BLOOMFIELD, NJ – Bloomfield High School’s Grace Cannon era has come to an end.
After the senior accumulated 463 points, 128 rebounds and 51 assists and led the Bloomfield Bengals girls basketball team into the NJSIAA Tournament, her team was defeated by the East Orange Campus Jaguars in the Quarterfinals.
Despite the loss, Cannon led the girls in scoring during their (19-5, 9-2 SEC) season and totaled 1,546 career points before walking off the court after the March 1 loss.
But that’s not all. The Cannon era also included her stellar senior teammates -- Genesis Collins, Jalia Santos and Kasey Coury.
“We can't replace who we will lose,” Bengals Head Coach Dana Morton told TAPinto Bloomfield. “They are special players each in their own way.”
Collins dropped 624 points, 161 rebounds and 181 assists during her four years with the Bengals. More than 30 percent of her shots came from her senior season, despite suffering a concussion in the season opener and sitting out for the next five games. Santos’ season points (65) nearly doubled from the previous season and her assist count (54) almost tripled. Coury scored upwards of half her career points (105) and assists (217) during her final season.
But the Jaguars were the team’s biggest weakness. After winning the first five games of the season -- including rival Belleville (17-8, 12-2 SEC) and the competitive (18-9, 11-3 SEC) Glen Ridge Ridgers -- the Bengals wound up 15 points short in their January 3 game against the East Orange girls.
Victories over the Bloomfield Tech Spartans and Columbia Cougars followed, but so did a 30-point loss to the (23-4, 11-0 SEC) West Orange Mountaineers – who were undefeated at the time. A nine-game winning streak came next before the girls fell in the Columbia rematch on February 7.
After a 61-48 loss to the Jaguars in the Essex County Quarterfinals, Bloomfield’s season came to an end when they were defeated by the Jaguars once again in the NJSIAA Quarterfinals.
“I felt good going into the game,” Morton said. “I think we made the necessary adjustments and they worked to our advantage. We played well, sank in the paint and boxed out to keep their bigs off the boards.”
Although they made a major improvement since the previous two losses to the team, the Bengals fell short by four points.
“Of course we would have loved to go further in the tournament, but my girls played their heart out and that's all I can ask,” Morton told TAPinto Bloomfield. “I couldn't be any prouder of them.”
Although the team will lose Cannon and her fellow seniors, they have a group of younger talented players who are expected to take over. The group includes juniors Raquel Plata and Aicha Naouai as well as sophomore Sarah Edmond.
During her third year on the team, Plata started for the first time and doubled both her points and assists from the previous year. The junior accumulated 102 points and 37 assists by the end of the 2016-2017 season, which included a career-high 15 points in her team’s 57-41 victory over the Clifton Mustangs in the first round of the NJSIAA Sectionals.
Naouai was one of the team’s best rebounders this year, totaling 119. Additionally, the junior doubled her scoring from the previous year, bringing in 79 points by the season’s end.
Edmond had an impressive first year, participating in the starting lineup and recording the second highest amount of rebounds on the team (126). In addition, the sophomore added 66 points.
“I do believe that we will continue to be successful,” Morton said. “We have a returning core that knows the system, loves the game and is always willing to work hard.”
The Bengals will return to the court in December 2017.