Monroe upsets Middlesex to advance to GMC girls’ basketball final

Monroe High School girls' basketball player Rosie Regan prepares to take a shot during the team's game against Middlesex High School in the semifinals of the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament on Feb. 25. Monroe defeated Middlesex, 57-50, to advance to the conference finals for the first time in four years.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Monroe High School girls' basketball player Rosie Regan prepares to take a shot during the team's game against Middlesex High School in the semifinals of the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament on Feb. 25. Monroe defeated Middlesex, 57-50, to advance to the conference finals for the first time in four years.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

 

The Monroe Township High School girls’ basketball team pulled off the upset on Feb. 25.

And with it, Monroe punched a ticket to the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament championship game.

Monroe, the third seed, knocked off undefeated No. 2 Middlesex High School, the No. 2 seed, 57-50, to advance to the final of the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament.

Senior Madison Carey connected on four three-pointers and scored a team-high 16 points to help Monroe advance to its first conference tournament final in four years.

“Our girls have worked so hard to get here,” said Monroe coach Leigh Vogtman. “In the tournament, they’ve shown that they have really grown as players and as a team. They fought back from a deficit, battle tough in a close game and maintained a lead when they got it back. Very impressed with them.”

Trailing 34-28 midway through the third quarter, Monroe began its comeback. The Falcons went on an 11-4 surge to finish the quarter, ending with Joanna Giustino sinking in her jumper before the buzzer to put the Falcons up by a  count of 41-38 going into the fourth quarter.

Monroe got off to a quick start in the fourth period, expanding its lead to 46-38 on a three-pointer by Carey and a layup by Brielle Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick finished with 14 points in the victory. The senior drove hard to basket for a layup and the foul, converting the three-point play at the strike with a successful free-throw attempt to put Monroe up 49-40 with under six and half minutes to go in the contest.

Junior Nina Branchizio was a sharp shooter from the outside like Carey was for the Falcons.

Branchizio recorded three three-pointers in the contest, scoring eight of her 14 points in the first half. The junior also made three clutch free-throw attempts down the stretch to help Monroe seal its trip to the conference tournament final.

Teammate Rosie Regan knocked in seven points for Monroe in the victory.

The Falcons are now 22-3 on the season and are on a three-game winning streak.

Monroe will play either Saint Thomas Aquinas High School or South River High School in the GMC final on Feb. 28 at Middlesex County Community College in Edison.

Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports