By GIUSEPPE UNGARO
LINWOOD — The Ocean City girls basketball team may have won ugly on Wednesday night, but the win means the Red Raiders remain undefeated and now have the inside track in the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference race.
The Red Raiders used a 10-run in the fourth quarter to edge host Mainland, 29-27, in a physical and often sloppy game. Ocean City (12-0) remains unbeaten in the conference at 6-0 while Mainland (10-4) is now 5-1 in the CAL National.
“This win was great because for (CAL) playoffs we will have home-court advantage, which is huge to be on your home court,” said Ocean City senior Alexis Paone, who led her team with eight points. “This win was also very big because we knew they were talented and skilled and we had to play our best game. A lot of our shots didn’t fall, especially layups. But we just have to stay composed under the basket and work on those type of things.”
“We learned a lot,” said Mainland freshman Kylee Watson, who scored a game-high 17 points, and also pulled down 10 rebounds and had three blocked shots. “This game will just get us fired up for the next one and to move on and hopefully win more down the stretch.”
Mainland opened the fourth quarter with Madi Hafetz’s second 3-pointer of the night to give the Mustangs a 23-19 lead. However, Ocean City answered with 10 consecutive points, with Paone and Rosalia Daddi each scoring four points during the run.
Michaela Baker capped the run with 2:19 remaining, as the Red Raiders led, 29-23. Mainland didn’t go away, playing suffocating defense down the stretch, forcing Ocean City into four turnovers in the final two minutes.
Watson scored with 56 seconds left and Fran Geromini added a bucket with 24 seconds left to make it a two-point game. The Mustangs had chances to tie and win, but missed a shot, and then lost possession of an offensive rebound with three seconds left. Ocean City grabbed possession and ran out the clock.
“I thought we scrapped very well. That, I had no problem with,” Ocean City coach Paul Baruffi said. “I just felt like we rushed everything around the basket, and we missed too many opportunities that let them stay in the game. Down the stretch we lost our composure a little bit. We committed a really bad offensive foul that gave them the ball. Then we turn the ball over. They were scrappy, too.”
Mainland, which was playing without starting point guard Georgia Schoen, who was sick, found itself down 14-9 at halftime, but battled back behind the scoring of Watson and the high-energy play of Gabby Boggs.
Boggs pulled down five rebounds, including three offensive rips in the third quarter alone, and dove on the hardwood several times for loose balls, energizing the home team. Mainland went on a 9-0 run with Watson scoring three straight buckets and Hafetz adding a shot from beyond the arc. The run put Mainland ahead 20-17. Unfortunately for the Mustangs, Boggs hit her head on the court for the second time during the game with 1:53 left in the third quarter and never returned.
“It was a huge loss. She is our most experienced player,” Mainland coach Scott Betson said. “She is super active on both ends and makes things happen. It happens. It’s part of the game, and you have to figure out a way to adapt and fight through it.”
The two teams are schedules to meet again on Thursday, Feb. 16 in Ocean City.
Contact Giuseppe Ungaro: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDgisepu
By GIUSEPPE UNGARO