Cranford girls basketball team starts season with 6-4 record

CRANFORD, NJ — Cranford led by five at the break.

Elizabeth came back in the second half to tie the game and send it to overtime.

Just another typical Watchung Division clash between two of the best girls basketball teams in the Union County Conference’s upper division.

Sparked by 13-point efforts from senior Sophia DeMarco and sophomore Lily Costello the home team Cougars found a way to produce a 46-43 overtime triumph against the Elizabeth High School Minutemen on Saturday, Jan. 6.

“The next step for us is to consistently win these kinds of close games,” said fourth-year Cranford High School head coach Allison Skrec.

The victory, Cranford’s fourth straight, put the Cougar overall record at 6-4 and Watchung Division mark at 3-2, as the week began. Cranford does not play again until hosting division rival Westfield High School on Thursday, Jan. 11 at 5:30 p.m. Cranford opened at Westfield with a 45-30 victory on Thursday, Dec. 14.

The Cougars remain at home for games against Governor Livingston High School on Saturday, Jan. 13, at 1 p.m., and Tuesday, Jan. 16, at 5:30 p.m., vs. Morris County foe Roxbury.

Cranford’s Watchung Division game at New Providence High School, originally scheduled to be played on Tuesday, Jan. 9, was moved to Saturday, Jan. 20, at 6 p.m., at Kean University.

In a highly competitive Watchung Division that features defending champion New Providence, newcomer Elizabeth and mainstays Roselle Catholic, Scotch Plains-Fanwood, Westfield and Oak Knoll, the Cranford Cougars know that they can never take a game off.

Here is what the Watchung Division standings looked like as of Monday morning, Jan. 8:

UCC-Watchung Division standings as of Monday, Jan. 8

1-New Providence (4-0). 2-Roselle Catholic (4-1). 3-Scotch Plains-Fanwood (3-1). 4-Cranford (3-2). 5-Elizabeth (2-3). 6-Westfield (1-5). 7-Oak Knoll (0-5).

Overall records as of Monday, Jan. 8, included New Providence 8-2, Roselle Catholic 7-1 and winners of seven straight, Scotch Plains-Fanwood 7-1, Cranford 6-4 and winners of four straight, Elizabeth 7-3, Westfield 2-7 and Oak Knoll 1-7.

New Providence was scheduled to host Roselle Catholic High School on Monday night, Jan. 8. The teams opened against each other on Thursday, Dec. 14, in Roselle, with the visiting Pioneers walking away with a 61-54 triumph.

“The division is tough,” Skrec said. “You have to be ready night in and night out against any opponent. If you’re not, then the result will show that you were not ready to play. The margin of error is so slim.”

Cranford has a four-point win at home against Bergen County school River Dell High School, 46-42, and a four-point loss at division rival Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, 43-39.

“We’ve had some wins and losses where a couple of possessions could have gone one way or another,” Skrec said. “Every possession is so important.

“That’s what we continue to preach to the girls. One game, one possession at a time.”

For a change, junior standout Bella Curanovic was not Cranford’s leading scorer against Elizabeth, finishing with nine points and three rebounds.

Curanovic began the week leading the team in points with 171 and rebounds with 60.

“Bella is so solid, offensively and defensively,” Skrec said. “Her maturity level is taking another step. Her confidence is higher.

“We’re fortunate that, when she is not our leading scorer, others step up, as did Sophia and Lilly against Elizabeth. A lot of different people contributed. It was a total team effort.”

Returning starters include Curanovic, DeMarco, senior Maddy DeLong and junior Kristina Lowe.

DeMarco is at 65 points and 45 rebounds and Lowe is at 54 points and 50 rebounds.

Lowe also leads in assists with 25 and steals with 25. DeMarco leads with 13 three-point baskets.

Curanovic has made 26-of-36 free throw attempts.

“Teams have to be concerned with Bella, even when she’s not scoring,” Skrec said. “She draws the attention of the entire defense, which helps open things up for our other girls. That’s huge.”

Photos Courtesy of Cranford Head Coach Allison Skrec