High School Night: Saddle Brook 45 St. Mary 40 (OT)





















Rutherford, NJ - High school night was in actuality high school day. Saint Mary hosted Saddle Brook on Wednesday with a 4 o’clock start. With the afternoon start parking in front of the St.Mary gym was easy to come by. The attendance was mainly parents of the players for this competitive afternoon meeting.

St. Mary started the scoring then Saddle Brook reeled off ten straight to build a 10-2 lead midway through the first period. Both teams came out in a 2-3 zone on defense. The Gael defense allowed too much space for Saddle Brook’s Ella Marchesani. The Falcons’ junior guard buried two three pointers on that run-showing a smooth as silk touch from long range

"St. Mary coach Hunter DeBellis switched to a box and one. "We had to do that (Switch defenses)," DeBellis said. "She (Marchesani) is an outstanding scorer and we had to slow her down." DeBellis entrusted Bianca Diaz with the assignment of guarding Marchesani one on one. Diaz did an excellent job, shadowing the Saddle Brook sharpshooter and being aware of screens and fighting through them if need be.

After the quick start, Saddle Brook’s offense slowed down. At the half they held an 18-13 lead. The tide was changing as St. Mary was getting opportunities on offense. On the flipside, Saddle Brook was not attempting any penetration against the 2-2 box, packed in the lane, which could have opened up the floor for someone on the weakside.

St. Mary went on a 6-2 run the opening four minutes of the third period. From that point it was basically a one possession game. The Gaels defensively were able to get deflections. They ran on forced turnovers. Again, not every run out led to a conversion. The effort was never lacking. "The kids worked their butts off," DeBellis praised. "We did have some mental errors however."

Saddle Brook had its most effective offense through transition-usually on a Gael turnover. The fast break off a steal was an area Marchesani found some breathing room and inflicted damage.

Forty three seconds to play saw the hosts ahead by three. Saddle Brook cut it to one via two from the charity stripe. The waning seconds were a three throw contest. 5 St. Mary hit one of two with nineteen seconds left. Saddle Brook tied it with eleven seconds to go on a short jumper. Following time out, St. Mary pushed it almost the length of the court. A foul line jumper at the buzzer rimmed forcing overtime.

St. Mary opened with a bucket only to see Marchesani break three and bury a three pointer. She added two more free throws the next possession. The Saddle Brook lead was three but the momentum swing was significant. The Gaels could not draw even. In the stretch the Falcons sealed the 45-40 verdict on the foul line.

Marchesani led all scorers with 23 points. Teammates Deanna Occhipinti and Saorise Twomey added ten each, "She (Marchesani) worked for everything," DeBellis said. "She’s a scorer and we were determined to make her work for everything she got. "Bianca (Diaz) really defended, did a great job and forced her to earn every one of her points." Adriana Cabrera led the Gaels with 19 points, including five from beyond the arc. Saddle Brook won the battle of the boards with a 47-25 rebounding edge. The Gaels did force 24 turnovers. Saddle Brook improved to 5-3 while St. Mary is now 4-2.

"I told the team at halftime this is the place we want to be (within striking distance)," DeBellis said. "We are coming along as a team,"she added, "and learning but just have to fix those mental errors."

Part of the appeal and beauty of the high school game is just that-the learning. Students in class during the day, after school they are students on the ‘94 by ‘50 (smaller in many gyms) classroom. Watching them progress and learn is part of the beauty, a big part at that, of the high school game.