The stage was set for a great Greater Middlesex Conference White Division showdown between the North Brunswick Township High School and the Edison High School girls’ basketball teams on Jan. 9 in North Brunswick.
The Raiders came in on a three-game winning streak, while Edison was white hot, storming in off four straight victories.
Edison looked to be on the verge of winning its fifth straight contest with a five-point lead entering the fourth quarter, but North Brunswick rallied with a 15-2 surge to finish the game and top the Eagles, 41-33, to improve to 6-2 on the season.
“This is a character builder for us,” said the North Brunswick coach Mark Zielinski. “We’ve been very good in the fourth quarter this year and to me, that reveals how our team comes together and perseveres together. When things get tense, they keep their cool and have been able to knock down key shots to help us win. The way we play in the fourth quarter gives us hope going down the line and for the future.”
Seeing his team’s four-game winning streak end and record drop to 4-4 on the season, Edison coach Frank Eckert said the loss will be a good learning experience for his young squad to learn and build from as they go deeper into the season.
“Everyday we have to get a little better,” Eckert said. “We’re a young team and learning as we go. There’s going to be games like this where things get tough and things seem overwhelming. We take what we could have done to win and use it to help us get better in our next game. Our goal is to improve and play our best basketball in February.”
Eckert drew up a perfect play call during his timeout with eight seconds left in the half to help his squad to take a 19-12 lead into half. Shania Wolfe-White fired a perfect pass to teammate Tianna Whitney under the basket, and the freshman banked home the layup before the buzzer to extend the Edison lead to seven going into halftime.
Whitney led all scorers with a game-high 13 points in the contest.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Latayjah Jenkins in the third quarter had the Edison lead out to 27-18, but the Raiders responded to cut the deficit to 31-26 going into the fourth quarter.
Freshman Niyell McCargo was a huge part of the comeback for North Brunswick, scoring seven of her team-high 12 points in the third quarter, including the layup to cut the Raiders’ deficit to five points.
North Brunswick had another freshman star anchor its rally in the fourth quarter in Anne Marie Quagliata.
Off a great feed by McCargo kicking the ball out to her on the left wing, Quagliata drained her second three-pointer of the night to tie the game at 31-31.
“It was a perfect sequence, just like we have done in practice,” Quagliata said. “Everything flowed perfectly.”
Quagliata’s jumper with a little over four minutes to play gave North Brunswick its first lead of the contest since the first quarter. The freshman then went one-of-two from the line to extend the North Brunswick lead to 35-33 with three minutes to play.
“It meant a lot to me to help put us back into the game,” Quagliata said. “It gave myself and the team a lot of confidence to finish out the game.”
Quagliata scored all nine of her points in the second half, seven of those points coming in the fourth quarter alone.
Clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch sealed up the North Brunswick victory.
Sophomore Megan Farrell and McCargo both went two-of-two from the strike to extend the North Brunswick lead to 39-33 with 50 seconds to play.
McCargo went three-for-four at the free-throw line in the final minute. The freshman scored all 12 of her points in the second half.
“During the second half, we all started reading the court better as a unit,” McCargo said. “Coach (Zielinski) talked to us at halftime and we got our heads straight to get back in the game in the second half. If we keep talking to each other, we’ll do better on the court. It’s a family thing.”
Farrell and junior teammate Adriana Barnes each scored seven points for North Brunswick.
Wolfe-White and Jenkins each finished with eight points for Edison.
Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports