CRANFORD AND BERKELEY HEIGHTS – Cranford, meet Governor Livingston.
GL, this is Cranford.
How’s it going?
Long time no see.
On the day after 3-3-13, arch rivals Cranford and GL will clash for the 3rd time this season. There are a lot 3s there.
How many more – meaning 3-point field goals – will there be attempted Monday night inside of GL’s blue gymnasium? Will it be Cranford senior Jenna Goeller nailing one from either baseline or will GL junior Patrice DiTommaso set the tone with a long-range shot from the top of the key?
For the seventh time in two years and for the second time in two weeks Cranford and GL will clash and for the second straight season this version of Duke vs. North Carolina or Kentucky vs. Louisville or what St. John’s vs. Georgetown was nearly 30 years ago will be a hard-fought battle of perennial Union County powers seeking to capture another championship.
This season’s North 2, Group 3 championship game – scheduled for a 7 p.m. tipoff Monday at GL – features sixth-seeded Cranford (19-8 and winners of 3 straight) vs. top-seeded GL (23-4, winners of 13 consecutive and Union County’s winningest team).
The teams last met at Rahway two weeks ago on a Monday night in Union County Tournament semifinal action, with third-seeded GL leading from start to finish in eliminating second-seeded Cranford 36-27 en route to reaching the county final for the third straight year.
Before that, Cranford swept GL in Union County Conference-Watchung Division play, winning by 37-36 on Opening Day at GL (Mairead McKeary did not play for Cranford and Alyssa Cranston and Erin Ferguson did not play for GL) and then 35-33 at Cranford.
GL has not been beaten since the day after its second loss to Cranford, which was Jan. 18.
The winner moves on to Wednesday’s Group 3 semifinals at a neutral site, with the opportunity to advance to next weekend’s Group 3 final in Toms River.
GL, which finished third in the Watchung Division this season after winning the Mountain Division last year and was the only team to win a sectional quarterfinal game at home, will be going for its 50th win in the past two years. Cranford, which finished second in the Watchung this year after finishing second in the Mountain a year ago, will be going for its 44th.
Cranford won a sectional championship three years ago, while GL won division and county titles last year and another county title this year.
GL has lost six times the past two years – three of those times to Cranford.
Cranford has lost 13 times the past two years – three of those times to GL.
Each team is 3-3 vs. each other since the 2011-2012 season.
With a championship on the line Monday night, this matchup is very much deserving of the title: Game 7.
Here we go again!
Personally, I wouldn’t want to be one of the three brave souls who will be assigned by the NJSIAA to referee this game.
No way. I give whoever those three officials will be a lot of credit for handling what will be a very electric and intense environment.
For Cranford, the Cougars have reached the final for the third time in four years and will be playing in a sectional championship game for the fourth time in the past five seasons, including the Central Jersey, Group 2 championship game in 2009.
The Cougars captured N2, G3 in 2010 for their first sectional title of the modern era and second since the days of Carol Blazejowski in the early 1970s.
After falling to Rumson-Fair Haven in the 2009 CJ, G2 final at Bridgewater-Raritan in 2009, Cranford defeated Somerville at home in the 2010 N2, G3 championship game.
Cranford was then defeated at West Morris 53-42 in the 2011 N2, G3 final before falling at West Morris again by a score of 34-32 in last year’s semifinals.
The Cougars are now 15-5 in state tournament games under sixth-year head coach Jackie Dyer, including reaching four sectional finals. Cranford has won six of those state tournament games on the road.
GL, which won the Union County Tournament for the first time last year after beating Cranford 31-25 in the final at Kean and then repeated as UCT champs last week with a 54-44 win over Oak Knoll also at Kean, is still seeking to capture its first sectional title.
Under the guidance of sixth-year head coach Andy Silvagni, the Highlanders have produced division championships, 20-win seasons and now the program’s first two county titles. GL reached the CJ, G2 semifinals last year before moving up to N2, G3 for the first time this season.
Both Union County stalwarts won their semifinal games Saturday at home, with Cranford first topping seventh-seeded and defending champion Chatham 41-38 before GL came back from an early near double-digit deficit to down fifth-seeded Mendham 46-37.
CRANFORD VS. GL THIS YEAR AND LAST:
2012-2013 SEASON: Cranford is 2-1 vs. GL so far.
Feb. 18, 2013: Gov. Livingston 36, Cranford 27 – UCT semifinals at Rahway
Jan. 17, 2013: Cranford 35, Gov. Livingston 33 – Watchung Division at Cranford
Dec. 14, 2012: Cranford 37, Gov. Livingston 36 – Watchung Division at GL
2011-2012 SEASON: GL went 2-1 vs. Cranford.
Feb. 26, 2012: Gov. Livingston 31, Cranford 25 – UCT final at Kean
Feb. 3, 2012: Cranford 49, Gov. Livingston 44 – Mountain Division at GL
Jan. 19, 2012: Gov. Livingston 42, Cranford 38 – Mountain Division at Cranford
In the UCT semifinals at Rahway on Feb. 18, GL continued its excellent play of late by leading Cranford from start to finish en route to a convincing 36-27 triumph.
