Monthly Archives: March 2014

Metuchen stops South River in OT in NJSIAA girls basketball Central Group I final

Metuchen's Katharine Chura reacts after scoring in overtime against South River in the Central Group I final at South River High School. Photo by: Jason Towlen

Metuchen’s Katharine Chura reacts after scoring in overtime against South River in the Central Group I final at South River High School. Photo by: Jason Towlen

SOUTH RIVER — With the clock ticking down in overtime and her team trailing, Lianne Cifrodelli stepped up and made the biggest shot of her life.

Cifrodelli canned a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 31 seconds left to put the Metuchen High School girls basketball team ahead 44-43, erasing a seven-point deficit in the final two minutes of the extra session.

Katharine Chura knocked down a free throw with 3.5 seconds left and the sixth-seeded Bulldogs emerged with a 45-43 victory over top-seeded South River in the NJSIAA Central Group I Final in front of a raucous overflow crowd at South River High School.

“When I got he ball, I was looking around, seeing who else was there, and I realized there was nobody right in front of me so I threw it up and hoped it went in and it did,” Cifrodelli said after the game. “It was like slow-motion, watching the ball go towards the hoop and it felt like such a long time, but it was such a great feeling.”

The Bulldogs, who will now play in the Group I semifinals Thursday at Deptford High School, had a 34-25 lead with 4:21 left in regulation, but South River refused to go away. The Rams went on an 11-2 run to close the fourth quarter, tying the game on a crazy 3-point play by Alyssa Barry, who was fouled while driving through the lane and banked in an off-balance runner.

South River, with all of the momentum, opened the extra four minutes on a 7-0 run, capped off by a Barry layup after Gabby Harris blocked Cassie Smith on the other end.

“We just had to stay focused and we had to go on another run,” Cifrodelli said.

Cifrodelli knocked down a long 3-pointer and Smith hit a pair of free throws to close the gap to 43-41 with one minute left.

“[Lianne’s first 3-pointer in overtime] got everyone hyped and we just had to focus on defense,” Smith said.

Cifrodelli scored a game-high 17 points – with 15 of those points coming in the second half and overtime – and added eight rebounds for the Bulldogs.

With 52.7 seconds left, Metuchen earned possession on a jump ball inside the paint on defense, setting up Cifrodelli to give the Bulldogs their fourth and final lead of the game.

Metuchen head coach Pat Mayo said that she told Smith – the team’s leading scorer – before the game that she needed her star to “take one for the team,” Tuesday night.

“Cassie knew this was going to be a box-and-one game and we asked her to take one for the team tonight, knowing she was going to be smothered on defense,” Mayo said. “But her teammates have been developing and had all the confidence in them and in the end, when it was rebound time, who came through for us? It was Cassie.”

Smith finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds, the final one coming with 11.3 seconds left in overtime to give Metuchen another possession and allow Chura to step to the line and clinch the victory.

A win for Metuchen did not seem like it would be the outcome once South River got out to that fast start in overtime, carrying over its momentum from regulation, with Barry and Harris leading the way. The duo scored 31 points for the Rams, with Harris scoring 16 and Barry adding 15.

“We’ve been a team of highs and lows all season. This is still a young team and that wave is something we need to do a better job of controlling, as we grow as a team,” South River head coach Mike Feaster said. “I thought we were going to ride it through overtime and we just gave up a couple of offensive rebounds that hurt us.”

Freshman Aleah Bass gave South River a double-double inside, scoring 10 points to go with 13 rebounds, as the team’s lone post-presence. She also had three blocks and two steals.

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Colts Neck run sends Monroe to defeat

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.”

Barry’s clutch performance leads South River girls past Bound Brook

South River girls basketball players celebrate their NJSIAA Central Group I win over Bound Brook on Friday. Photo by: Ed Pagliarini

South River girls basketball players celebrate their NJSIAA Central Group I win over Bound Brook on Friday. Photo by: Ed Pagliarini

SOUTH RIVER — When junior Alyssa Barry first walked through the doors at South River High School, head coach Mike Feaster knew he had something special.

On Friday night, with a spot in the sectional final on the line, Barry stepped up in the clutch, scoring six of her game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter, leading the top-seeded Rams past fourth-seeded Bound Brook 51-41 and into the NJSIAA Central Group I Final.

South River will host either sixth-seeded Metuchen or 10th-seeded Shore Monday night.

Barry also added five steals and four assists, leading the charge for South River (21-5), which forced 20 turnovers in the game.

“Alyssa has been the rock of this program and this team since she entered this school two years ago,” Feaster said. “She’s our core and the backbone of our team.”

Barry knocked down 5 of 8 free throws in the middle quarters, including a pair during a 7-3 run in the final three minutes of the second quarter, which gave the Rams a six-point lead at the half.

The run coincided with Bound Brook star Janeea Summers picking up her third foul at the 2:59 mark of the second quarter. The freshman forward had scored 10 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in the first half, but went to the bench and didn’t return until after halftime.

“Having a lead at halftime is big in anything and we carried that through. Janeea is unbelievable. I mean, for a freshman, she’s as tough and as athletically basketball-sound as anyone we’ve seen in a while,” Feaster said. “She stops everything in the middle and clogs the lane, so we struggled to run our sets.”

Summers – who averages 19.4 points and 15.4 rebounds per game – finished with 16 points and 16 rebounds, but had just six of each in the final 16 minutes. The Crusaders (13-15) ended up one game short of a sectional final just one season after going 0-24, with Summers’ presence a major reason why.

Olivia Nilsen, another freshman, scored 14 points – including 12 in the second half – for Bound Brook, which shot just 19-for-51 from the field and 1-6 from the free throw line.

South River wasn’t a ton better from the field, shooting 18-for-53, but the Rams made 11 of 21 free throws and got out in the open floor often in the second half.

“A helter skelter-type game works in our favor sometimes, because if nothing else, we have athletic girls that can run the floor,” Feaster said. “I would have liked to see them finish a little bit better, but right now, I’m not going to worry about the negatives.”

Gabby Harris chipped in 13 points and six rebounds for South River, eight of which came in the paint in the fourth quarter, and Lubica Zifkovski added 10 points.

“Gabby really pushed the tempo and her energy picked all of us up in the second half,” Barry said. “This is truly an amazing feeling to have gotten this far. We worked so hard all season long to get to this point.”

The Rams were just 13-14 last season, but Feaster knew his squad would be much improved this year. What he didn’t know was that they could get this deep into the postseason.

“I knew we were going to be a lot better than we were in the past, but if you told me we were going to be in the finals, I don’t know what I would have said. Now that it’s here, I’m ecstatic.”

Hunterdon Central defeats Sayreville in Central Group IV girls basketball quarterfinals

Hunterdon Central's # 10-Michelle Lalor (left) gets past the tight defense of Sayreville's # 34 (right)- Amanda Quintero. Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

Hunterdon Central’s # 10-Michelle Lalor (left) gets past the tight defense of Sayreville’s # 34 (right)- Amanda Quintero. Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

SAYREVILLE — After playing three ugly quarters and struggling to find any offensive rhythm, the Hunterdon Central High School girls basketball team found its game when it mattered most.

Senior Carli Wilson scored 11 of her game-high 16 points in the fourth quarter, including four clutch free throws down the stretch, leading the fifth-seeded Red Devils to a 44-34 victory over Sayreville in the NJSIAA Central Group IV quarterfinals Thursday evening.

“This is huge. We haven’t been to a sectional semifinal in eight years,” Wilson said. “It’s such a great feeling and in the end, I knew we had to win this game. I stepped up with a lot of pressure on me.”

