A dramatic finish at the buzzer capped the recent girls’ basketball game between Holmdel High School and Shore Regional High School.
Holmdel pulled out the thrilling 39-38 victory when senior point guard Christina Antonakakis connected on a layup just as time expired in the game that was played on Jan. 19 in West Long Branch.
The winning basket came after a scrum and a couple of rebounds and enabled the visiting Hornets to erase the one-point deficit.
Shore Regional trailed for most of the game until sophomore forward Caitlin Donegan put in a layup to send the Blue Devils to a 38-37 lead with just under one minute to play.
Shore Regional had sliced Holmdel’s lead to 37-36 when senior shooting guard Breanna Jackson sank a 3-point basket with 2:10 remaining in the game.
Antonakakis was the scoring star in the game for Holmdel, as she led the team with 20 points. Freshman Ryann Taylor scored eight points, and sophomore Carson Fontana ended with six points to contribute to the victory.
Shore Regional was paced by freshman Madison LaRosa, who scored 12 points, and Jackson, who finished with 11 points. Donegan pitched in with eight points, eight rebounds and one block for the Blue Devils.
Holmdel coach Doug Shaw, whose team improved to 9-3, was not pleased that his team let up the lead it had held for most of the game. However, he was thrilled with how the Hornets pulled out another close game.
“From the beginning of the year, we’ve finished games,” Shaw said. “We have no panic. If we didn’t get a good look, we attacked the glass. Look, they only scored 38 points, so we did a decent job on defense. So those are two things that we did well. It’s never as bad as it seems, and it’s never as good as it seems. But we’ve had five games this year that came down to the last possession, and we’ve been able to pull them out.”
“I think this game is a game of runs,” Antonakakis said. “We definitely bounced back and didn’t have a look of fear when they made their run back, especially in the fourth quarter to close the game. Like coach said, we had composure, and when it was time to knock down shots, they went in.”
Shaw still believes his team has a lot to improve on, but he is happy that he gets to critique his team after wins instead of losses. Turnovers and rebounding are two areas he would like to see the team get better at.
“We’re absolutely atrocious in throwing the ball inside,” the coach said. “Our rebounding is very spotty at times. Quite frankly, if you screen us, it’s like we’re running into the Berlin Wall. So, there’s a lot of things we still need to clean up. But, you know what, you can learn winning or you can learn losing. We got lucky tonight.”
Antonakakis noted that the Hornets need to communicate better on defense.
“That starts with me and the other captains, especially since the rest of the team is full of underclassmen,” she said. “At the beginning of the year, we dealt with a lot of injuries, but now we have to get the chemistry back and play as one.”
The Hornets will be home to their powerful neighbor, Saint John Vianney High School, on Jan. 26 at 6:30 p.m.
Shore Regional fell to 4-6 after the loss to Holmdel, but coach William Wishart was proud of his squad.
“We played as a team all the way through,” he said. “We play is such a tough division, and every night it feels like a championship game. So, for us to come out and compete is great. We had a great week of practice. We stayed disciplined in our defense, and on offense, we were able to work the ball around.”
“[In the] second half, we started boxing out,” Jackson said. “In the first half, we weren’t doing that, which helped us get more box-outs and rebounds.”
Wishart has seen progress in the team.
“As the year goes on, we’re just getting more disciplined in our offense,” Wishart said. “It’s a long season. We talk about it all the time. The season is like a roller coaster. We’re just trying to get better every day at the little things — boxing out, handling our dribble, all that stuff. Just the basic little things. We’ve been doing this since day one, and we’re getting better every day.”
“We need to still get better at running our offense and boxing out,” Jackson said. “We’ll get there.”
The Blue Devils were scheduled to host rival Long Branch High School on Jan. 24 at 5:15 p.m.