HomeHillsborough BeaconHillsborough NewsRaiders tapping into their potential heading into postseason play

Raiders tapping into their potential heading into postseason play

It was not a typical first season at the helm for Hillsborough High School girls basketball Coach Courtney Tierney last winter because of the coronavirus pandemic and the associated shortened season.

Tierney and the Raiders have been able to grow more accustomed to each other during the 2021-22 campaign.

A full offseason program and 15 games so far this winter have shown how important that has been with the success Hillsborough has had on the court.

The Raiders are 8-7 on the season and competing neck-and-neck with the top teams in the Skyland Conference.

“It’s been great,” Tierney said of the 2021-22 season so far. “We have a very hard working group of girls and we keep improving each day. I’m happy that I’ve finally settled in and got to know everyone.”

The Raiders took on a strong Watchung Hills Regional High School squad on Feb. 2 in Hillsborough and took the Warriors all the way down to the wire.

Trailing by 65-62 with under 30 seconds to play, Hillsborough needed a three-ball to tie things up. They looked no further to junior Amy Rachilla to take that three-point shot and she delivered it for the Raiders.

Rachilla received a pass from teammate Mya Loniewski in the right corner and drilled home her fourth three-pointer of the night to tie things at 65-65.

“I had the confidence that it was going in,” Rachilla said when she took the shot. “In that tight of a game, we needed a score and I was able to score. It was a great game.”

Rachilla scored a team-high 20 points against Watchung Hills, delivering another strong performance this winter for the Raiders.

It’s been a marvelous junior campaign for Rachilla. She is averaging 17 points a contest and has knocked in 27 three-pointers.

“The season I’m having is just incredible and I never thought I would have it,” Rachilla said. “With my confidence growing each game, I know I’m getting better.”

Rachilla has provided a strong upperclassmen presence for Hillsborough in the back court, while teaming up with Loniewski and fellow freshman Francesca Schiro.

Both Loniewski and Schiro were thrust into the starting lineup as true freshmen to begin the season and have really blossomed throughout the year, Tierney said.

Schiro scored all 12 of her points against Watchung Hills in the first half to help Hillsborough take a 40-33 lead into halftime. The freshman is averaging over 15 points a game this season for the Raiders.

It was a big night all-around for Schiro against the Warriors, racking up 11 rebounds on the boards and dishing out a team-high eight assists.

Loniewski also had a great night against Watchung Hills and filled out the stat sheet in different ways for the Raiders, tallying seven points with 11 rebounds, seven assists and three steals.

“They’ve done a great job improving together,” Tierney said of both Loniewski and Schiro. “They’re really good players. I think as the season has gone on, they’ve gained more confidence out on the court.”

Seniors Melissa Dorrler and Tanya Shah are the leaders for Hillsborough in the front court and both finished in double figures during the contest against Watchung Hills.

Dorrler scored 12 points, while Shah was right behind her runningmate with 11 points. Shah is averaging just over 11 points a game this season for the Raiders.

All knotted up at 65-65, Hillsborough needed to get a defensive stop to force overtime as Watchung Hill inbounded the ball with seven seconds to play.

Overtime was not in the cards, however, for the Raiders.

After receiving the inbound pass, senior Isabella Murray took the ball straight to the hoop and knocked in a left-handed floater over a host of Hillsborough defenders as time expired to give Watchung Hills a 67-65 victory. The victory over Hillsborough helped Watchung Hills improve to 9-3 on the season.

It was not the ending Tierney and her Raiders were hoping for, but the second-year coach said after the game that she was very proud of how her team played against Watchung Hills. Once again it displayed the great effort and play her Hillsborough squad has been putting in game after game this winter.

All of that is why Tierney said she believes the Raiders have what it takes to make a strong run in both the Somerset County Tournament and state sectional tournament later this season.

“We have a lot of young talent and we go as far as we like,” Tierney said. “If we keep playing this hard and we keep improving the way we have been, I think we can definitely go far.”

Hillsborough will be on the road for its next two games. The Raiders were set to play North Hunterdon High School on Feb. 3 and will then Haddonfield Memorial High School on Feb. 5.

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