UNION, N.J. -- They say defense wins championships, and so the Franklin High School girls basketball turned it on late on the defensive side of the ball as the Warriors defeated Randolph, 41-29, in the NJSIAA Group 4 semifinals on Wednesday night at Union High.

Franklin (24-5), ranked No. 18 in the latest NJ.com Top 20, never led until the fourth quarter when it completely shut down the Rams (25-4) as it held them to zero points in the frame while scoring 14 points itself.

Franklin ended the game on an 18-0 run in total.

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The Warriors trailed by two, 29-27, at the end of the third and held Randolph scoreless over the final 12 minutes of the game, including all eight of the fourth.

With the win, Franklin will play No. 12 Cherokee in the Group 4 final on Sunday at the RWJBarnabas Health Arena in Toms River.

Onoseta Ufuah netted a game-high 17 points for Franklin. She also collected eight rebounds and had an assist and three steals. Kennady Schenck made two 3-pointers and finished with 10 points as well with five rebounds and a steal. Schenck’s twin sister, Keona, recorded eight points, three boards, and two steals.

Kyierah Dempsey-Toney also scored four points, grabbed nine boards, and had both a block and a steal. Tarae Jackson chipped in with two points and a steal, too.

Dempsey-Toney gave the Warriors their first lead with a foul shot with six minutes remaining.

For Randoph, which held a 29-23 advantage in the third before the Warriors whittled down their deficit to two heading into the last quarter, Angeleen Mulero scored a team-high 13 points with three rebounds, assist, and two blocks. Olivia Turner bucketed six points and pulled down six rebounds as well.

Franklin has won five games in a row since falling in the Somerset County Tournament semifinals. The defending Tournament of Champions winner will be making its fourth appearance in the Group 4 final in a row and will be looking for its fourth consecutive trip to the T of C as well.

Its next opponent, Cherokee, the South Jersey winner, topped the Central Jersey victor, Montgomery, 43-27, behind a strong third quarter. The Chiefs are 30-1 on the season and haven’t lost since Feb. 20 against another ranked team, Paul VI.

Cherokee averages 49,4 points per game while allowing just 30.4 points. It has never made it to the Group 4 championship until this season.

Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisWasky.

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