Wilson canned a pair of free throws with 1:28 to play to effectively put the game out of reach, putting Hunterdon Central up 38-30. The Red Devils forced 26 turnovers for the game and used an effective stall tactic in the fourth quarter to put the fourth-seeded Bombers away. Wilson was 6-8 from the free throw line and added six rebounds, sending the Red Devils into the semifinals against the winner of West Windsor Plainsboro-North and Freehold Township Saturday afternoon.

“Carli Wilson was big late when we needed her,” Hunterdon Central head coach Carmen Cook said. “They dogged her the whole game and she was so tenacious. She got a few boards, which helped, but shutting down Rodriguez was the story.”

Sayreville’s Jackie Rodriguez finished with 15 points, but only made one basket in the second half and it came in the final minute of the fourth quarter.

Cook stuck Carli Mastrogiaccmo and Catie Perkins on Rodriguez in a rotating tandem throughout the game and frustrated the Bombers’ star.

“She’s an awesome player, so we just had to limit what she did and that was the difference tonight,” Cook said. “We handled the ball well in our stall game and made free throws down the stretch. We haven’t been this far in so long, so I’m really happy for these girls.”

Hunterdon Central made 10-of-14 free throws as a team and committed only two turnovers in the final eight minutes, after coughing the ball up 14 times in the first three quarters.

Sayreville only had five turnovers in the fourth quarter, after 21 in the opening three stanzas, but they were too many to overcome.

“We had too many turnovers. We’re young in some areas of the game; we start two freshmen and turnovers killed us,” Sayreville head coach Tara Currie said. “Credit to them; they came and played hard and we struggled a little finding our offensive groove. To their credit, tonight they were the better team and they’re moving on.”

Tess Richardson chipped in 12 points and five rebounds for Hunterdon Central and Mackenzie Roden added seven points and five boards. As a team, the Red Devils shot only 16-for-50 for the game, but the fourth-quarter free throws and Sayreville’s inability to hold onto the ball was the difference.

Smith reaches 2,000-point milestone, lifts Metuchen girls basketball over Middlesex

Metuchen's Cassie Smith (21) scored her 2,000th career point during her team's win over Middlesex Wednesday's state tournament. Photo by: Ed Pagliarini

Metuchen’s Cassie Smith (21) scored her 2,000th career point during her team’s win over Middlesex Wednesday’s state tournament. Photo by: Ed Pagliarini

MIDDLESEX — All season long, the Metuchen High School girls basketball team has looked to senior Cassie Smith to lead the way.

Entering Wednesday night’s game against Middlesex — a team that had beaten Metuchen twice in the regular season — the Bulldogs needed Smith more than ever, and she delivered yet another historic performance.

Early in the third quarter of a then 3-point game, Smith scored on a put-back layup after a missed free throw for her 2,000th career point. But she didn’t stop there, scoring 13 of her game-high 26 points to lead sixth-seeded Metuchen past Middlesex 58-48 in the NJSIAA Central Group I Tournament.

Smith, the school’s all-time leader in points scored, now has 2,013 for her career, with at least one game remaining – Metuchen will host 10th-seeded Shore Friday in the sectional semifinals.

“I knew I was that close to getting the record and I was trying to get it before halftime, but that didn’t happen,” Smith said. “But we were able to get the win and that’s all that matters. I never even dreamt of this until I knew halfway through this season, when I broke the scoring record, that I was somewhat close. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Smith added 16 rebounds on the night to go with her 24th game of 20 points or more this season.

“To coach someone like Cassie, someone of her caliber, I actually expect her to do great things,” Metuchen head coach Pat Mayo said. “It’s something we expect out of all of our players.”

The Bulldogs made sure that Smith’s big night would not come in a loss, as the supporting cast stepped up and knocked down some big buckets to put third-seeded Middlesex away in the second half. Sam Streckfuss canned a pair of momentum-swinging 3-pointers during a 14-3 run to open the third quarter and finished with 13 points and Katharine Chura added eight points, including clutch free throws in the closing minute, for the Bulldogs.

