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Jackson Memorial defeats Monroe Township; will face Middletown South in CJ IV final

Jackson Memorial High School girls basketball player Amber Williams saves the ball from going out of bounds during the semifinals of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV Tournament on March 4 in Jackson. Williams scored 12 points and had 17 rebounds to help Jackson Memorial defeat Monroe 46-44.

Jackson Memorial High School senior girls basketball player Brooke McKown would be the first person to say that shooting free throws is not one of her strengths.

But with the Jaguars trailing Monroe Township High School of Middlesex County, 44-43, with under :40 to play in a Central Jersey Group IV state sectional tournament semifinal game on March 4 in Jackson, McKown found herself at the charity stripe.

McKown had already missed both of her free throw attempts earlier in the quarter. All kinds of self-doubt could have been creeping into her mind as she stood at the line, but the senior had none of that.

With a spot in the state sectional tournament championship game on the line, McKown made both free throws to forge a 45-44 lead.

“It’s my senior year and I didn’t want this to be the end,” McKown said. “I went out there and did my best. I’m so close to this team and I didn’t want the (season) to end.”

Moments later, after Chloe Messer missed a free throw attempt, McKown grabbed the offensive rebound with :07 to play. She was fouled with :04 to play and hit her first free throw to put the Jaguars ahead 46-44.

McKown missed her second free throw, but the Falcons could not secure the rebound and the final seconds ticked off the clock. With that, the Jaguars celebrated the victory and the program’s first visit to a state sectional tournament title game since 2013.

“Everyone knew we had to step it up to win,” said McKown, who finished with seven points, eight rebounds and six assists.

Junior Zoie Maffei scored 15 points and pulled down eight rebounds in a gutsy performance for Jackson Memorial.

Maffei battled foul trouble during the game and was called for her fourth foul on a charge with 3:18 to play in the third quarter. She injured her nose on the play that resulted in her fourth foul and sat out the rest of the quarter.

Maffei returned to action in the fourth quarter and instantly made an impact by recording a three-point play that tied the game, 36-36, with 5:43 to play.

“As soon as I got that ‘and-one’, the crowd went crazy,” Maffei said of her three-point play. “It felt so good.”

In three state sectional tournament games, Maffei has averaged 19 points and more than nine rebounds per game.

Senior Amber Williams delivered 12 points and 17 rebounds in a strong frontcourt performance against Monroe Township. Messer added nine points for the Jaguars.

“Our girls competed really hard in those final two minutes,” Coach Rachel Goodale said. “We were clutch at the (free throw line). Monroe played us really well. It was a great battle.”

Jackson Memorial (21-5) will host Middletown South High School of Middletown in the Central Jersey Group IV championship game on March 8.

The Jaguars’ last sectional title came during the 2011-12 season.

The Eagles’ last sectional title came during the 2018-19 season.

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