Lianne Cifrodelli scored five points and senior Sam Streckfuss added four for the Bulldogs, who emerged from a tough start to their season to get this deep into the postseason.

“I’ll remember this run forever,” Smith said.

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