BAYLOCK NETS 21(3 3-PT, 8-8 FT), CURANOVIC 20 PTS
Two teams definitely on the upswing met face-to-face at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School on December 21. The hosting Raider girls basketball team, fresh off wins over the Elizabeth Minutemen and the Westfield Blue Devils managed to keep slightly ahead of the Cranford Cougars, who also beat Westfield in their season opener, to earn a 43-39 victory.
Every time the situations got tense, both teams would rely on their big guns, Raider senior captain/point guard Amanda Baylock and Cougar junior Bella Curanovic, to come through with the needed points. Baylock, who had surpassed 1,000 career points mark last year, pumped in 21 points, which included trip 3pointers and hitting all eight of her free throws. Curanovic finished with 20 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, pulled seven rebounds and added a block, an assist and a steal.
“Cranford is a tough match-up for anyone. They’re physical, well- coached and they move cohesively on defense. But, I think our team is up to the challenge. We created a difficult schedule both inside and outside our conference. This team was battle tested last year come tournament time and we hope to be that way again this year” Raider Head Coach Ryan McKenna said.
The Raiders took a 10-7 lead after the first quarter and Baylock got it all started by sinking eight points, including two of her 3-pointers. Teammate Marin Pecarsky, who finished with 10 points, including a 3-pointer, put in two points. Senior Sophia DeMarco (5 assists, 3 rebounds) sank a 3-pointer, Curanovic sank a pair of free throws and junior Ella Grady (rebound, assist) put in a two-pointer.
The second quarter had the Raiders adding another point to their lead to make the score at the half, 19-15. Pecarsky hit a 3-pointer, while Grace Cawley (9 points, including a 3pointer), J’Nyyah Young and Maggie McNulty (6 points, 2-for-2 free throws) each hit for two points. Curanovic and sophomore Lily Costello (9 points, including a 3pointer, 3 assists, 3 rebounds) each netted four points.
But the score tightened to 29-27 when the Cougars outscored the Raiders, 12-10, in the third quarter. The score was actually tied, 24-24, with 4:15 on the clock but Cawley banged a 3-pointer and Baylock sank both of her free throws to extend the lead to 29-24. But Cougar senior Kristina Lowe (5 points, 2 rebounds, assist) drained a 3-pointer. Costello scored five points in the quarter and Curanovic added four more points.
Curanovic rolled in a lay-up early in the fourth quarter to knot the score but Baylock went under the basket for two and Cawley added a put back to stretch the lead to 33-29 with 4:43 on the clock. Lowe sank a two then McNulty sank a pair of free throws to make the score 35-31 with 3:15 remaining. Lowe assisted Cawley for two points but Curanovic fired in a 3pointer to make the score 37-34 with just 1:47 left in the game. Fouling was needed so the Raiders put the ball into Baylock’s hands. She made good on all six of her free throws down the line, while Curanovic sank a twopointer then added a 3-pointer with just 0:2.9 showing.
“Amanda hit some key shots and was a steady force to close out the game. She’s been in that situation so many times and rises to the occasion. The other player that stepped up was junior Grace Cawley. She hit a huge three and scored nine points overall. She was also incredibly disruptive on the defensive end,” Coach McKenna pointed out.
Next, the Raiders would face Mendham on December 23 and Millburn on December 27 then they would travel to do battle with the Roselle Catholic Lions on Thursday, January 4. The Cougars played Madison on December 26 and Chatham on December 27 then will travel to Summit to face the Oak Knoll Royals today, January 4, at 4 p.m.
“We have two games over the winter break and then really hit our stride with three games a week, every week. We are looking forward to the challenge,” Coach McKenna expressed.
Cranford 7 8 12 12 39 Sc Pl-Fanwood 10 9 10 14 43