“It will be exciting to play GL again if we do, we’ve been playing them since PAL,” said Cranford senior shooting guard Jenna Goeller after her team won Saturday and before the GL-Mendham game started.
Goeller – known for her proficient 3-point shooting – instead drove to the basket three times in the fourth quarter vs. Chatham and was fouled three times, making five-of-six crucial free throws afterwards in a do-or-die setting where you could cut the tension with a knife.
“I want to be on the foul line in that situation,” Goeller said.
“We didn’t win the conference (Watchung Division) and then we didn’t win the counties because we lost to GL, so we would really like to win this championship,” echoed fellow Cranford seniors Jess McCoy and Kaitlin McGovern.
GL players, since their game was after the Cranford-Chatham contest and they knew Cranford already advanced, could speak more directly about playing the Cougars once more.
“Cranford is a real rivalry,” GL senior guard Alyssa Cranston said. “Every time we play them the game is different. We always have to figure it out.”
“We’ve been playing them since elementary school,” said GL senior forward Mallory George. “When we played them in the counties we had nothing to lose because we had already lost to them twice.”
“Cranford is a great team, with great teamwork,” GL senior center Erin Ferguson said. “We have to match their energy.”
There you have it folks. Sorry, no bulletin board material here.
While both teams will play physical and go at it hard for 32 minutes – or maybe more as none of the previous six meetings went to overtime – they both have a mutual respect for one another.
“We’ve made it to the championship game but have won nothing yet,” Ferguson said.
“We want this game really bad,” McCoy said.
While Cranford has been sparked by seniors Goeller, McCoy and McGovern and GL by seniors Cranston, George, Ferguson and fellow starter Marielle Jankowski, who made a huge 3-point basket during GL’s first-quarter comeback vs. Mendham, other players have stepped up very big of late for both teams.
For Cranford, junior guard Kerry Wischusen paced the Cougars with an 11-point effort that included three momentum-building 3-pointers in the 50-45 quarterfinal win at third-seeded and 26-1 Iselin Kennedy. Wischusen also scored the first field goal of the second half vs. Chatham, giving Cranford its fourth of seven leads vs. the visiting Cougars.
“That basket was a big one and helped get us going,” Goeller said.
Cranford needed to drive to the basket more in the second half against Chatham after shooting just 5-for-25 from the field in the first 16 minutes.
Cranford’s scoring was spread out vs. Kennedy, with McCoy adding 10, junior Carly Maucione 10, McGovern nine and Goeller eight.
Maucione was also big vs. Chatham, finishing with 11 points, including the game-winning basket that gave Cranford the lead for good at 32-30 with 2:55 to go.
A layup by McGovern tied the game for the ninth and final time at 30-30 with 4:04 remaining.
“Coach has focused on us driving and going strong to the hoop,” Goeller said.
One player that needed just a little reminder of what it was going to take to advance was all-county performer McCoy. She went to the bench with more fouls – 3 – than points scored – 2 – with 4:22 to go in the third quarter and the game tied 20-20 after a basket scored by Chatham senior Grace Conroy, who tied 3-pointer shooting senior Kendall Davies for the team lead in points with 14. McCoy’s third foul was on Conroy after a Conroy steal.
McCoy also picked up three very quick first half fouls in the game at Kennedy.
“I had to sit Jess down and have her regroup,” Dyer said.
Because of the enormity of the game – and the fact that Chatham went on to take its biggest lead of four points at 24-20 – Dyer put McCoy back in less than a minute later.
McCoy and Cranford immediately responded by going on a 6-0 run to close the third quarter, with McCoy netting the final two baskets, both driving in the lane.
“We’ve changed since the last time we played GL,” Dyer said. “We’re not relying on the outside shot so much that our offense becomes stagnant.
“Our scoring has been more balanced in our last two state games.”
Goeller paced Cranford in scoring vs. Chatham with 12 points, while McCoy finished with 10, McGovern with six and Wischusen with two. McGovern was also outstanding defensively, producing a game-high six blocks.
“Getting to the final again is super exciting,” Dyer said. “This is the last shot for our seniors to go out on a high note.”
After Mendham took a surprising 9-1 lead on GL, the Highlanders received a big lift from bench players Hayley Berliner, a sophomore, and freshman Lauren Sorrano as they helped the team go on a game-changing 17-5 run during the first and second quarters that put GL in the lead for good at 18-14.
Those players, in addition to starters Jankowski and quick sophomore Sara Dilly and also DiTommaso moved the ball around quite well while Ferguson, Cranston and George were on the bench in the second quarter with two fouls each.
Berliner, who finished with five points including one 3-pointer, and Sorrano, who finished with two points, were efficient in passing the ball from player to player and not turning it over.
“Those players kept us in the game,” Cranston said. “We owe them a huge thank you.”
