PATERSON, NJ – Things didn’t look so good for the Kennedy High Lady Knights in the opening minutes of their North Jersey Group IV championship game on March 10. Edison High went on an 8-0 run to start the game.
But once Kennedy’s Erika Brown and Morgan Taylor got hot, the Edison defense was helpless in finding a way to cool them off and the Lady Knights ended up cruising to a 73-50 victory.
After the initial Edison spurt, JFK eventually evened the score 17-17 at the end of the first quarter as the Knights began to find a rhythm on both sides of the ball.
Perhaps the Kennedy players were thrown off in the early going by the deafening Edison fans. Many were male students wore body paint, football shoulder pads, wrestling singlets, and luchador (Mexican wrestler) masks to show their support for the Lady Eagles.
The second-quarter was tightly contested as the teams went tit-for-tat in shooting, rebounding, and steals. JFK held a narrow 30-28 lead heading into halftime.
Morgan Taylor led all scorers at the half with 12 points on four three- point shots. Erika Brown was effective as well with 10 points at the end of the second quarter.
At the half, Edison head coach Amy Hanson had a sound game plan in mind. “On defense, we need to get in the girls’ faces and rebound more,’’ he said. “Offensively, we need to keep moving the ball and dish down low.”
This turned out to be one of those situations where one deserves an “A” for planning, but an “F” for execution.
Taylor and Brown took over the game once the third quarter began. Brown scored seven points just 3:48 into the second half, and ended up with 11 points, three steals, and one assist in the third. Brown simply refused to miss shots and was playing with an intensity that no one in the Edison line up could match.
Taylor, meanwhile, remained on fire from three point range, nailing two more “3’s” in the third. By the start of the fourth quarter, the Lady Knights had opened a 53-36 lead.
In the fourth, the Lady Eagles were never able to get closer than within 13 points. Taylor and Brown combined for 15 more points in the final quarter, leading the Knights to a comfortable 73-50 win.
The lone bright spot for the Eagles was junior Tierra Johnson, who passed the 1,000-point mark for her career during the game. The Edison fans gave her a standing ovation, as well as balloons and flowers, but Johnson’s 28 point performance, which put her at 1,011, was the only thing the Eagles had to cheer about at the end of the night.
For Kennedy, Morgan Taylor finished with 25 points, her first 20-plus point effort since she put up 22 against West Milford on January 20th. When questioned how she managed to go 7-for-10 from three point range, Taylor said, “I’ve been working on my shooting game. Tonight, I was just feeling it.” She also mentioned that she “jammed my finger against Passaic County Tech on Tuesday, and I was a little concerned it would effect my shooting tonight.” Obviously, those concerns turned out to be unwarranted.
Brown continued her exceptional playoff play with 30 points, seven rebounds, and six steals on the evening. The 30 points were a career high for the sophomore. Brown noted that “coming out strong in the third was very important.” She stated that “the defense had no answers” in the second half since the Eagles continued to key in on player at a time.
When asked if she expected to make it this far back in December, Brown said, “The expectation every year is to win a championship, nothing less.”
Amazingly, Taylor and Brown accounted for 55 of the Knights 73 points.
Kennedy Head Coach Marquette Burgess said, “We needed to settle in” in regards to the slow first couple of minutes of play. “They came out with a ton of intensity and energy, rightfully so, but we quickly matched it,” he said.
When asked if there were any particulars he used to inspire his team at the half-time, Burgess said, “I just stressed that we were the better team.”
Needless to say, the coach was pleased with the play of both Brown and Taylor. “These are phenomenal basketball players. They got in a groove, and no one could stop them,” he said.
Kennedy will now take on Rancocas Valley (29-3) on Sunday, March 13th for the Group IV State Championship. Rancocas Valley defeated Washington Township handily, 66-46, in their semifinal game.