SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - For the most part, when an eighth-seeded team takes on a ninth-seeded team in a basketball tournament, the game is a close or competitive affair. When the eighth-seeded South Plainfield girls’ basketball team (14-7) took on ninth-seeded Spotswood (17-6) in the first round of the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament, it was a different story. In front of a home crowd, South Plainfield defeated Spotswood 57-36, and booked their ticket to the GMC quarterfinals.
The Tigers took control of the game from the get go, jumping out to a 17-5 lead by the seven minute mark of the first quarter. A big factor for that offensive explosion was Amanda Harper.
The senior guard drained two 3-pointers in the first quarter and one in the second. The Tigers were up 31-14 by halftime. Despite Harper sitting out in the second half, the Tigers still maintained their offensive game in the closing stanzas.
“The hot start was nice to come out and make some threes. When we shoot the ball that well early we usually can do enough.” said South Plainfield coach Kevin Hughes. “We lost Amanda at halftime but the other kids stepped up.”
Sarah Cargill was a major offensive presence in the second half. The junior guard scored 11 points in the third quarter and 20 in the game. It was the sixth time this season Cargill scored 20 or more points.
“Sarah was aggressive, she got to the foul line and that was big in the second half,” said Hughes. “They were kind of locking on to her on the outside so she only had a handful of points at halftime, but in the second half without Amanda, we asked her to be a little more aggressive going to the basket and she started drawing a lot of fouls and getting to the foul line. Getting a lot of scoring in the foul line that can really open things up and that enabled us to hold on to that lead.”
On the defensive side of the game, Naomi McNeill came through for the Tigers. The senior protected the interior and picked up four blocks by the end of the second quarter.
“She had some nice blocks which set the tone.” said Hughes. “She made shots on offense as well as blocking shots on defense. It kind of gets the kids excited. She definitely gave us a spark defensively in the first half which led to a lot of those points that we got early.”
The quarterfinals of the GMC tournament will be on Feb 12 and the Tigers will most likely be going against first seeded Piscataway. Despite having to up against the top-seeded, two time defending champs, Coach Hughes says the team isn’t feeling an extra pressure.
“Next round is gravy basically. All the pressure is on (Piscataway). The tournament is about survive and advance. We don’t have to be a better team than them for the year, we just have to be better for 32 minutes on one day. And who knows, that’s what tournaments are for. Maybe we’ve got the Cinderella slipper.”