ANNANDALE, NJ – It was one of those nights.
Behind stellar defense and marksman-like precision from behind the arc, the seventh-seeded North Hunterdon High School girls basketball team got out to an early lead and never let up to beat 10th-seeded Piscataway, 52-32, in the first round of the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 tournament last night in Annandale.
Everything went right for the Lady Lions (15-10), especially in the first quarter where they shot out to a 24-0 lead. North Hunterdon made four 3-pointers in the quarter and played full-court press defense on the other side of the ball to stifle the Lady Chiefs. In turn, North Hunterdon was able to pick up easy points off many Piscataway turnovers (14 in the first half).
“We turned the ball over, didn’t get into our offense, and let them penetrate our zone. They kicked the ball out to open shooters and they didn’t miss from three,” head coach, David Kosa said.
Asked what about their defense caused problems for the underdogs, Kosa said it was more mental than anything. Then, everything just went awry.
“I think it was more our decision making. We knew they would diamond and one press us and drop back a man,” Kosa said. “They pressured us, and we threw right into their denial. Then when we did break the press, we settled for jump shots and missed. We didn’t get into any of our plays, stood around a lot, and when that happens, it’s a recipe for turnovers.
“Then our effort on the defensive end suffered. We let them dribble drive us, gambled at wrong times, and they made us pay with open 3-pointers.”
Alexa Vasile came off the bench to make two 3-pointers and finished with a game-high-tying 13 points for North Hunterdon. Brittany Goepfert (nine points) and Maria Newsome (eight points) also made two triples each in the contest.
North Hunterdon has now reached at least the quarterfinals in the state tournament for the fourth consecutive year, where they will meet second-seeded Franklin.
For Piscataway (14-12), their 2016-17 season ends, but they shouldn’t hang their heads. The Lady Chiefs advanced all the way to the semifinals of the Greater Middlesex Conference tournament where they ran into top-seeded Sayreville. Junior LaNiya Miller, who scored 13 points against North Hunterdon, scored 30 and 33 in back-to-back GMCT wins. Miller returns next year after averaging 18.5 points per game. Only two seniors will graduate and move on.
Piscataway also was bitten by the injury bug during the course of the winter with multiple players out at different times. The young squad will look to regroup and come back more polished and stronger next year.
“I’m most proud of how we handled adversity,” Kosa said. “We lost our sixth-man Jenn Majorczak (junior) for half the season due to a concussion. We lost Saniya Myers (sophomore) since the Old Bridge game. She just got back (last night) but was still hobbled. We lost Deonna Henry (senior) for 2.5 games.
“We still fought hard and hopefully we learn and gain valuable experience from the ride this year.”
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