It was another exciting season for high school girls’ basketball, but one that ended with no state championships.
In fact, just one team from the seven-county South Jersey area played for a state title and that was Ocean City, which lost, 48-45 to Pascack Valley in the state Group 3 title game.
What that shows is how difficult it is to win a state championship. In fact winning a South Jersey title is no easy feat and there were some impressive sectional champs from the seven-county South Jersey areas.
First off was Ocean City, which finished its outstanding season with a 30-2 record. The Red Raiders only other loss was a 38-25 defeat to Mainland.
That’s a Mainland team that Ocean City also beat twice, 29-27 on Jan. 25 and 38-31 in the South Jersey Group 3 championship.
It was the second consecutive sectional title for coach Paul Baruffi’s team. Senior Alexis Paone led the Red Raiders in the championship game with 12 points.
This was a veteran Ocean City team, which also won the overall Cape Atlantic League championship with a 39-37 overtime victory over Middle Township as Paone scored a game high 14 points.
The other sectional champions from the seven-county South Jersey areas were Cherokee in SJ Group 4, and Wildwood in SJ Group 1.
Cherokee (27-3) was led by 6-foot senior Isabella Therien, who is a major candidate for South Jersey player of the year. Therien, who is headed to Loyola (MD), averaged 21 points per game.
Therien’s buzzer-beater gave the Chiefs a 37-35 win over Toms River North in the SJ Group 4 championship.
She also tied for game-high scoring honors with 16 points.
In the semifinal, Cherokee defeated rival and defending state Group 4 champion Lenape, 55-42. The two teams had split in the regular season but behind 31 points from Therien, Cherokee defeated the defending state champions.
Cherokee’s season ended with a 43-38 loss to Sayreville in the state Group 4 semifinal.
Considering that Therien was the only returning starter from last year’s South Jersey Group 4 finalist, it was an outstanding showing for coach Ron Powell’s Chiefs.
Wildwood was the top seed in South Jersey Group 1 and the Warriors proved worthy of the top spot.
The Warriors defeated No. 3 seeded Haddon Township, 42-31 in the sectional final as senior forward Mackenzie McCracken exploded for 26 points.
Besides the scoring of McCracken, defense was a major reason the Warriors won their ninth sectional title. In Wildwood’s four South Jersey tourney wins, the Warriors allowed an average of just 35.2 points.
Wildwood’s season would end with a 78-51 state semifinal loss to Bound Brook. The Warriors ended 24-5 and like Cherokee and Ocean City, will surely cherish earning a South Jersey championship.
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