A day after winning in the Hudson County semifinals, Secaucus went back to work and captured the inaugural North Jersey Interscholastic Conference Tournament title with a 76-55 victory over Midland Park on Thursday at Becton High School in East Rutherford.
The quick turnaround put Secaucus in a tough position, but the Patriots opened strong and closed even stronger in the conference final. There was a brief period where it looked like fatigue was getting to Secaucus in the third quarter and then the Hudson County squad went on a 20-0 run that put the game out of reach.
Secaucus, No. 20 in the NJ.com Top 20, will have a chance to bring home two championships in three days when it plays No. 16 Lincoln in the Hudson County final on Saturday at 5 p.m. at St. Peter’s University.
“We came out as hard as we could today and took everything we had to play hard and come out with a win,” said senior Lindsey Mack, who scored a game-high 31 points. “It’s so cool to win a title like this as a senior. It gives us more confidence for the Hudson County final and tomorrow we’ll prepare and get ready for Lincoln.
Mack was electric from the jump and finished the first half with 21 points, including three 3-pointers. Junior Amanda Ulrich and sophomore Damaris Rodriguez added to the effort and that trio combined to score all of Secaucus’ points in the first half as the Patriots took a 39-26 lead into the break.
Midland Park battled back and made it a six-point game twice in the third quarter in a comeback attempt that had Secaucus on its heels. Having played a Hudson County semifinals the night before, Secaucus would have cracked at that time, but instead, the Patriots went on their best run of the game.
Secaucus scored the last eight points of the third quarter and then netted the first 12 of the fourth. Chloe Kasbarian and Gillian Luberoff combined to score 30 points and kept Midland Park in the game until that late Secaucus run.
“I always said that it is what is and it’s tough to play back to back, but at this point in the year, I’d rather us fight through something like this,” said Secaucus coach John Sterling. “If you’re not ready to play at this time of the year, when will you be?”
Secaucus is looking to repeat as Hudson County champion and with the lineup it has put together this season, the pieces are all there to win another title. Mack was unguardable against Midland Park, while Ulrich made a splash with 23 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.
Rodriguez had another all-around great performance with 17 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and five steals.
“It makes a coach look like they really know what they’re doing when you have three girls who can do what they do,” said Sterling. “Any kind of mistakes we make are made up by quick scores. I thought we did a good job of running the floor against Midland Park and getting easy opportunities. Lindsey was on fire, obviously, and Amanda and Damaris were also able to hit their shots. It’s a luxury to have three scoring options like that, but you know what, I also have to credit our other two starters, Payton Intindola and Amanda Dehnert.
“It’s a special kind of kid who doesn’t care if they shoot the ball and just wants to play defense, rebound, set screens and let the other three girls take the shots. We have great chemistry and the fact that we have two girls who focus on team goals makes for a really nice group.”