CEDAR GROVE, NJ - Tied at 33 with less than a minute remaining and their season on the line, Cedar Grove would need a basket to continue their run at a State Title. Gianna Bocchino, who went coast to coast and connected with an arching layup gave her squad the lead in the waning moments.

“We knew it would be a tough game and it would be close, at times there were bad calls, but we fought through it at the end,” said Bocchino.

The junior’s layup ignited the crowd and her team to will themselves onto victory.

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“At the end of the game Bocchino stepped up big for us,” said Cedar Grove Head Coach Bill Scanlon.

Despite having the lead with 30 seconds remaining the Waldwick squad was afforded one last game-tying opportunity. An errant pass was jumped by senior Karen Raum to force a loose ball, which was picked up by Bocchino for a game-sealing layup for Cedar Grove.

“I just noticed that they were coming around the arch and handing it off and I just tried to get in between the players and scoop it out and luckily my athletic teammate was there to scoop it up and go in for the layup,” said Raum.

Raum was able to add another free throw before a meaningless Waldwick basket to end the game at 38-35 for Cedar Grove. For Raum, it was a glorious ending to her last home game on the CGHS court as she scored 10 points off the bench. Perhaps this game was even more special for Raum after battling back from a season threatening concussion to play in these last three games.

“It means a lot.  I definitely did not want this to be my last game, this season definitely went by way to fast for me,” said Raum.

During the State Playoffs it takes a full team effort to win games and Cedar Grove did just that going eight deep into their roster for quality minutes. The aforementioned Raum was instrumental in scoring runs in the third and fourth quarter respectively while teammates Chloe Weinstein and Brittney Taylor provided defensive spunk off the bench and added a combined three points.

“Each one of them had a number of plays that were very important for us,” said Scanlon.

While the game became a nail biter in the end, the first quarter gave a misleading introduction to the contest. Cedar Grove dominated with a 12 to four scoring run sparked by five points from Ava Mandala and three each from Ava Fernandez and Jess Sinisi. The trio of starters, who ultimately had minutes cut due to foul trouble finished with a combined 42% of the teams offense for the game with 16 points in total.

“I feel like we came out excited and were ready to play, I know none of us wanted to go home so I guess the motivation to win kept us going,” said Bocchino.

Cedar Grove’s victory improves the squad to 11-13 on the season as they’ve now won three games in a row. The Panthers will look to play underdog when they take on top seeded 18-7 Midland Park on Wednesday.

“It’s a tough gym to play in.  It’s very small so we’ll give it our best shot and see how we do,” said Scanlon.

All photos by Joe Amati. 

TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove  is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.

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