GL turned a three-point halftime lead of 20-17 into an 11-point advantage of 30-19 going into the fourth quarter after winning the third period 10-2.
The Highlanders then built up a game-high 14-point lead of 37-23, sparked by two DiTommaso 3-pointers.
However, Mendham did not quit. A quick 8-0 run – which began with two 3-pointers – got the Minutemen from Morris County right back in the game at 37-31 with 3:28 to go.
One of two made free throws drew Mendham closer at 37-32 before DiTommaso – who paced GL with 11 points – produced a huge, conventional 3-point play when she drove through the middle of the lane, put the ball up and in off the glass, was fouled and then swished the ensuing foul shot to give the Highlanders a 40-32 advantage.
In a rare game that George, Cranston and Ferguson did not score in double digits, George finished with eight points, Cranston with seven and Ferguson with six.
Now it’s time for Cranford vs. GL again, with a sectional championship on the line.
This one has the makings of – perhaps – the best of them all.
A PRETTY GOOD DAY FOR UNION COUNTY VS. MORRIS COUNTY;
CRANFORD TOPS CHATHAM AND GL DOWNS MENDHAM
NORTH 2, GROUP 3 SEMIFINAL AT CRANFORD
7-CHATHAM (18-11) 5 10 9 14 – 38
6-CRANFORD (19-8) 7 7 12 15 – 41
7-CHATHAM COUGARS (38):
22-Grace Conroy, senior, 6-0-2-14
4-Natalie Washuta, junior, 1-0-2-4
11-Kendall Davies, senior, 0-4-2-14
21-Hailey Myler, senior, 1-0-2-4
32-Colleen Mulvaney, senior, 1-0-0-2
3-Jean DeBiasse, senior, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Conroy, Davies,
DeBiasse, Washuta, Myler
6-CRANFORD COUGARS (41):
15-Carly Maucione, junior, 4-0-3-11
4-Jenna Goeller, senior, 1-1-7-12
24-Kaitlin McGovern, senior, 3-0-0-6
20-Jess McCoy, senior, 5-0-0-10
32-Kerry Wischusen, junior, 1-0-0-2
13-Mairead McKeary, junior, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Maucione, Goeller,
McGovern, McCoy, Wischusen
NORTH 2, GROUP 3 SEMIFINAL AT GOV. LIVINGSTON
5-MENDHAM (15-10) 11 6 2 18 – 37
1-GOV. LIVINGSTON (23-4) 11 9 10 16 – 46
5-MENDHAM MINUTEMEN (37):
4-Elizabeth Malman, senior, 2-3-1-14
14-Irene Margiotta, sophomore, 2-0-2-6
31-Liza Morrison, senior, 0-0-1-1
10-Michelle Stanton, sophomore, 0-1-2-5
5-Aubree Udell, junior, 1-0-0-2
35-Jaclyn Walsh, junior, 3-0-3-9
1-GOV. LIVINGSTON HIGHLANDERS (46):
13-Hayley Berliner, sophomore, 1-1-0-5
4-Lauren Sorrano, freshman, 1-0-0-2
21-Patrice DiTommaso, junior, 2-2-1-11
15-Mallory George, senior, 1-0-6-8
22-Erin Ferguson, senior, 3-0-0-6
10-Alyssa Cranston, senior, 0-2-1-7
21-Sara Dilly, sophomore, 1-0-2-4
5-Marielle Jankowski, senior, 0-1-0-3
Starters: Cranston, Dilly,
George, Ferguson, Jankowski
NORTH JERSEY, SECTION 2, GROUP 3:
SEEDS: 1-Gov. Livingston. 2-West Morris. 3-Iselin Kennedy. 4-Nutley.
5-Mendham. 6-Cranford. 7-Chatham. 8-Warren Hills.
9-South Plainfield. 10-Parsippany Hills. 11-Roxbury. 12-Summit.
13-Colonia. 14-Rahway. 15-Morristown. 16-Plainfield.
Tuedsay, Feb. 26
Gov. Livingston 62, Plainfield 31 – at GL
Warren Hills 57, South Plainfield 38 – at Warren Hills
Mendham 54, Summit 27 – at Mendham
Nutley 40, Colonia 31 – at Nutley
Iselin Kennedy 76, Rahway 39 – at Kennedy
Cranford 42, Roxbury 32 – at Cranford
Chatham 47, Parsippany Hills 23 – at Chatham
West Morris 60, Morristown 28 – at West Morris
Thursday, Feb. 28
Gov. Livingston 47, Warren Hills 30 – at GL
Mendham 42, Nutley 39 – at Nutley
Cranford 50, Iselin Kennedy 45 – at Kennedy
Chatham 56, West Morris 49 – at West Morris
Saturday, March 2
Cranford 41, Chatham 38 – at Cranford
Gov. Livingston 46, Mendham 37 – at GL
Monday, March 4
6-Cranford at 1-Gov. Livingston, 7 p.m.