By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
OCEAN CITY — After watching his team go scoreless for more than four minutes to start the second quarter on Sunday night, Ocean City coach Paul Baruffi called a full timeout. He needed to get his players refocused on how exactly Ocean City plays Ocean City basketball.
The break in the action seemed to re-energize the Red Raiders, and they went on a 5-0 run to close out the first half with a 22-10 lead over ACIT. Ocean City then turned it on in the third quarter, outscoring the RedHawks 19-8 to take a 41-18 lead before cruising to a 47-27 victory in the first half of the Jack Boyd Memorial Doubleheader, which annually closes out the Ocean City PBA Tipoff Weekend event. In the boys game that followed, Pleasantville notched a 71-65 win over host Ocean City.
“We just had to figure out the plays we were running, what they were trying to do defensively, and bringing people in off the bench and getting them involved. (Baruffi) kind of got on us, and once he yells it usually brings us back up and motivates us,” said junior Danielle Donoghue, who is taking over at point guard for the graduated Grace Sacco after playing a reserve forward role on last year’s South Jersey Group 3 championship team. That team lost four starters, with only Mickey Baker returning, so the Red Raiders have a whole new look this winter.
Coming off a big win over Middle Township in the season opener on Friday night, Ocean City (2-0) jumped out to a 17-3 lead on ACIT in the first quarter behind eight points from senior guard Kilie Wyers and four from sophomore center Emma Finnegan. Finnegan finished with a game-high 14 points while Wyers nailed three 3-pointers and added 11 points. Finnegan also added eight rebounds and two assists, while Baker chipped in with eight points and 10 rebounds.
“(Finnegan) stepped up this game and that was a huge help for us,” Donoghue said. “And the other younger girls who aren’t used to playing on the varsity level, they came in and helped us a lot.”
“From last year, being on the bench and watching everyone else and how they handled themselves and having such support of the other starting four — I didn’t get a lot of time last year, but when I did they all helped me out. For this year, having a good point guard like Danielle and a good defensive player like Tori (Rolls), it all works itself out,” Finnegan said. “Last year, I was very timid, but this year I’m coming out of my shell a little more. I got a little stronger over the summer.”
Wyers said Ocean City’s main focus was to stop ACIT’s outside shooting threats, such as Kayla Sykes and Julianna Montero. Montero finished with 12 points, including three 3-pointers, and Sykes added eight points and seven rebounds, but the Red Raiders limited the RedHawks to just 5-for-23 from beyond the arc.
“They definitely played hard today. We knew they were shooters and could hit shots, so we just tried to contain them as much as we could,” Wyers said. “Kayla is an awesome player, and that was our main concern tonight was trying to contain her and the other girls who can shoot. They still managed to hit some deep shots, but we did our best defending that.”
The Red Raiders said teamwork will be huge this year, as they try to make up for the loss of four outstanding starters, including Alexis Paone, Sadie Ford, Rosalia Daddi and Sacco — all of whom were multiple-year starters.
“The big focus for us to merge everyone together and make the plays work,” Finnegan said. “It’s always tough to merge a new team with almost an entirely new starting five, but I think we just have to gel together and make sure everyone is working together.”
“This year, as a group, we all need to work together to achieve our goals. We don’t have our Division I point guard anymore. But I give credit to Danielle because she’s working really hard to fill that role, and so is everybody else,” Wyers added. “We have to continue to work together because that’s how we’re going to win, because we don’t have the advantages we had last year. We’re trying to make up for it by playing together.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays