CALDWELL, NJ -- The Caldwell girls basketball team is moving on in the Section 2, Group 2 state tournament following a 54-42 victory over Verona on Tuesday evening.
“It feels awesome," said Caldwell junior forward Brielle Guarente. "I knew we had to stay focused. With states, there’s a lot of distractions with the crowd and stuff, so I knew we had to stay focused.".
Guarente notched a game-high 26 points, with eight coming in the final quarter to lead the Lady Chiefs on to victory.
“My teammates were setting me up with screens to go to the basket and I think them setting me up was really key,” said Guarente.
Verona’s Emily Baumguard and Melanie Naeris each scored in double figures for Verona, which closed to within one possession early in the fourth quarter.
“Defensively we needed to stop [Verona’s] drive. Hats off to their two [scorers], we knew we had to shut them down,” said Caldwell head coach Amanda Keenan.
Caldwell went to its bread and butter to pull away from the Verona squad. Utilizing its ‘monster’ screen game, Caldwell received six straight points from Guarente to get back out to a safe lead.
“Being that we had a lead and we gave it up we just had to stay calm and know our worth,” Guarente said.
Down the stretch, the Chiefs closed out the game at the line with a combination of Guarente and Cassidy Brown, a freshman point guard was particularly impressive with 12 points, including six in the third quarter to keep the Chiefs well in front of the Hillbillies.
“[Brown] is a huge reason why our record is what it is and being a freshman she’s took so much on her plate and I can’t be more appreciative of her, she has so much energy all the time she gives 100 percent,” said Guarente.
Caldwell (17-8) now will head into the quarterfinal round of the tournament on Thursday. For Caldwell, the formula for a victory is relatively simple: play good defense and parlay that into solid transition offense.
“Defensively we have to make sure we stop some of their top players and our offense feeds off of our tight defense and intensity,” Keenan said.