East Rutherford, NJ - A strong second half was the difference. Becton limited Hasbrouck Heights to 13 second half points en route to a 47-36 victory on Monday.
The first quarter saw Molly Tague’s Aviators get out to a 13-5 lead. In 16 possessions they posted an 81 offensive efficiency (points divided by possessions). Becton, meanwhile, struggled through a 33 efficiency on 15 possessions. Despite leading by eight after one period, there was a tell-tale sign for Hasbrouck Heights. They committed five turnovers for an extremely high 31% turnover rate (turnovers divided by possessions).
The score was 17-5 before Katie Reiner, Becton’s outstanding scorer, got in the scorebook. Good defense by the Aviators kept Reiner off the board until 3:58 to go when the junior guard drained a three pointer. Hasbrouck Heights kept close watch on Reiner in a man to man with double teams on the perimeter. Reiner hit a second from beyond the arc with seconds to go in the half. That cut the deficit to 23-19 giving Mike Ryan’s Wildcats some momentum.
The all-important first four minutes of the final half were ‘won’ by Becton 5-2 cutting the Hasbrouck Heights lead to one. Becton had switched from man to man to a 2-3 zone in the second period. Paige Sonzogni and Liana D’Amore had looks on the perimeter. On the flip side, Samantha Russo, Hasbrouck Heights inside threat had trouble posting up against the zone. For Becton, Reiner was now into a groove. She knocked down a few shots and showing her unselfishness, often found open teammates in half court or transition. As the third period played out it was evident each team dealt with their respective issues. The Aviators were frequently turning the ball over while Becton allowed too many second chance opportunities. Those Aviator miscues were very costly as the Wildcats were able to build a 38-31 lead.
In the final period Becton maintained a lead. With four minutes remaining, the Wildcats enjoyed a 42-36 advantage. Hasbrouck Heights would score one more point as Ryan opted to stall and rely on the foul line to seal the verdict.
Groundhog Day. Please excuse the reference to the Bill Murray movie. Coach Molly Tague is experiencing a similar situation with her Aviators. "It’s the same thing," Tague said. "They never take what we taught them and apply it." Tague was referencing fundamentals. "The little things, fundamentals. Each game is like this and it’s happening even with our juniors and seniors, not just the young players.
Adjustment. "We played them man and couldn’t stay with them," Ryan admitted. "We switched to a 2-3 zone and that was a big difference." The zone clogged the inside, resulting in deflections and turnovers- a few of them becoming run outs in transition.
Despite trailing the first 16 minutes the mood was calm, at the half, Ryan simply told his group, "we’ve taken their best punch, just keep playing." The coach did observe something that has happened on several occasions this year. "The fourth period our kids were still fresh," he said. " They are in great condition and I think it’s because they all play soccer in the Fall."
Outright. A loss would have given Becton and Hasbrouck Heights a tie and co-championship of the division. Ryan was not up for sharing. "It’s special when you can win the title outright," Ryan said post game. "Look at the banner on the wall. Our girls have not won a league championship since 2006. That’s before our entire team was born."
Gina Minichiello is a player with that notable upside. The Aviators’ freshman guard did a good job defensively when assigned to Reiner in the man to man. She even blocked one of her shots on an attempted fast break layup. Minichielo also ran the offense.
"She (Minichiello) does a good job." Tague noted. "She is a freshman and has a way to go. She needs to get read the gaps a little better (running the team)."
Notes: Katie Reiner led all scorers with 19, 13 coming the second half. Hasbrouck Heights was paced by Paige Sogzogni with 10. Liana D’Amore added nine and Samantha Russo had an eight point, five rebound outing. Shania Healy scored 12 points, canning three from long distance for the Wildcats. Franseca Buda had 10 steals and seven assists, while Analise Feliz grabbed 18 rebounds for Becton.
Hasbrouck Heights visits Lyndhurst on Wednesday. "We played them out of season and we did well," Tague said. "Facing them now, once again, it’s all about limiting turnovers."
Becton is awaiting the draw in the NJIC playoffs to see who their next opponent is.
Becton swept the season series having defeated the Aviators 42-37 back on January 8th.
Hasbrouck Heights has an impressive coaching staff. Tague played her high school ball at prep power St. Rose of Belmar (NJ). Coaching is in her DNA as her dad, John Tague, is a former women’s coach at William Paterson.
Assistant Alisa Rios played on the college level.
Assistant Madut Bol, a former college player who played overseas, is also on board, enjoying his time coaching the Aviator frontcourt. Bol spoke about the possibility of playing professionally in Spain in the not too distant future.