BASKING RIDGE, NJ -- In a high-level showdown between two of the best Group 4 girls basketball teams in North Jersey, Bayonne and Ridge, the two heralded point guards spent much of the game neutralizing each other.
But while Bayonne sophomore point guard Eniya Scott and Ridge senior point guard Sophie Beneventine battled each other to a virtual draw on the perimeter, the Bees' senior forward Makoye Diawara was a force Ridge had trouble contending with up front.
Diawara, whom Bayonne coach James Turner refers to as "a walking double-double machine," scored 18 points and came down with 17 rebounds to lead the Bees to a 38-33 victory over Ridge in a game matching two unbeaten teams. The victory gave Bayonne the championship of the Len Sepanak Tournament, and it gave Ridge--a team with its own title aspirations this winter--an idea of the work left to be done to polish some remaining edges between now and February.
In a tight defensive struggle that was pretty evenly contested, Bayonne spent most of the game just an arm's length ahead of the Red Devils--or, the length of Diawara's two strong arms, which time and time again limited Ridge's second-shot opportunities.
But Ridge (4-1), whose last lead was 11-10 and whose last tie with Bayonne (6-0) was 25-25 late in the third quarter, was still right there with a chance to tie the game in the final minute. Beneventine, who finished with nine points and five assists, pulled up and sank a 3-pointer from the right wing with 53 seconds left in the game to cut the Bees' lead to 35-33. It was a rare open look afforded the guards of either team, as both squads hounded and denied their opponents much perimeter leverage with suffocating zone defenses much of the night.
Scott is considered one of the best sophomore guards in New Jersey. Beneventine has signed to play at Division 1 Boston University.
In the final 37 seconds, Bayonne sank the front ends of three one-and-one foul shots (by Jolyssa Moody, Mary Lavin and Diawara) and shut Ridge out the rest of the way.
Senior guard Taylor Smith led Ridge with 11 points. Lavin had seven points for Bayonne.