GLEN RIDGE, NJ--All season long, Glen Ridge girls' basketball coach Joe Mazzarella was looking for the ideal performance from his team, in a hostile environment, against a solid team.
On Feb. 20, the Ridgers got that effort, as the team rallied from a 9-point first-half deficit to surprise Nutley, 50-46, in Nutley.
The victory improved Glen Ridge's record to 11-11 on the season. It's the first time this season the Ridgers have reached the .500 mark. Nutley, which had a 13-game winning streak snapped in an Essex County Tournament setback last weekend, fell to 18-7.
Both Nutley and Glen Ridge are preparing for the NJSIAA Tournament, which starts on the week of March 2. The Ridgers and Raiders are each seeded third in their respective section.
When the teams met on Jan. 21, in Glen Ridge, it was Nutley who dominated, en route to a 48-27 victory.
"We knew this would be a tough game," said Mazzarella afterward. "(Nutley head coach) Larry (Mitschow) has an outstanding team. (Nutey senior guard) Abby Scheidel is such a talented player. But I like the way our kids are starting to come around, too, and I felt we would play better than we did against Nutley earlier this season."
It was Senior Night at Nutley High, and the Raiders were definitely fired up for a big effort in front of a full house. But Glen Ridge showed its mettle early, too, converting eight 3-point baskets in the first half. Nutley opened a 25-16 lead in the second quarter before the Ridgers cut the lead to 29-28 by halftime.
In the third quarter, Glen Ridge pulled ahead for the first time, 41-37, thanks to a solid passing game and a patient, opportunistic attack.
"We waited for opportunities," said Mazzarella. "We played smart, and had to against a team like Nutley."
In the fourth, Nutley regained the lead, but Glen Ridge would respond again, with key free throws down the stretch by Sarah Cullinan, Amayah Melbourne and the game clincher from Olivia Carbonell in the game's final seconds. Nutley also hurt itself in the closing seconds, with an illegal pick and later, a traveling violation which sealed the game.
Elettra Giantomenico led the Ridgers with 14 points, including four 3-point baskets. Melbourne overcame early foul trouble to score nine points while Michaila Dowd also scored nine, including two 3-pointers. Carbonell finished with seven, and converted two big 3-pointers in the first half, Haleigh Pine also hit two 3-point baskets in the first half and scored six points and Sarah Cullinan registered five points.
Glen Ridge will close out the regular season with a home game on Feb. 24, against Newark Academy at 4 p.m. and a road game at Payne Tech, on Feb. 25, at 6 p.m. The Ridgers will host Dayton in the first round of the state tournament, on March 2, at 5 p.m. If the team wins, it would host a sectional quarterfinal on March 4, at 4 p.m.