PATERSON, NJ - John F. Kennedy’s varsity girls’ basketball squad advanced in the Passaic County Tournament with a convincing victory over Passaic County Technical Institute by a score of 56-33. The Knights raced to a seven point lead in the first quarter and gradually added to their advantage throughout the rest of the contest.
JFK Freshman point guard Nandi Cameron opened scoring with a nice 10-foot runner from near the lane. Teammate, and junior, Jenai Blue, added two free throws. Knights’ guard Taylor Yancey lofted a shot from the left wing that bounced off the rim but fellow senior center Jimarrah Johnson was there for the rebound and put back. A missed PCTI three-pointer led to a fast break bucket by senior forward Taniesha Gilbert. Behind by a score of 8-3, Bulldogs’ Head Coach Ron Williams signaled a time out to calm his troops.
The strategy backfired as a PCTI shot attempt was blocked by Johnson who fed the outlet pass to Gilbert who was streaking up court. Fouled in the act, Gilbert sank the pair of subsequent free throws.
Game intensity heated up as Johnson was knocked to the hardwood, in the lane, but no foul was whistled. After tenacious defense by Yancey forced a double-dribble, the Bulldogs broke the JFK full court press which resulted in a rainbow swish from the left wing by sophomore Paige Traynor. Soon thereafter, PTCI junior guard Jayanna Mathis was fouled while shooting from beyond the arc and calmly dropped in three straight free throws. Late in the first frame a furious exchange under the boards resulted in a trip to the free throw line by Gilbert. Jade Ramos-Hemkel of the Bulldogs then notched a nifty runner from right of the paint. Gilbert drove left from the top of the key and cut to the basket for a quarter ending score.
The Knights continued to solve PCTI’s 2-3 zone defense with a trey from junior point guard Kiana Hardison to open the second period. Gilbert and Johnson then connected on one of their many assist-basket combos for the evening and Yancey provided a nothing-but-net long shot from the left baseline.
The energetic guard then picked a pocket at half court but her bounce pass attempt for a fast break score caromed of a Bulldog’s defender’s foot. A Kennedy air ball followed which enabled a Bulldog convoy and senior Jenn Abreu to notch two free throws. The senior forward would drop in three more from the charity stripe before intermission.
After Kennedy junior sharpshooter Samantha Ferraras swished a three-pointer from right corner, Gilbert led a charge up court and dished to Cameron for a 20-footer from the left baseline. JFK’s Hardison then took her turn to grab a defensive rebound and go coast-to-coast for a score.
The Knights opted to let the clock wind down for the final shot of the half. Cameron literally held the ball for at least 20 seconds before being challenged by a PCTI defender. However, the Knights squandered the opportunity by turning the ball over.
The second half saw Kennedy pad their lead by featuring several perfect passes from Gilbert into Johnson at the low post for easy bankers. Following a free throw by Bulldogs’ freshman Trinity Clacken, Gilbert shook loose from her defender to pull up and knock down a 3-pointer from the baseline. Another basket by Gilbert, a length of the court fast break, forced PCTI to call a time-out.
After the 30-second respite, Johnson found herself surrounded by three Bulldogs at the low post. The JFK center managed to push the ball to Hardison who attempted a 10-foot jumper which missed the mark. However, Hardison’s subsequent two free throws, due to being fouled in the act of shooting, did not. Senior JFK guard Ron’Quay Gray replaced Gilbert with 1:45 left in the third frame when the latter picked up her fourth foul.
Play was momentarily halted as Passaic Tech’s Kivoni Wright crashed to the hardwood, writhing in pain. However, the courageous senior was able to hobble to the sideline, with assistance, as fans from both sides provided warm applause. The third quarter concluded with a bullet pass from Hardison inside to Johnson for another banker off the glass.
Armed with a 47-18 lead, the Knights continued to hold off the persistent Bulldogs in the final frame. The Gilbert to Johnson scoring chemistry was complimented by a steal and fast break by Cameron. Mathis countered for the Bulldogs with a sensational three-pointer from beyond the top of the key. A technical foul against PCTI saw Kennedy’s Ferraras cash in on one of two free throws.
The Kennedy scoring parade was led by Gilbert with 17 points, six rebounds, four assists, and an incredible 11 steals. Johnson added 11 points and snatched seven rebounds. Yancey and Cameron contributed eight and seven tallies, respectively. Passaic Tech was paced by Mathis with nine points. Clacken added seven and Ramos-Henkel six.
The Lady Knights continue tournament play by hosting Wayne Valley on Saturday, February 16, at 11 a.m.
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