Jackson Liberty’s run ends in semifinal of girls’ basketball state sectional tournament

Jackson Liberty High School girls' basketball player Maura Carney tries to dribble past Neptune High School's Ahjanae Young during the semifinals of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 3 Tournament on March 6. Carney scored a game-high 18 points in Jackson Liberty's 51-40 season-ending loss to Neptune.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Jackson Liberty High School girls' basketball player Maura Carney tries to dribble past Neptune High School's Ahjanae Young during the semifinals of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 3 Tournament on March 6. Carney scored a game-high 18 points in Jackson Liberty's 51-40 season-ending loss to Neptune.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

The Jackson Liberty girls’ basketball team’s magical run in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 3 Tournament ended on March 6.

Neptune High School, the No. 4 seed, stopped the ninth-seeded Lions, 51-40, in Neptune.

Jackson Liberty recorded the program’s first state tournament victory ever when it defeated Middletown High School North, 51-37, in the opening round of the sectional tournament on March 2.

Then, Jackson Liberty pulled off a stunning upset over the No. 1 seed, Red Bank Regional High School, in the state sectional quarterfinals on March 4 with a 54-41 victory.

The magic ran out for the Lions in the state semifinals on Neptune.

Despite junior Maura Carney firing in a three-pointer in the final seconds of the first half to help Jackson Liberty cut the Neptune lead to 23-19, the Lions couldn’t capitalize on the momentum going into the second half

An 11-4 surge by the Scarlet Fliers to begin the second half lead to Neptune getting out to a 35-23 lead. Neptune then grabbed a 41-30 lead going into the fourth period.

The two teams traded buckets and free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter, allowing Neptune to roll into the sectional final.

“This group came out with a mission to make a statement for Jackson Liberty High School and they absolutely did that,” said Jackson Liberty coach Alaina Hearon. “They have nothing to be ashamed of. They kept fighting and we’re going to come back better from this (loss).”

Carney finished with four three-pointers in the contest and scored a game-high 18 points in the season-ending loss for the Lions.

Senior Kayla Nelson sank 12 points for Jackson Liberty in the loss.

The Lions finished the season with a record of 14-14.

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