By Walter J. O’Neill, Jr.
In 11 seconds, the Lady Green Wave of Long Branch High School, had their tournament turned upside down. They were playing Raritan in the quarterfinals of the Blue Devil Holiday Invitational Tournament held at Shore Regional High School. Both schools were in the Blue Bracket, and Long Branch was winning, until a Raritan player hit a deep, three-point shot giving the Rockets a 37-36 victory.
Nick Mahoney, head coach of the Rockets, is very familiar with the court at Shore. He played four years there himself as a Blue Devil. Now, he coaches Raritan, which recorded their first win of the season with the victory over Long Branch.
The first half was tight with Long Branch holding onto a 13-12 lead after the first quarter. Leomary Diaz-Merino, junior guard for the Wave, hit two three-point shots for six of her game-high nine points. Senior Guard Leilani Andrews had a foul shot, basket, and a three-point bucket for six of her team’s 13 leading points. Taniyiah Brown made one of two foul shots to close out the scoring in those opening eight minutes.
In the second quarter, the Rockets held the Wave to only five points. Senior center A’layah Vincent had a basket and one of two foul shots for three of those five. The other two were scored by Andrews. Raritan added eight to their total. Going into the halftime break, Raritan held a 20-18 advantage.
Third quarter was all Green Wave as they out hustled and out played the Rockets. Long Branch added 12 points to their total and held Raritan to a single foul shot. Andrews had seven of those points in the third quarter, Vincent scored four and Diaz-Merino had one.
Raritan came out strong to finish the eight minutes of the game. They outscored Long Branch 16-6. One of the biggest mistakes the Green Wave players made was in ball possession and clock management. They were rushing their shots without anyone in place to rebound. The final minute of the game when they were leading they had possession and forced a shot that was not needed.
The Rockets were able to rebound and took the ball cross court and called a timeout. Mahoney called a play and sent his squad back out onto the court and watched the Wave defensive setup and called an additional timeout. This time he setup a play for a shot from deep outside along their bench. With 11 seconds to play, the Raritan player took the shot and it was nothing but net.
That three-point basket gave the Rockets the 37-36 victory, their first win of 2023-2024 season. It also dropped the Green Wave to 0-4.
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