When it comes to winning state tournament games, no Union County team – other than Group 1 power New Providence – does it better than Cranford.
Thursday night’s 50-45 North 2, Group 3 quarterfinal win at third-seeded Iselin Kennedy was Cranford’s 14th state tournament triumph in the past five seasons and sixth on the road.
Cranford is 14-5 in state tournament games under sixth-year head coach Jackie Dyer, including an impressive 6-2 mark on the road. The only two road losses were season-ending setbacks at West Morris last year – in the semifinals – and two years ago – in the final.
“The girls are not ready for the season to end and I’m not ready for it to end,” Dyer said.
Cranford’s 8-1 home record in state tournament games under Dyer includes an eight-game winning streak. Cranford has lost only one state tournament game at home under Dyer, which was her first, a 45-31 decision to visiting Voorhees in the 2008 N2, G3 quarterfinals. That was the only season Cranford did not win a state tournament game under Dyer’s guidance, which was her first year at the helm of the Cougars.
Iselin Kennedy, the last girls’ team in the state to lose this season, finished 26-2. The Mustangs were 25-0 before falling – as the top seed – to seventh-seeded Piscataway 43-41 in last Friday night’s Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament championship game at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway.
Kennedy rebounded with a 76-39 first round N2, G3 home win Tuesday over 14th-seeded Rahway.
The sixth-seeded Cougars, now 18-8 and on a two-game winning streak, will next be playing at home at Martin Gymnasium again, this time against seventh-seeded and defending champion Chatham Saturday at 4 p.m. in the semifinals. Cranford eliminated 11th-seeded Roxbury 42-32 at home Tuesday in its first-round encounter.
Chatham won at second-seeded West Morris 56-49 Thursday night in one of the other three quarterfinals. Chatham defeated West Morris at home in last year’s final.
West Morris won N2, G3 in 2011, defeating Cranford at home in the final.
Cranford won the section in 2010, downing Somerville at home in the championship game.
Saturday’s other semifinal features top-seeded Governor Livingston hosting fifth-seeded Mendham. In Thursday’s other two quarterfinals, GL ousted eighth-seeded Warren Hills 47-30 at home, while Mendham won at fourth-seeded Nutley 42-39.
The championship game is Monday night at the higher seed.
Junior guard Kerry Wischusen paced Cranford with 11 points vs. Iselin Kennedy, while senior Jessica McCoy had 10, junior Carly Maucione 10, senior Kaitlin McGovern nine and senior guard Jenna Goeller eight.
“We did a very good job defensively,” Dyer said. “Our guards really pressured their ball-handlers.”
Cranford overcame McCoy going to the bench with her third foul early in the second quarter.
“Freshman Hanna Ross helped out defensively and Carly had eight rebounds,” Dyer said.
Brittany Washington paced all scorers with 19 points, while Kennedy teammate Taylor Freeman produced 14.
“We had good weak-side help vs. Brittany,” Dyer said.
Cranford led 20-9 after the first eight minutes.
“Kerry made three 3s in the first half,” Dyer said. “They started us in a triangle and 2 and Kerry’s shots were on.
“In the second half when they went to man, Kaitlin saw an opening and went to the basket.”
Chatham, sparked by 16 points and 11 rebounds from Grace Conroy, came back to beat host West Morris by winning the fourth quarter 22-11.
The Cougars are 18-10 one season after 2012 graduate and the program’s all-time leading scorer – Amanda Bernsten – left to play at Princeton.
Cranford, as the defending champion two years ago in the semifinals, went to Chatham and stunned the top-seeded Cougars 53-49 in double overtime.
“Without Amanda Bernsten Chatham is still a very good team,” Dyer said. “They run their offenses well, are very scrappy and fight to the very end.”
Although Cranford did not get back to the Union County Tournament championship game – the Cougars were defeated by a red-hot GL team 36-27 in the semifinals – the N2, G3 playoffs once again presented another challenge they very much looked forward to.
“We took some time to catch our breath for the state tournament,” Dyer said. “The seniors on our team three years ago as freshmen won a state championship (North 2, Group 3) and they would like to go out as state champions this year as well.”
Union County was 4-0 in state tournament play Thursday night. In addition to Cranford and GL victories, New Providence and Dayton advanced to the North 2, Group 1 semifinals.