“Sam’s our spark-plug; she has all the energy and when she hit those 3’s, we knew this was our game,” Smith said.

As Middlesex fought back in the fourth quarter, closing the gap to 51-46 with led than two minutes to play, Chura stepped up for Metuchen, going 1-of-2 from the free throw line three consecutive occasions in the final minute to seal the deal. The Bulldogs finished the game on a 7-2 run, erasing two regular season defeats at the hands of the Blue Jays.

“Everybody we play is going to box-and-one Cassie, but if everyone else attacks the rim and goes to the basket, you can’t stop everybody,” Mayo said. “Complimentary players are all stepping up, scoring when we need them, and they’re improving their IQ of the game. We’re doing so much better than we did a month ago. Earlier this season, we would have panicked in the backcourt and handed them the ball, but at least we fought tonight.”

Rosie Guarino did all she could to bring Middlesex back late in the game, scoring seven of her team-best 19 points in the fourth quarter. She also hauled in 10 rebounds to finish with a double-double, and Amanda Abate chipped in a double-double of her own with 13 points and 13 rebounds for the Blue Jays. But in the end, eight second-half turnovers did Middlesex in.

“We just wanted revenge really badly and we really wanted this win,” Smith said. “It’s hard to beat a team three times, so we worked really hard to get this one. I know I didn’t want to end my career with a loss, and getting Shore in the semis, a team we lost to in the same spot last year, we’ll have more revenge on our minds. I can’t wait.”

McLaughlin scores 1,000th point, leads South Plainfield over Governor Livingston

South Plainfield's Kate McLaughlin is all smiles after scoring her 1,000th point during Tuesday's game against Governor Livingston. Photo by: Ed Pagliarini

South Plainfield’s Kate McLaughlin is all smiles after scoring her 1,000th point during Tuesday’s game against Governor Livingston. Photo by: Ed Pagliarini

SOUTH PLAINFIELD — As she sat on the cusp of a milestone she’d dreamed about since middle school, Kate McLaughlin faced a lot of pressure for the South Plainfield High School girls basketball team.

McLaughlin entered Tuesday’s game against Governor Livingston with 998 career points, knowing she was just one basket from the century mark.

With 3:56 left in the first quarter, McLaughlin canned a corner jumper to reach 1,000 points and poured in 14 more to lead the seventh-seeded Tigers to a 52-44 victory in the first round of the North 2 Group III Tournament. The senior guard led all scorers with 16 points and made four clutch free throws down the stretch to boost South Plainfield into a quarterfinal matchup with second-seeded West Essex Wednesday.

“It means a lot to me because I’ve been thinking about this since I was little, before I even got here to high school,” McLaughlin said. “So to get it in a state game is just awesome. It’s such a great feeling. But to get it in a game like this that we won is a big plus.”

McLaughlin scored 11 of her 16 points in the second half, including a pair of 3-pointers in the opening minutes of the third quarter to thwart 10th-seeded Governor Livingston.

“She is the steadying influence on our team,” South Plainfield head coach Kevin Hughes said. “We have some players that can step up when Kate gets taken out of the game by the defense, but we go as she goes. It was nice for her to get it out of the way early, but she’s been incredible. She’s a big-game player and a gamer.”

McLaughin knocked down a pair of free throws with 25.5 remaining to push the lead to 50-41, after Governor Livingston was whistled for a technical foul. For the game, she made 5-6 from the line and the Tigers were 15-22 as a team from the charity stripe.

“We know that games are won and lost at the free throw line and we couldn’t lose this one at the line,” Hughes said. “I thought we out-played them and I didn’t want to see us lose it at the line. We stepped up and made some big ones.”

Sarah Cargill added 14 points for South Plainfield, including six in the final stanza. Yasmeen Mighty controlled the boards for the Tigers, hauling in 16 rebounds to go with four steals.

Hughes noted that a player like Mighty can control a game without scoring – Mighty had just three points for the game.

