Did anyone in Westfield’s gymnasium think that Saturday night’s girls basketball conference clash between arch rivals Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School and was not going to go down to the wire?
Perhaps for a moment at intermission one might have thought that the visiting Raiders were in total control after they managed to take not one, not two, but three 13-point leads in the second quarter and then added one more early in the third.
However, host Westfield didn’t see it that way. The Blue Devils already lost to conference foes Union and Linden this week and they were not about to go down again, especially to Scotch Plains, no matter how big of a deficit they had to battle back from in the second half.
Sparked by clutch three-point shooting from freshman guard Lillian Scott, outstanding rebounding from senior Carolyn Maguire and sophomore Carly Friedman, the ability of freshman guard Jacqueline Knapp to drive to the hoop and almost perfect free throw shooting from Maguire and enough free throws made by freshman guard Jamie Miller, Westfield came back in the second half to stun Scotch Plains 49-45 in Union County Conference-Watchung Division play.
Westfield improved to 5-10 overall and 2-7 in the Watchung Division, while Scotch Plains lost for the fourth straight time to slip to 7-9 overall and 4-5 in the Watchung.
Scotch Plains came back to edge Westfield 51-50 at home in division play back on Dec. 22.
On the same Saturday night last year – Jan. 29, 2011 – Westfield came back to nip Scotch Plains 41-39. Westfield entered that game at 3-10.
On this Saturday night, Westfield came all the way back to take the lead for only the second time and the first time since 3-2 when Scott made her fourth and final three-point field goal to give Westfield a 37-36 advantage with 6:33 to go.
“We came out with fire in our bellies and I think we wanted it more,” said Scott, who was the game’s leading scorer with 19 points, including six in the fourth quarter.
“Lillian can shoot the ball,” Marino said. “She comes down the court and doesn’t shy away. For a freshman she’s got a heck of an eye for the basket.”
Scotch Plains took its last lead at 38-37 when junior guard Taylor Sebolao, who finished with eight points, made a layup off a pass from sophomore Katie Harper.
Miller then made one of two free throws to move the score to 38-38, which was the only time the game was tied.
Following a Scotch Plains miss, Knapp made the second of two free throws to give Westfield the lead for good at 39-38. Sebolao then fouled out with 2:43 left, putting Maguire on the line.
Maguire made one of two foul shots to increase the Blue Devils lead to 40-38. She made 12-of-14 free throws for her entire 14-point production. She only missed her second and 12th free throws.
“We took something like 200 foul shots in practice yesterday,” Maguire said. “When I came to the line it was like practice, I didn’t even have to think about it.”
The practice really paid off, especially when she made her final two free throw attempts with 39.45 seconds left to give Westfield a 46-43 lead.
Harper followed with a layup to make it 46-45 with 33 seconds remaining. Miller was then fouled and made one of two free throws for a 47-45 score.
Harper drove and got the ball to big freshman Thabitha Dwunfour on the left side of the basket, but similar to a few other times Dwunfour missed from inside.
Dwunfour did not have a bad game and is still learning. She still managed to score a team-leading – along with sophomore Alyssa Riporti – 10 points and also did well to haul in 15 rebounds and block three shots.
After Miller missed two technical foul shots following a Scotch Plains flagrant foul, Westfield got the ball to Scott, who was quickly fouled with 10.80 seconds to go. Scott made both free throws to put Westfield up 49-45.
Scotch Plains then came down and missed two shots, as the Blue Devils were able to gain another conference split with the Raiders.
The teams could face each other once more in next month’s Union County Tournament.
Scotch Plains went on a 10-0 run in the first quarter to take a 12-3 lead. The Raiders then went ahead 20-7 early in the second quarter after Dwunfour scored inside. Westfield followed with a 7-0 run to get the game to 20-14 before Scotch Plains came right back to go on a 7-0 run itself to increase its advantage back to 13 at 27-14.
Riporti then, off a pass from Harper, nailed a two-point shot from the right side at the first half buzzer to give the Raiders their third and final 13-point lead of 29-16.
Scott scored the first points of the third quarter by connecting on her third three-pointer. Sebolao came right back to hit her second and final three-pointer to give the Raiders their final 13-point cushion at 32-19.
