Sports

SPHS Lady Tigers Crush Belleville 61-36, Advance to Quarterfinals of N2G3 Tourney

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SOUTH PLAINFIELD -- The term “pick-six” is usually only associated with football when a quarterback throws an interception that’s returned for a touchdown by the defense. But “pick-six” can also sometimes be used for basketball when a team forces a turnover on defense and get out in transition and pick-up an easy two points on a layup.

The eighth-seeded South Plainfield High School varsity girls basketball team scored plenty of “touchdowns” Tuesday afternoon, topping ninth-seeded Belleville, 61-36, in the first round of the NJSIAA/ShopRite North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 tournament in South Plainfield.

The Lady Tigers were ready to play and pounced their way to a 21-5 lead in the first quarter and never looked back.

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“We were (ready to go),” South Plainfield head coach Kevin Hughes told TAPinto South Plainfield. “We had a rough week preparing states in terms in terms of we played good teams lost some close games, but I told them those wins were necessarily about the wins and loses, it’s more about facing good teams and then come out and play a good game on our home floor. (We) came out on fire.

“Our transition game was awesome and that got us going. I’m proud of them.”

South Plainfield created havoc on defense whether it was their zone or full-court pressure defense. The Tigers recorded 19 total steals as a team, including eight by senior Caity Hughes, who finished with a game-high whopping 31 points. Many came on layups on “pick-sixes”.

Coming into the game, Coach Hughes had the recipe for success for getting the win.

“We had them film and we thought we could get some traps, some steals, and turnovers, and cause (Belleville) to play a little bit faster,” the coach said. “We wanted to play full court which we were able to do and we did a good job rebounding and looking up and finding the outlet. It worked to perfection.”

Caity Hughes didn’t particularly shoot the ball well - she made one 3-pointer - but she attacked the basket and for the most part finished. Kayla Greenleaf provided a presence inside, chipping in with nine points and 14 rebounds. Syleen Reyes added five points, five assists, and two steals while Grace Ochoa chipped in with six points and four rebounds.

Emani Hill led Belleville with 11 points.

Next up for South Plainfield is top-seeded Somerville on Thursday in the quarterfinals. The Pioneers beat up 16th-seeded Summit 61-40 in their first round matchup. Melody Van Ness averages 21.5 points 4.8 rebounds, and 4.4 points per game.

“We’re going to the one-seed. They’re obviously very good, but we’ll go and we’ll see what happens you never know.”

The Tigers however won’t be without confidence even though they have a daunting task in front of them. They didn’t make the postseason season and now have a dominant win under their best this year. South Plainfield led by as much as 33 points.

“This win really is a confidence booster because we didn’t make the state tournament last year so advancing to the next round this year is really amazing,” Caity Hughes said. “I don’t think anyone would have predicted it. It’s awesome to see the whole team really click and work well together.

“They all work so hard and give it their all every time they go on the court. We’re definitely going to take this win and this momentum and carry it with us on Thursday.”

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