“She’s an x-factor. I told her before the game that they can scout us, but they can’t simulate Yasmeen running up and down the court and cleaning the boards,” he said.

Governor Livingston nearly made a dramatic comeback in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t come up with a big stop on defense when it needed to down the stretch. Sara Dilly hit for five of her team-high 13 points in the fourth quarter for the Highlanders and both Hayley Berliner and Patrice DiTommaso chipped in 10 points. But DiTommaso fouled out with 2:13 remaining and scored just two points after the fourth quarter.

The teams played a sloppy final quarter, committing 14 combined turnovers and constantly getting trapped in the backcourt.

“We stuck together when they put a lot of pressure on us,” McLaughlin said. “We kept it together and pulled this one out.”

Hughes said that however far his team goes in the state tournament is “gravy,” considering the season they’ve had up to this point.

“We’ve won 19 games; we haven’t had that around here in forever. We’re division champions and we had a state playoff game at home that we won. We’ll go have fun Wednesday and let it ride,” he said.

Smith’s shot lifts Hillsborough to upset of Gill St. Bernard’s in Somerset County Boys Basketball Tournament final

The Hillsborough boys basketball team celebrates its title in the Somerset County Boys Basketball Tournament. Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

The Hillsborough boys basketball team celebrates its title in the Somerset County Boys Basketball Tournament. Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

FRANKLIN (SOMERSET) — With less than 40 seconds remaining in overtime and the game tied, James Smith came up with the shot of his life.

The senior point guard knocked down a jump shot just inside of the arc to give the Hillsborough High School boys basketball team its 11th and final lead of the game, and the Raiders’ defense held in the final seconds to win its first Somerset County Tournament title, 53-52, over Gill St. Bernard’s in overtime Saturday afternoon.

Smith finished with a team-high 14 points, with half of them coming in the fourth quarter and overtime, and was named as the Tournament MVP.

Smith said that he knew before taking the game-winning shot he could make it.

“That’s a shot I’ve been working on in practice and I’ve gotten confident that whenever I take it, I’ll knock it down,” he said. “I try and find open spots on the court and when I’m open, I take them.”

Smith had given third-seeded Hillsborough the lead at 51-49 with 2:10 to play with a runner in the lane, but Harrison DeMaira’s fifth 3-pointer of the game gave top-seeded Gill St. Bernard’s the lead back with 1:15 to go.

Jalen Parham missed a pair of free throws with 52.7 remaining, but the Raiders got the ball back on a scramble under the hoop following the second miss, setting up Smith for the heroic shot.

“I don’t even know what to say right now,” Hillsborough head coach Ian Progin said. “We did everything we could on defense, but we got stops when we needed to and James Smith was incredible. He hit a big-time shot for us.”

After Smith’s go-ahead basket, the Raiders defense needed to come up with one more defensive stand in the closing seconds. Tyus Battle, who poured in a game-high 22 points for the game, dribbled into the lane and missed a layup with 4.1 seconds left, but the ball went out to the Knights. In a last-gasp chance to tie the game or win it, Gill St. Bernard’s couldn’t get a shot off following the inbounds pass, setting off a wild celebration by the Raiders players and student body.

“We knew where it was going; it was going to Battle. He’s a great player, but we just all dug in and got a stop,” Smith said. “We strapped up, as we like to say, and we kept our hands up on them. I’m really proud of the way we played on defense.”

DeMaira scored 17 points for the Knights, who had a four-point lead with three minutes remaining in regulation, but saw it shrink completely after a pair of free throws from both Jack Panagos and Matt Westphal.

Battle gave Gill St. Bernard’s a lead at 47-45 with 90 seconds left in regulation, but Smith knocked down a clutch jumper to tie the game. DeMaira had a wide-open look for the win in the final seconds of regulation, but the ball rattled off the rim and out, forcing overtime.