New Providence, the second seed and sparked by senior 1,000 point career scorer Cassandra Squeri and freshman Sydney Morang, bounced seventh-seeded Belvidere 74-53 at home. Dayton, the fifth seed and led by junior Nikki Athan, won at fourth-seeded Dunellen 54-35.
In Saturday’s semifinals, Dayton is scheduled to play at top-seeded Secaucus at noon, while there is no time listed yet for New Providence hosting sixth-seeded Bloomfield Tech.
The championship game is Monday night at the higher seed.
Including its two state wins so far this week, New Providence – guided by head coach Cap Pazdera – has a 21-5 state tournament record going back to the 2008 season. New Providence won Central Jersey, Group 1 in 2008 with three wins and was then defeated in the Group 1 semifinals.
In 2009, the Pioneers were defeated in the North 2, Group 1 semifinals, going 1-1 in state tournament play that season.
New Providence went 6-1 in the states in 2010 and 2011, capturing North 2, Group 1 championships prior to Group 1 state crowns both seasons. The Pioneers lost in the Tournament of Champions quarterfinals both years to St. John Vianney.
Last year as the 11th seed, New Providence won three state tournament games to reach the N2, G1 final for the third straight year. The Pioneers lost at top-seeded Whippany Park 49-44 in the final.
The last year New Providence didn’t win a state tournament game was 2007 when it fell in the CJ, G2 quarterfinals.
CRANFORD IN STATES UNDER
6th-YEAR HEAD COACH JACKIE DYER:
2012-2013: 6th seed in North 2, Group 3 (2-0 in states so far)
Feb. 26, 2013: Cranford 42, Roxbury 32 – at Cranford, first round
Feb. 28, 2013: Cranford 50, Iselin Kennedy 45 – at Iselin Kennedy, quarterfinals
March 2, 2013: 7-Chatham vs. 6-Cranford – at Cranford, semifinals
Cranford is 18-8 so far.
2011-2012: 3rd seed in North 2, Group 3 (2-1 in states)
Feb. 27, 2012: Cranford 44, Millburn 22 – at Cranford, first round
Feb. 29, 2012: Cranford 51, Nutley 36 – at Cranford, quarterfinals
March 2, 2012: West Morris 34, Cranford 32 – at West Morris, semifinals
Chatham won the section. Cranford finished 24-5.
2010-2011: 4th seed in North 2, Group 3 (3-1 in states)
March 1, 2011: Cranford 43, Mendham 31 – at Cranford, first round
March 3, 2011: Cranford 64, Millburn 34 – at Cranford, quarterfinals
March 5, 2011: Cranford 53, Chatham 49 (2OT) – at Chatham, semifinals
March 7, 2011: West Morris 53, Cranford 42 – at West Morris, final
West Morris won the section. Cranford finished 22-6.
2009-2010: 3rd seed in North 2, Group 3 (4-1 in states)
March 1, 2010: Cranford 59, Carteret 46 – at Cranford, first round
March 3, 2010: Cranford 55, Mendham 50 – at Cranford, quarterfinals
March 5, 2010: Cranford 44, Voorhees 40 – at Voorhees, semifinals
March 9, 2010: Cranford 46, Somerville 34 – at Cranford, final
Cranford won the section.
March 11, 2010: Pascack Valley 40, Cranford 28 – at Ramapo, semifinals
Cranford finished 21-8.
2008-2009: 11th seed in Central Jersey, Group 2 (3-1 in states)
March 3, 2009: Cranford 44, Gov. Livingston 41 – at GL, first round
March 4, 2009: Cranford 57, Delaware Valley 44 – at DV, quarterfinals
March 6, 2009: Cranford 55, Raritan 49 – at Raritan, semifinals
March 10, 2009: Rumson-Fair Haven 50, Cranford 29 – at B-Raritan, final
Rumson-Fair Haven won the section for the ninth straight year and won a
sectional title for the 10th consecutive season.
Cranford finished 18-11.
2007-2008: 4th seed in North 2, Group 3 (0-1 in states)
Feb. 28, 2008: Voorhees 45, Cranford 31 – at Cranford, quarterfinals
Cranford finished 15-8.