By Andy Loigu
Under the guidance of first-year head coach Bernie Ivin, Hackettstown’s girls’ basketball team started out 2-0 on Friday night and Saturday afternoon.
Coming from behind in the second half both times, the Tigers won 39-35 at Randolph on Friday evening and 48-43 at home over Wallkill Valley after a short turn-around on Saturday afternoon.
Junior point guard Amber Sagan led the Tigers in scoring with 16 points at Randolph, including three 3-point buckets. Junior backcourt mate Steph Jaxheimer also canned a trio of threes while registering 10 points.
The Tigers trailed 33-25 but caught fire, scoring 12 consecutive points.
Hackettstown tied the game on back-to-back three-point bonus bombs from Sagan. A trey by Jaxheimer gave the Tigers a 36-33 lead with 2:27 left to play. Sagan added a free throw for a 37-33 lead.
“This team showed real grit,” Ivin marveled after the game. “They stuck with it and made every adjustment. Everyone played great defense and contributed to the comeback.”
Every team has different formulas for success, but winning basketball units have a basic four-part philosophy in common:
- First, keep cutting to the basket and look for a layup. It is the highest percentage shot.
- Second, if the layup is unavailable, set a screen for an open three-point bonus bomb. Three is always better than two.
- Third, use crisp passes, pop that ball, while searching for the open shot. Good things happen to those who are patient.
- Last but definitely not least, play defense with as much intensity as you play offense, just in case 1, 2, and 3 are not working.
The defense is only as strong as its weakest link.
Sagan, Jaxheimer, Jess Scheper, Nicole Ivin, Hunter Ruppel, Caitlin Nicholls, Gabriella Hadzovic, and Lisa Kaditus, all underclassmen, worked together in an aggressive, trapping 2-3 zone. It kept the Tigers in the game at Randolph, as their shots were not finding the mark in the first half.
The Rams did not score until 4:50 was left in period one, making the score 1-1. The visiting Tigers trailed 13-5, and then 19-13 at the half, staying close by forcing numerous turnovers.
The shots started falling in the second half as the Tigers clawed back.
The growing pains the young Tiger team was expected to experience apparently only lasted through the first half. They looked like seasoned veterans when the game was on the line in the final minutes.
Their defensive efforts produced five blocked shots (two by Nicholls). Ruppel made four steals and Jaxheimer swiped the ball three times.
Hackettstown hit the boards, pulling down 27 rebounds. Ruppel led the way, grabbing seven caroms, while Nicholls with six, and Jaxheimer with five, also were strong under the glass.
The next afternoon, Hackettstown trailed Wallkill Valley 21-17 at half time, but won by outscoring the visiting Rangers 19-10 in the final period.
Sagan, leading the team from the important point guard position, scored 20, with nine of the points coming on free throws.
In girls’ basketball, where most teams do not have a dominating center, a steady point guard who makes good decisions with the ball in her hands is vital to winning.
Warren Hills Goalkeeper Receives Honors
Congratulations to senior girls’ soccer goalkeeper Kendall Koch, of Warren Hills, who earned All-Skyland Conference honors for the third consecutive season.
She broke her own school record with 11 shutouts this year. Koch made 437 career saves in her three varsity seasons, 20 of them in a double-overtime win against Mount St. Mary’s.
Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building.