Battle scored just five points in the second half and overtime, after pouring in 12 in the opening quarter. He consistently saw double-teams from the Hillsborough defense, but didn’t waver in his approach, according to Knights’ coach Mergin Sina.

“He’s a tough kid and he fought through a lot of things in the game,” Sina said. “He never moaned and groaned about it, which I don’t know if I would have.”

Panagos chipped in nine points and four rebounds for the game for Hillsborough and Matt Hornich added seven points and eight rebounds.

“We played an excellent game,” Hornich said. “The role players and the starters, everybody. It’s just awesome to bring the championship to the town of Hillsborough.”

The Raiders will forever have a banner inside their gym to look up at and admire, after beating the sixth-seed Rutgers Prep and second-seed Montgomery en route to the final.

“We’ve never won one of these, so these guys will be able to walk into that gym for the rest of their lives and see that banner and say they accomplished that,” Progin said.

Phillipsburg rolls past No. Hunterdon for title

North Hunterdon's Allison Lane looks to pass the ball despite coverage by Phillipsburg's Ally Raulf in the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament final on Friday. Photo by: Keith A. Muccilli

North Hunterdon’s Allison Lane looks to pass the ball despite coverage by Phillipsburg’s Ally Raulf in the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament final on Friday. Photo by: Keith A. Muccilli

CLINTON TWP. — After playing a pair of competitive regular-season games against Phillipsburg, the North Hunterdon High School girls basketball team was steamrolled Friday night.

The Stateliners came out flying, scoring the game’s first seven points and never looked back, en route to a 54-24 victory in the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament Final on the Lions’ home floor.

Tournament MVP Jessica Kovatch, who averages over 20 points per game, looked like she’d get to that number again after a dominant second quarter for Phillipsburg (22-3). Kovatch connected on a pair of 3-pointers and totaled 11 points in the quarter, which opened up a 19-6 lead into a 34-11 halftime edge.

North Hunterdon (16-7) couldn’t get any offense going in the first half, shooting just 4-for-23 from the field, and coughed the ball up nine times.

Head coach Tom Hank credited the Phillipsburg defense for shutting his squad down.

“They were so physical against us and they took us out of everything,” Hank said. “Phillipsburg hit some shots right off the bat, which helped them, and we were running all over the place. It was one of those games where it was a very good team that made us look bad.”

Although Kovatch didn’t score again in the second half and finished with a game-high 16 points, Phillipsburg was able to keep its lead by pressuring the North Hunterdon offense into un-forced turnovers. The Lions committed four turnovers in the third quarter and five more in the fourth, shooting themselves in the foot throughout the half.

Hailey Stine, Alicea Foran and Kristina Harrel each scored five points to lead North Hunterdon, which shot just 9-35 from the floor.

“I just told the girls that we can learn from this game,” Hank said. “Honestly, I told them that if they win two games in the state tournament, we could see Phillipsburg again.”

The two teams are in the NJSIAA North 2 Group IV bracket, which gets under way on Tuesday. Phillipsburg is the No. 3 seed and North Hunterdon received the No. 7 seed. If both teams win their first two, they would meet in the semifinals.

“I said to the girls, ‘if I’m sitting in your shoes, that’s what I would want,’ because we had two very good games against them in the regular season. We weren’t any semblance of that team tonight. I don’t think Phillipsburg was either; they were much more aggressive,” Hank said.

The teams split a pair of regular-season meetings, with each team winning on their home floors, but Friday night, it was clear that Phillipsburg was the better squad. Jen D’Anthony chipped in 12 points and six rebounds and Kylie Devlin added 11 points and four steals for the Stateliners, who led 47-19 after three quarters before scoring just five points in the fourth.

Before his team can even think about seeing Phillipsburg again, Hank said that a matchup against Skyland Conference rival Bridgewater-Raritan in the first round on Tuesday needs to be in the front of his group’s minds.

“Now it’s live-or-die time. That’s all we can think about right now,” he said.