By Warren Rappleyea
South Brunswick High School’s girls’ basketball team entered the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV tournament on the heels of a 59-52 loss to top-seeded Sayreville War Memorial High School in the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Tournament finale, but the two teams could meet again.
“Of course we would like to play Sayreville again,” South Brunswick coach Jeff Johnson said. “We’ll have to win several games for that to happen and we’re going to focus on those one at a time.”
The Lady Vikings (24-4) earned the second seed for the state sectional and were slated to host 15th-seeded Princeton High School Feb. 27, with the winner playing the victor of the matchup between seventh-seeded Howell High School and 10th-seeded Marlboro High School March 1.
Sayreville (24-2), which is also the first seed in Central Jersey, Group IV, entered the GMC title clash as the favorite after sweeping through its opponents throughout the tournament. In addition, the Bombers had easily bested South Brunswick, 53-25, in a regular-season game Jan. 31.
It looked like it might be business as usual for the Bombers after they ran out to a first-quarter lead, 17-8, in the Feb. 24 contest at Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway. Sayreville increased its lead to 14 points, but the Lady Vikings gradually gained their footing in the second quarter, as the two teams posted 17 points apiece, giving the Bombers a 34-25 edge at the break.
“The girls never quit,” Johnson said. “It’s always tough when you fall behind early. Still, our girls were determined to get back into the game. They weathered the storm, made some shots and started to get their confidence back.”
South Brunswick held the powerful Blue and Gray to just eight third-quarter points, leaving the Lady Vikings down by a single point entering the fourth quarter thanks to a late 3-pointer from Isi Enahoro, who led all players with a season-high 23 points — nine of which came from treys.
The two teams exchanged leads a few times early in the final quarter, but Sayreville’s depth and balance enabled the Bombers to take control and slowly pull away just over the final four minutes.
Still, it was a far cry from the regular-season game between the two teams where Sayreville went ahead early and never looked back. Amber Brown — the Lady Vikings’ keystone throughout the campaign — led her team with 19 points, and freshman Onoseta Ufuah added 11 points, including a 3-pointer.
South Brunswick reached the GMC Tournament finals as a result of its exciting semifinals victory, 53-52, over Bishop George Ahr High School Feb. 21. The Trojans had squeaked past the Lady Vikings, 47-45, in a regular-season encounter, and the second time around brought another close game. Johnson’s team led, 23-21, at halftime and extended its edge to 42-35 after three quarters.
Bishop Ahr came storming back and, with time running down, was about to take the last shot. Ufuah, who scored 13 points, blocked the shot to preserve the win. Brown led her team with 17 points and also pulled in 10 rebounds, while Alexis Adams added 10 points and 11 boards.
South Brunswick had previously downed 11th-seeded Monroe Township High School, 60-28, in the quarterfinals and 19th-seeded Middlesex High School, 63-27, in the first round.