By Warren Rappleyea
Sayreville War Memorial High School’s girls’ basketball team dominated all three of its opponents to make its way to the finals of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV tournament.
The top-seeded Bombers were slated to host South Brunswick High School, the second seed, in the sectional finals March 6. The two team met Feb. 24 in the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Tournament championship game, with Sayreville prevailing, 59-52.
Sayreville got into foul trouble early and was unable to employ its usual high-pressure defense on a regular basis. The Lady Vikings were able to chip away at what was once a 14-point Bombers lead, but the Blue and Gray weathered the storm and took control again midway through the fourth quarter.
“We weren’t able to do the things we wanted, but the girls knew we needed them to stay on the floor,” Sayreville coach Janet Cook said. “That’s where our overall experience paid off. No one fouled out, and we got the win.”
Following what was one of the Bombers’ toughest games of the season, Cook’s girls squared off against 16th-seeded Hightstown High School in the opening round of Central Jersey, Group IV play. After rushing out to a 16-5 edge in the first quarter, Sayreville went on to a 55-29 win. Isi Enahoro paced the offense with 15 points.
Patrice Harding scored 13 points to help Sayreville defeat ninth-seeded Old Bridge High School in the quarterfinals March 1. Harding and Enahoro, who added 11 points, combined for nine steals. Jasmine Van Note scored 12 points, and Morenike Akinrefon posted 11 points.
Hunterdon Central Regional High School, the fourth seed, managed to hang with the Bombers through the first half of their semifinals matchup March 3 and trailed by just seven at halftime. Sayreville pulled away after the break to win, 71-56. Enahoro led the Bombers with 22 points and Harding contributed 18 points to the win.
Sayreville’s boys reached the semifinals of the Central Jersey, Group IV tournament, where they dropped a 76-66 decision to top-seeded Freehold Township High School March 3. Ryan O’Leary netted 24 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, to lead the Bombers.
In a 61-52 quarterfinals victory against fourth-seeded Marlboro High School, the Bombers outscored the Mustangs, 9-3, to start the final quarter and parlayed the momentum to the finish line. Jayson DeMild led Sayreville with 17 points, six of which came from the free-throw line. O’Leary scored 26 points and Hendersen Mautes put up a season-high 21 points when Sayreville downed 12th-seeded Hightstown, 100-73, in the opening round.
After a strong run through the GMC Tournament, coach John Wojcik’s team fell to Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen, 50-44, in the championship game. Sayreville completed the season with a 22-8 mark.
Old Bridge’s boys also reached the semifinals in Central Jersey, Group IV play. Second-seeded Hunterdon Central scored a 61-28 win in a game where the Knights could not dig out of an early hole.
Old Bridge (19-9) held off a determined East Brunswick High School comeback to earn a 38-36 win in the quarterfinals March 3. Jared Meyer scored 18 points, and Julius Belton hit for 14 points for the Knights. Rich Calandrino’s 17-point effort helped propel his team to a 63-47 opening-round win over North Brunswick Township High School.
Amanda Carney concluded her four-year career with 19 points in the Old Bridge girls’ 65-40 loss to Sayreville in the Central Jersey, Group IV quarterfinals. Carney ended up with a 19.9-point average on the year.
Old Bridge did manage to knock off eighth-seeded Freehold Township, 57-50, in the first round, as freshman Rachel Kuhl hit five 3-pointers and scored 25 points. The Lady Knights went 16-10, posting seven more wins than last season.