Colts Neck, N.J. - A great season of success and hard work came to an unfortunate end on Monday night in the finals of NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 3 Tournament for the Colts Neck High School girls basketball team.
No. 3 seed Westampton Tech proved to be too much for the top-seeded Cougars, who saw their season end in a 55-44 defeat to the champion Panthers.
Westampton Tech got out a 8-2 run to begin the contest and led 12-4 over Colts Neck after Camryn Foltz went one-of-two from the free-throw line with 2:47 to go in the first quarter.
The Panthers got their lead up to 10 on the Cougars before Colts Neck roared back on a 7-2 run to finish off the quarter to cut the deficit to 16-11.
Colts Neck got off to a sloppy start in the second quarter with three turnovers and Westampton Tech was able to jump out to a 20-13 lead.
Teresa Marsh got Colts Neck back on track by knocking home her first of three three-pointers of the night to cut the deficit to 20-16.
Marsh fed Maddy Hunt at the top of the key to swish home her first shot of the game in the first half to cut it the Westampton Tech lead to two, but the Panthers stormed back to go up 27-20 with 1:52 left till halftime.
Just like the first quarter, Colts Neck finished the second quarter strong with Catherine Gibson knocking in two free-throw attempts and Foltz knocking home her third basket of the half.
Foltz went to one-of-two from the strike to cut the Colts Neck deficit to 27-25 with three seconds left in the half to give the junior 10 of her team-high 12 points in the first half.
“I just tried to do whatever I could to help the team win,” Foltz said. “If that meant putting the ball in the basket for my team, then I would try to put the ball in the basket.”
Foltz averaged over 14 points a game in the sectional tournament for Colts Neck.
Jessica Thesing almost tied things up for Colts Neck going into halftime, stealing the ball from Westampton Tech’s Nisea Burrell in the final seconds just to miss the layup before the buzzer that kept the Panthers up two at the half.
Colts Neck got the game to 29-28 after Gibson racked in her second three-pointer of the game. Burrell answered back for Westampton Tech by rattling home her own three-pointer and teammate Brianna McNair followed with knocking in her second basket of the third quarter to put the Panthers up 34-28.
Gibson rose again from three-point range in the final moments of the third quarter, knocking home her third shot from downtown in the contest with four seconds remaining to cut the Westampton Tech lead to 37-33 going into the fourth quarter.
Gibson had 11 points in her final game for the Cougars.
Another Colts Neck charge to get back into the game was once again countered by Westampton as Lillian Gyamfi became tough to stop in the paint for the Panthers in the fourth quarter.
Gyamfi knocked in her second basket of the quarter to put Westampton Tech up 43-35 with 5:13 left to play.
Coming out of the time out, Marsh mounted another Cougar comeback try, nailing in her second three-pointer of the night to make it a 5-point game.
Moments later, Marsh struck again from downtown, joining Gibson with three three-pointers on the night for Colts Neck to make it 43-41 with 4:09 left to play.
“It felt amazing hitting those three-pointers,” Marsh said. “I was too tentative in the first half and Coach Jannarone told me to let it rip in the second half. It really got our team going.”
Marsh scored nine points in her final game for Colts Neck.
Westampton Tech answered back again with Gyamfi again showing her force inside with another basket, adding a free-throw at the line after to complete the three-point play to put the Panthers up 47-41 with just under three minutes to play.
Gyamfi scored 18 points in the win for Westampton Tech.
A Eva Gibson free-throw cut it to 47-42 with 2:41 to play, but that was as close as Colts Neck would get to Westampton Tech.
Good free-throw shooting by Burrell and Cara Brannon in the final two minutes, followed by Burrell’s last second three-pointer helped clinch the Central Jersey, Group 3 title for Westampton Tech.
Burrell finished with a game-high 19 points.
Thesing had nine points scored in the loss for Colts Neck.
Colts Neck finishes the season 20-8. The Cougars won eight of their final 10 games.
Despite the tough loss, coach Steve Jannarone couldn’t be prouder of the success his team had this season and the way they played all year.
“This loss doesn’t diminish what our team did to get to this point,” Jannarone said. “They got the whole Colts Neck community behind them. All season long, our team played the full 32 minutes of a game no matter what. That speaks a lot about their character. Our girls should be so proud of themselves for what they accomplished this year.”
Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports