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Girls basketball: Fast start helps Mainland get past scrappy ACIT in SJG3 opening round

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By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Publisher LINWOOD — Mainland Regional got off to a fast start against ACIT on Monday night in the opening round of the South Jersey Group 3 playoffs, and it was a good thing, too, because the upstart Red Hawks finished strong. But an 18-point fourth quarter by the No. 12 Red Hawks came too last, as the fifth-seeded Mustangs hung on for a 38-29 victory that puts them into the second round against No. 4 Winslow Township. “They were scrappy. The game plan was to come out and press them. I thought we identified that pretty well, but they did a nice job handling the ball. We picked up a couple of early fouls, and that made us adjust our game plan a little bit. We were able to come back to (the pressure defense) in the second half and do just enough to get the lead to where we felt comfortable enough with it,” said Mainland Regional coach Scott Betson. “Although, they did make a run by bombing some threes in the final couple of minutes. Anytime a team shoots threes like that, it doesn’t matter what you have done, because you’re exchanging two for three and they are able to chip away.” ACIT freshman guard Kayla Sykes drives to the basket during the Red Hawks' playoff matchup with Mainland. ACIT freshman guard Kayla Sykes drives to the basket during the Red Hawks’ playoff matchup with Mainland. “We watched film on them, and they are a very good team. All their girls cut to the hoop and can make shots from anywhere. Going into the game, no one gave us a chance. Mainland was highly favored, and they deserved that. They’ve earned that,” said ACIT coach Jason Vander Ryk. “But I’m proud of my girls. They showed me a lot of heart. I kept telling the girls just don’t give up and play with everything you have, play as a family, play with your heart, and don’t let anybody out-work you. I don’t care what the score is.” Vander Ryk knew it was going to be a tough matchup, as Mainland forwards Boggs, Stafford and Melanie Malcolm all are 5-foot-9 or taller, and have a combined nine years of varsity experience under their belts. Those three combined for 21 of Mainland’s 38 points, while sophomore point guard Georgia Schoen added eight. ACIT was led by Taylor, who finished with seven points, and Delessandro, who chipped in with six. Vander Ryk said that despite the loss, he’s encouraged about the future of his program, which was making its second-ever appearance in the state playoffs and was playing without injured senior Yasmeen Nelson, who scored more than 1,200 points in her career. “When you’re going against their big girls, who are physical, it’s easy to hang it up and say, ‘ya know what? I’m done. Let’s get this game over with.’ And we didn’t do that,” Vander Ryk said. “At one point, I had three freshmen, a sophomore and senior on the court during that comeback, so as a coach, I’m excited. I’d like to start practicing tomorrow (for next year).” Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays [adsense]

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