WEST ORANGE, NJ – The girls basketball team from West Orange High School seems to like overtime. The Lady Mountaineers have now played three overtime periods against Bloomfield, tying the Lady Bengals once and outscoring them in the other two to beat Bloomfield High School twice.
It took two overtimes to decide a winner when eighth-seeded West Orange outlasted ninth-seeded Bloomfield, 49-46, in an Essex County Tournament round of 16 game back on Saturday, Feb. 13 at West Orange High School.
So, when the two teams once again had to go to overtime in a first-round state playoffs game on Tuesday, March 1, it surprised no one. How they got there, however was, to say the least, interesting.
The 14th seed in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group 4 state playoffs bracket, the Lady Mountaineers, held a seemingly insurmountable 22-point lead, 42-20, over the third-seeded Lady Bengals early in the fourth quarter...only to see it all disappear down the stretch and the game go into overtime tied at 45-all.
In that extra stanza, though, West Orange regrouped and outscored the home team, 7-2, to finally post a huge upset, 52-47.
That outcome has pushed the now 10-15 Lady Mountaineers into the N1, G4 quarterfinals round, where they're scheduled to travel to take on the sixth seed, Eastside High of Paterson at 7 p.m. today, Thursday, March 3.
A triumph tonight leads to the section semifinals and a game against either No. 10 Randolph or No. 15 Hackensack, both of which pulled off impressive first-round upsets over the second and seventh seeds: Ridgewood and Livingston. The section semi's are set for Saturday, March 8. The teams remaining on the other side of the bracket are No. 1 Morristown, No. 4. JFK of Paterson, No. 5 North Bergen and No. 9 Montclair, with the section's crown clash.
Among the Lady Mountaineers' stats leaders in the win were Sidney Gordon, a senior shooting guard who totaled a career-high 26 points, to go along with two assists and two steals; Dawn Flood, a junior small forward who collected a career-high 13 rebounds, to go along with seven points scored; and Mya Bembry, a freshman shooting guard who added 10 points and 11 rebounds to her team's totals.
Tuesday's stunning upset of the section's third seed brought the locals' their first state playoffs victory in several seasons and the first such success under third-year head hoops honcho Canience Montague-Williams.
“It was a crazy, crazy game,” said Montague-Williams, a member of the Montclair High Class of 2005 who graduated from Bloomfield College in '09.
“Once we were up 22, I think I tried to get my girls to slow things down a little bit and, maybe, that was a mistake,” she said.
“We just didn't do well with that kind of lead and, maybe we just started to think too much and put too much pressure on ourselves and, suddenly, we were letting Bloomfield right back into the game and we allowed a driving layup with two seconds left to tie it up and send it into overtime,” she added.
“But, at that point, I reminded our girls that it was just like the start of the game, like 0-0 all over again and that we simply had four minutes to win a state tournament game,” she said.
“And, to their credit, they showed a lot of heart and got the job done,” said Montague-Williams.
“Now, as far as Eastside goes, they have two really tall girls, one is like 6-7 and the other is like 6-5, so you know that we're going to give up points in the paint,” she stated.
“But, what we're going to have to do is make sure we box out correctly each and every time, limit their second chance shots and hope we can just simply outscore them in what could be a very high-scoring game,” said Montague-Williams.
Last year, West Orange lost a first-round states game at Eastside, where they trailed by just four, 22-18, at the intermission, but had a very bad third quarter and went on to fall, 51-33.
The team travels to take on Eastside High of Paterson at 7 p.m. today, Thursday, March 3.