Westfield then began to chip away, scoring its next five points all from the free throw line. The Blue Devils ultimately produced a 12-2 run that concluded when Scott stole the ball, then took a pass from Friedman, and drove for a layup to pull Westfield to within 34-31. This was when the crowd really began to get into the game and also when it appeared that Westfield now had a real shot to win the contest.
A big part of Westfield winning the third quarter 18-6 and getting to within one point at 35-34 when Knapp swished a three-point shot from the top of the key right before the buzzer, was the Blue Devils preventing Dwunfour from scoring a single point in the eight-minute stanza.
Dwunfour did not make a basket in the second half at all after scoring eight points on four field goals in the first half. Her only second-half points came on two free throws she made in the fourth quarter.
“We played with a lot more composure in the second half and we had the whole crowd and that’s what kept us going,” Scott said. “It was tough to try to box her (Dwunfour) out and prevent her from getting her shot.”
After a tough contest in Union Tuesday where Westfield was down 21-2 following the first quarter and never really in the game, coming back to beat Scotch Plains of all teams four days later is all the more sweet.
“We’ve been working hard and we also had a tough game against Linden (Thursday),” Scott said. “This wraps up the whole week for us.”
For Maguire, she will go out with a win against Scotch Plains her junior and senior seasons – both at home in dramatic Saturday night fashion.
“When it’s Scotch Plains, we get a little hyped, it’s a big rivalry,” Maguire said. “We wanted this. We came back and this is good for us.”
After losing the first two quarters 15-7 and 14-9, Westfield outscored Scotch Plains 33-16 in the final 32 minutes. In addition to grabbing several key rebounds, Maguire made seven of her 12 free throws in the last two periods.
She explained that there was no quitting in her team after it trailed at the break by a double-digit margin.
“We had a really good talk at halftime,” Maguire said. “I think that after we got together and realized what mistakes we were making, we were able to get that straight and we got into our game.
“We got all the pre-game jitters out in the first half - we didn’t play how we wanted to play - but then once we came out in the second half we were ready.”
Maguire also talked about Westfield switching its defensive alignment from zone to man in the third quarter, which was a big part of the Blue Devils coming back.
“We were able to push 24 (Dwunfour) out of the game and we were able to get our offensive rhythm because we kept them out of theirs,” Maguire said.
“Our biggest concern was getting the big girl (Dwunfour) out, we kept her out of the paint,” Marino said. “The other girls, it was just a matter of time. We just kept on manufacturing points, playing hard and going at them.”
Friedman finished with four points and grabbed six big rebounds in the fourth quarter. Maguire finished with 10 rebounds.
“Friedman did a nice job,” Marino said. “She’s a sophomore and she hit the boards hard for us. Her job was to hit the boards and get the ball out to our ball-handlers.
“Carolyn also had a nice game today. She kept chipping away and chipping away (with her successful free throw attempts) and then near the end we just made some good things happen.”
Westfield made 24-of-38 free throw attempts, including three-for-six in the first quarter, three-for-four in the second, six-for-eight in the third and 12-for-20 in the fourth.
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-WATCHUNG DIVISION
GIRLS’ BASKETBALL GAME AT WESTFIELD
SCOTCH PLAINS (7-9, 4-5) 15 14 6 10 - 45
WESTFIELD (5-10, 2-7) 7 9 18 15 - 49
SCOTCH PLAINS RAIDERS (45):
12-Katie Harper, sophomore, 2-0-2-6
24-Thabitha Dwunfour, freshman 4-0-2-10
15-Madison Maisel, sophomore, 0-2-0-6
23-Taylor Sebolao, junior, 1-2-0-8
20-Tara Sweeney, junior, 2-0-1-5
13-Alyssa Riporti, sophomore, 5-0-0-10
Starters: Sebolao, Dwunfour,
Harper, Riporti, Sweeney
WESTFIELD BLUE DEVILS (49):
21-Carolyn Maguire, senior, 0-0-12-12
20-Lillian Scott, freshman, 2-4-3-19
11-Jamie Miller, freshman, 1-0-4-6
2-Jacqueline Knapp, freshman, 0-1-5-8
13-Carly Friedman, sophomore, 2-0-0-4
3-Megan Mondon, freshman, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Knapp, Miller,
Friedman, Scott, Maguire