By ANDY LOIGU
“There’s just so much you can take, so let me give your heart a break, give your heart a break,” sang Demi Lovato in a popular hit song.
She could have been singing to the breathless Warren Hills Blue Streaks’ fans following a wild and crazy 60-58 overtime win over West Morris. It could have gone into a second overtime, had the Wolfpack player who was awarded two free throws made them with 0.1 seconds showing on the clock.
The nail biting win sent the Warren Hills girls’ basketball team to the section semifinal in North 2 Group 3.
“We still have gas in the tank,” said relieved Warren Hills coach Meghan McGeehan. “We’ve been playing these kinds of games all year. We’ve had major struggles, but someone steps up each game, the players pick each other up and it is someone different each time.”
West Morris led 30-24 at the half after outscoring the Streaks 15-9 in the second period. Maddie Selvaggi scored a team-high 15 points for West Morris, but fouled out late in period four. Annie Mauldin scored 14 and Alyssa Spady scored 10. The Wolfpack scored eight 3-pointers.
Nicole Mallard led Warren Hills in scoring with 15, followed by Lexi Westley with 11 points, and rock solid center Olasubomi Ajayi with 11 points, eight rebounds, four steals and two blocked shots.
Heartbreak came in the semifinal game two days later, as a sensational performance on both offense and defense by Allie Best of Voorhees led the Vikings to a 57-49 win at Warren Hills.
The Blue Streaks took early leads of 9-2 and 11-4, but trailed 35-33 at the end of three periods, as Best ended the period with a spectacular half-court bank shot that beat the buzzer. Best converted 12 of 14 free throws in the fourth period, enabling Voorhees to pull away late. Best led all scorers with 35 points, 16 in crunch time in the final quarter.
“We did all we could to try and contain her,” McGeehan said, “but she is just that good a player.” The Blue Streaks were able to keep her from isolating and breaking down a defender, but Best still found ways to make incredible scoring plays and get to the foul line. “We used a tandem and three defense, putting a player on each of their three guards (who all can shoot), while two players looked to stop penetration to the basket. It kept us in the game,” the coach explained.
“Having come this close will really motivate our returning players to come back better than ever next year,” she said. Warren Hills finished 19-7.
Hackettstown Girls’ Basketball
The Hackettstown girls reached the North 2 Group 2 semis with a 43-39 win over visiting Fort Lee. Stefanie Jaxheimer scored 13 points to lead the top seeded Tigers, who also received six-point games from Nicole Ivin, Lisa Kaditus, and Caitlin Nicholls.
Amber Sagan made 6-of-7 free throws down the stretch and led the Tigers with 19 points as Hackettstown reached the final with a 50-36 win over Morris Tech on March 3. The team deserves much credit for its 18-9 season, first seed, and run to the section final, which generated much excitement and spirit in the town.
They lost the final 47-30 to a superior rebounding and defensive team on Monday evening. The winning Hanover Park Hornets held their foes to an average of 31 points per game this season.
Tigers Boys’ Basketball
The Hackettstown boys, seeded second, reached the North 2 Group 2 semis with a 59-52 win over seventh seed Lodi. The Tigers outscored Lodi 22-12 in the fourth quarter in a comeback effort. Tyler Akers and Matt Arcona each had 12-point games.
The end of an outstanding Tiger boys’ season came two days later with a 35-23 loss to Paterson West Side in the sectional semis, in a tactical cat-and-mouse kind of game. Playing a passive zone defense cost the Tigers dearly, after being a man-to-man team all season. The game left many Tigers’ fans calling for a shot clock in high school basketball, but the Tigers’ inactive defense actually allowed West Side to kill the clock for nearly an entire quarter.
Donations to enable HHS to set up the timing equipment for a shot clock may be sent to the office of the athletic director.
Vuz reaches 1,000 career points
Congratulations to North Warren junior Kelly Vuz, who reached the 1,000-point milestone in the Patriots’ 39-34 win over Butler (not to be confused with the Big East college that Seton Hall recently beat) on March 1. She’s averaging 17.6 points per game and is the sixth North Warren girl to achieve the milestone, including her coach Jill Masker. The list includes the top two scorers in Warren County history, Desire Almind and Caitlin Flood, who played collegiately at Bucknell and Manhattan, respectively.
Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building.