By Walter J. O’Neill, Jr.
Saturday, December 30, the finals of the Blue Devil Holiday Invitational were held at Shore Regional High School. The girls’ basketball tournament was broken down into two brackets; blue and white. There were no cross over games, and each bracket had six teams.
Host, Shore Regional, was in the blue bracket and entered the championship game with a 3-2 overall record. Their opponent, were the 4-1 Rams of Hightstown, who play in the CVC Colonial Division, not a Shore Conference member.
Hightstown started the game with a bang, as they outscored the Blue Devils 23-12. That 11-point advantage was mainly due to the twin towers on the Rams roster. Abby Miser a 6’5” senior and Penelope Swarn a 6’4” junior. They dominated the boards where Misier had 13 of her game-high 31 points in the opening eight minutes. Swarn only had four points but was a big factor in stopping Shore under the basket.
“Our tallest girl is Conley Smolokoff who might be 5’9”,” said William Wishart, head coach of the Blue Devils.
During the first quarter, the two smallest Blue Devils, sophomore guard Ava Coyle and Kimi Sayson a senior guard, each had four points. Junior guard Reese Fiore had a basket and Antonette Russo, senior forward, made two foul shots.
During the second quarter, Shore Regional used their speed and ball handling to get back into the game. Having three tremendous ball handlers in the front court with Coyle, Fiore and Sayson, allowed Russo and Smolokoff to work around the defense. Shore outscored the Rams 12-10 in the second quarter. Leading the way was Fiore from the foul line making all four of her free throws, and Sayson hitting a basket and making two foul shots. Angela Christopher, junior guard, made a three-point bucket and Smolokoff had a foul shot.
Most importantly during the first half, both the twin towers for Hightstown found themselves in foul trouble. With Swarn and Misier taking turns on the bench, it gave the Blue Devils a fighting chance. Going into the halftime break, the Rams were up 33-24.
Third quarter was extremely exciting as both teams were running, shooting and playing very aggressive defense. Hightstown had a 16-13 advantage to start the second half. Smolokoff and Fiore each had four points in the third quarter, Sayson scored three and Coyle had two.
The final eight minutes of the game had Shore Regional playing their best quarter of the night. A big reason was that Swarn had fouled out early in the quarter. Misier was playing with four fouls and had to be very careful. Shore Regional took advantage of that and attacked and pressured the Rams, but the clock was their enemy as they just ran out of time, as the Rams won 63-57.
Misier had a double-double for the Rams scoring 31 points and 18 rebounds. Swarn was close to a double-double as she finished with eight points and 10 rebounds. Hightstown out rebounded Shore Regional 50-33.
For the second consecutive game, Reese finished with a double-double. She scored 17 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, had three steals and one assist. Coyle was also close to a double-double with 17 points, seven rebounds and five steals.
Finishing with 11 points, six rebounds, two assists and seven steals was Sayson. Conley Smolokoff had a great game with seven points, five rebounds, one block and two steals.
The score book for Russo didn’t reflect the importance or impact she had on the victory as she only scored two points. Her impact was getting both Misier and Swarn into foul trouble. Russo battled both girls hard under the boards and frustrated them the whole game.
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