January 22, 2017
By JC Baumuller
Special to NJS.com
ORADELL – Teaneck turned up the defensive pressure to open the fourth quarter to spark a 6-0 run that helped it overcome a 10-point third-quarter deficit and send the opening-round, BCWCA Tournament game into overtime. The Highwaywomen then outscored River Dell, 11-6, in the extra session to come away with a 48-43 victory on Saturday night in Oradell.
“With Teaneck basketball we think defense turns into offense,” said senior point guard Cedeja James.” If we play defense our offense is there. That’s how we won the game.”
It did not start off well for the Highwaywomen, however. Although it seemed like they were pulling down every rebound early on, they missed shots and turned the ball over a bunch of times. As a result they trailed, 6-5, at the end of the first quarter.
“The past couple of games the first and second quarters have not been where they should have been,” said Teaneck head coach Trinette Carruthers.” We came out flat. In the last two or three losses we had to play catch up in the second half. That’s something we have to fix in the next couple of practices to get ready for next week.”
Senior Caton Henderson completed a 3-point play to boost the Hawks lead to 9-5, but Teaneck junior defensive specialist Jess Bernard hit a shot and James scored from in close to tie the game at 9.
River Dell carried a 15-11 lead into halftime and started strong to open the third quarter. Senior Madeline Weber got things going by scoring off a pass from sophomore Bridget Cahill. Hawks junior Julie McGovern and Highwaywomen freshman Nahili Tittle traded drives to the basket and then junior Katelyn Gillies and Weber scored on back-to-back possessions to give River Dell a 10-point lead, 23-13.
“We weren’t playing to our full potential in the first half,” Carruthers said.” We talked to them and in the second half they came out and got the job done.”
The Hawks maintained a 10-point lead, 27-17, after Cahill and Weber, who scored a team-high 14 points for River Dell, combined for another basket, with 55 seconds to go in the third. But James drove to the basket and scored with 21 seconds to go and then did it again eight seconds into the fourth quarter. Thirteen seconds after that she canned a pair of free throws and the River Dell advantage was down to 27-23.
“These past few games, that’s (falling behind early) been happening,” James said. “I don’t know why. [In the second half] we say, ‘let’s pick it up; let’s play Teaneck basketball, let’s really play our game.’ When we started out we played down to their level so we had to pick it up when we came out [for the second half].”
In addition to James’ offensive output, the full-court press was smothering the Hawks, forcing them into numerous turnovers.
“Originally we decided to go man [defense],” Carruthers said, “but then we fell back to the zone because it wasn’t working for us. We put in some of our faster players just to put the pressure on them. We had Tamia [White], Cedeja (James), Cara [Faulkner] just to put the pressure on. We had Jess (Bernard) come off the bench – she’s a beast on the floor. We just had to turn the pressure up.”
Teaneck has a deep bench, with nine players seeing playing time, including two freshmen. The depth allows Carruthers to have fresh legs out there to maintain the full-court pressure for long stretches.
“We have a couple of freshmen that can come out and we have a lot of girls who have been playing JV for years,” she said. “We give them an opportunity to step up. Everybody knows their roles. We tell them what their assignment is and they go in and execute it. For example, if we want Jess (Bernard) to rebound that’s what she does. We do that to tire out the opponent. It worked to our advantage today.”
But aside from James, who finished with a game-high 25 points, driving to the basket for points the Teaneck offense was lacking for most of the game.
“I try to get to the basket and score,” James said. “But I saw that my team was down and everybody was putting their heads down. So I have to pick my team up, get the ball and start scoring. The team feeds off of me. If I go hard everybody else is going to go hard. If I don’t they’re not going hard. So I had to pick myself up, go to the basket and score.”
The offense came alive midway through the fourth quarter when junior Cary Faulkner drained a three to cut River Dell’s lead to 31-29. After the Hawks tallied a couple of free throws, junior Ebony Brown swished a 3-pointer to cut River Dell’s lead to one, 33-32.
About a minute later Tittle scored off a pass from James to give Teaneck the lead, 34-33. Another 3-point play by Weber gave the lead back to the Hawks but a free throw by Brown and a coast-to-coast layup off a steal by James gave Teaneck a one-point advantage with less than a minute to go. It was Julie McGovern's foul shot with 42.9 seconds left that sent the game into a four-minute overtime period.
It was all Teaneck in the extra session as it converted 6-of-8 foul shots before River Dell scored its first point with1:12 to go in the period. After that the Hawks never got closer than within five points.
“I stepped up last year but I have to take a bigger step this year because I’m a senior,” said James. “I like being out there as a senior right now. It feels good to lead my team to victories.”
Carruthers, who is in her first year as Teaneck's head coach, is getting plenty of support from youth coaches and the community at large.
“It’s exciting – completely different from being a player – seeing it from the other end,” she said.” But I’m learning. The community has been very helpful. Some of the local AAU coaches have been very helpful. Raina [Warren], my assistant, is a veteran. I have another coach who was out sick today. It’s a perfect fit. Everyone wants us to do well. We had a couple of tough losses but they’ve been very supportive.
“I don’t know it all – I’m still learning – but I’m taking it one game at a time, one practice at a time.”
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