By Warren Rappleyea
Sayreville War Memorial High School’s girls’ basketball team won the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Tournament with a thrilling 59-52 victory over third-seeded South Brunswick High School Feb. 24 at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway.
The top-seeded Bombers, who handily defeated the Lady Vikings during the regular season, appeared on the way to another victory after getting ahead, 17-8, in the first quarter. Sayreville extended the lead to 14 points early in the second before South Brunswick found its footing.
The Vikings slowly worked their way back into the game and were up, 41-39, with time dwindling in the third quarter. Just before the buzzer sounded, however, Isi Enahoro connected on a 3-pointer to quell the Lady Vikings’ momentum and put the Blue and Gray back in front.
After exchanging leads early in the fourth quarter, Sayreville’s depth and experience enabled the Bombers to get and extend their lead down the stretch. Enahoro led the way with a season-high 23 points, including a trio of 3-pointers and six free throws. Junior Morenike Akinrefon added 15 points, and senior Patrice Harding contributed 13 points for coach Janet Cook’s team.
“The girls have been working toward this for the past couple of seasons,” the Bombers’ coach said. “This has been their goal from day one, and they went out and played hard every game to get to this point.”
With a swarming turnover-creating defense, and the depth to play an up-tempo game for four quarters, Sayreville has proven a handful for its opponents, posting a 24-2 mark and going undefeated in GMC White Division play.
That was evident as the Bombers made their way through the GMC Tournament.
Sayreville blasted ninth-seeded Spotswood High School, 78-51, in the opening round, as Ryane Brush scored a season-high 24 points. In the quarterfinals, 24th-seeded Highland Park High School fell, 65-38, with Brush scoring 20 and Enahoro adding 18 points. Fourth-seeded Piscataway Township High School provided the opposition in the semifinals but were scorched when Cook’s team went on a 15-3 tear in the second quarter. Enahoro led a balanced attack with 17 points.
It went that way throughout the season. After falling to Toms River High School North in December in the WOBM Classic, Sayreville won 15 straight before coming out flat falling to Franklin High School (16-7) in a non-conference game before the GMC Tournament began.
Sayreville, which earned the No. 1 seed in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV tournament, was scheduled to host 16th-seeded Hightstown High School in an opening-round matchup Feb. 27. The winner will meet the victor of the game between eighth-seeded Freehold Township High School and ninth-seeded Old Bridge High School.
South Brunswick (24-4), meanwhile, earned the second seed, so the Lady Vikings could meet the Bombers again in the finals, barring an upset.
The two schools also did battle on the boys’ side, where the Bombers squeezed past South Brunswick, 69-65, in overtime in the GMC Tournament semifinals in another exciting pairing.
Sayreville was ahead by 10 points before a frantic Vikings rally sent the game into an extra session. South Brunswick started strong in overtime and at one point built a four-point lead. The next eight points, however, would belong to the Bombers.
After being fouled, Ryan O’Leary, who ended the evening with 11 points, calmly sank a pair of free throws. Ope Olaloko’s dramatic dunk tied the score, and O’Leary scored while being fouled and also hit the free throw. Jahsim Floyd’s season-high 26 points paced the Sayreville attack.
In the GMC Tournament finals, the Bombers went up early against defending champs Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen. Third-seeded Sayreville took a 26-18 lead into halftime, but the top-seeded Falcons were able to dominate the second en route to a 50-44 triumph.
The Bombers were slated to open the boys’ Central Jersey, Group IV tournament Feb. 27 against Hightstown — the 12th seed. Sayreville is the fifth seed. The winner was scheduled to play March 1 against the victor of the game between fourth-seeded Marlboro High School and 13th-seeded Princeton High School.