GLEN RIDGE, NJ--Playing its best basketball of the season, the Glen Ridge High girls team will host a North 2, Group 1 semifinal, on March 6, after winning its first two state games on its home court.
Head coach Joe Mazzarella's squad took a 13-13 record into a game against Arts High, in a scheduled 7 p.m. tip off. The winner of that game will play for the state sectional crown on Tuesday, March 10. The higher seed will host the game, so if top-seeded New Providence wins its semifinal, it would be the home team. Should New Providence be defeated in the semifinals and Glen Ridge wins in its semi, then the Ridgers would host the title game next week, against Belvidere.
Seeded third in the section, Glen Ridge opened the state tournament by defeating Dayton, 41-23, on March 2.
"We came out hungry and focused, against Dayton, and we hustled and executed the way we needed to," said Mazzarella. "Dayton was the 14th seed, but they were very good. Our girls were ready and pumped for the opening round."
Haleigh Pine led Glen Ridge with 11 points while Sarah Cullinan scored 10 along with six steals, five assists and five rebounds. Olivia Carbonell had seven points, Amayah Melbourne scored six, Michaila Dowd scored five and Elettra Giantomenico closed with two points. Melbourne also had a huge day on the boards, with 14 rebounds and Dowd had seven rebounds. Glen Ridge broke open a close game with a 13-4 run in the third quarter.
Versus Shabazz, the Ridgers won, 39-33, as Giantomenico had 12 points, six rebounds and a pair of steals. Dowd scored 10, Melbourne had 11 rebounds, six points and three steals, Pine and Cullinan had five points each and Carbonell scored one.
"We struggled to finish the game the way I thought we could, and should have," said Mazzarella. "We shot 50% from the free throw line, and missed way too many easy buckets. But our team, as they always do, kept fighting, never quit and continued to play hard and out-hustled our opponent.
"We were able to hang on just enough and get the win. But as I told the girls, at this point it doesn't matter how we win, just win. Survive and advance."
Mazzarella expects a tough game against a good Arts team, despite the Newark school's No. 15 seed. Arts won its first-round game, on the road, at second seeded Weehawken. "They have already proven they can go on the road and win a big game. We are hoping our home court advantage will be a difference. This is the first time a Glen Ridge girls basketball team has reached the sectional semifinal in well over a decade.
"We're very excited to hopefully put ourselves in a position where we're playing on Tuesday, for a chance at the program's first-ever sectional title. We're continuing to lean on our seniors, Haleigh Pine, Sarah Cullinan and Michaila Dowd."