For some teams, three times is not always the charm. Just ask the River Dell Lady Hawks when they took on Northern Highlands for the third time during the regular season and lost after having one the first two games. On Wednesday night, the Lady Hawks hosted the Mahwah T-Birds in the N1G2 state tournament in their third game of the year. And much like the previous two matches, the Lady Hawks once again survived a late T-Bird surge for a 50-41 win.
"I'm just happy we were able to break the curse," senior Jill McGovern said. "Before when we've faced a team for the third time we lost, so its good to get that out of our systems. We pushed through the fourth quarter and now get another game to fight through."
From the first whistle, the Lady Hawks came out strong as Kate Brock and Jenna Connolly nailed a combined three big jumpers from the arc to take an early 10-9 lead. But trailing right behind was T-Birds Kristyn Tremblay with the short jumper to keep Mahwah in the game.
But the first quarter was the only time the score was that close even though Tremblay continued to hit the basket. River Dell went on an 11-point shooting spree in the second and a 13-point spree in the third to pull ahead. While the Lady Hawks' offense was hot, the team's stellar defense led by senior Kristen Eckert shut Mahwah's shooting down.
Mahwah fought back in the final quarter outshooting River Dell 22-16. With all of the Hawks focus on Tremblay, the door was then opened to Alexa Freguletti, Ally Burns, Christina Constantino, Lizzy Mohre and Courtney Spizzo to make an impact on the court. But a late run and Tremblay fouling out in the final minute was not enough to put the T-Birds back into the game.
"I think tonight they had a good shooting night," Freguletti said. "We shot well and played hard to the end. We came in expecting to beat them because we're not a team to lie down. I've played with most of these girls for most of three years now and I see them going bigger and better next year."
"It's sad to the seniors go," Mahwah coach Mike Branagh said of Freguletti and Alex Trujio. "We played without one of our main starters (Trujio) who's out with the flu. They came in with me four years ago and we have a lot of great memories. We just ran into a good team tonight. I'm proud of them and they played hard. We have a lot of young girls going into next season."
The high scorers for the night were Kristen Eckert (RD) and Kristyn Tremblay (Mahwah) both with 12 points. Lady T-Birds Alexa Freguletti followed with 12 while Lady Hawks Kate Brock had 9. River Dell's Jordan Bastable, Jenna Connolly and Jill McGovern had eight points each.
"We played as a team and were well balanced," River Dell coach Lou Wejnert said. "Jill played well under pressure and found the open man. Jenna has two big threes to start the night. They all could have had extra baskets but it was a good effort."
The Lady Hawks, seeded second in the state tournament will next face the sixth seeded Pequannock Lady Panthers on Friday 7pm at River Dell High School.
The Panthers, out of Morris County are a virtual unknown to Wejnert and the Lady Hawks and now have one night to view video of the team and prepare.