FAIR LAWN - Teaneck sprinted out with an 11-0 run to open the fourth quarter to bolt past Old Tappan, 51-45, in the semifinals of the 49th Annual BCWCA Basketball Championship Saturday afternoon. The Highwaywomen face Saddle River Day, 89-45 winners over Holy Angels, for the championship on Wednesday night.
Teaneck beat Saddle River Day, 61-57, Jan. 6 and coach Brad Allen believes that will help his team.
“Our team meeting Saddle River Day once is a good thing,” he said. “We’re familiar with the players and some of the things they do. We’re not going in not knowing their capability and their skill level. We have film and we have a scout and [now] we’re going to sit down again and see them play.”
Suffocating defense was key to the Teaneck run as the Highwaywomen converted turnovers into baskets. They tallied 8 points in the first minute and a half to erase Old Tappan’s 35-32 third quarter lead.
“Our main objective is defense - in our system and our program,” said Allen. “I told them we can’t win this game without playing defense. So we went back to our man press and it worked out very well for us. That’s the one thing we were great at in the beginning of the season. We had injuries and we were using different lineups and we kind of got away from that. So now that everyone’s getting healthy and back in the mix we’re getting back to what we were doing early in the season.”
Freshman Leayana Dorville opened the fourth quarter with a basket from in close, senior Demi Simpson canned a pair of jumpers and junior Imani McKenzie hit from the corner to give Teaneck a 40-35 lead.
After two timeouts by Old Tappan Teaneck senior Erin Frazier drained a free throw and Simpson drove and scored off a great pass from Dorville and the lead grew to 43-35 with 3:23 to go in the game.
A lot of Teaneck’s success was a result of superior rebounding, something they didn’t have when they lost to Old Tappan last Tuesday.
“On Tuesday there was a big rebounding edge for Old Tappan when we lost the game,” said Allen. “So in practice this week we focused on boxing out and grabbing every rebound, making sure we hit the boards and getting second chance opportunities. That was the one thing that was missing on Tuesday. We worked on that the next couple of days, including the Tenafly game, and it worked out well.”
Simpson was particularly effective, pulling down 14 rebounds to go along with her 18 points.
“We sat Demi out Tuesday because she was sick so she made a big difference from a rebounding perspective,” said Allen. “The girls played so hard Tuesday - we lost by six - but it was a tough game that was played so we knew with her back in the lineup it would make a difference.”
“I owed it to my teammates,” Simpson said. “I wasn’t there last week or on Tuesday - so I was definitely working to get back. [Rebounding] just kind of comes to me with my teammates - all of us communicating on the floor, boxing out, playing together.”
Frazier scored 4 points and chipped in with 7 rebounds and 3 steals, sophomore Jillian Carter had 9 points, while Dorville finished with 8 points.
“They’ve been playing to their potential,” Allen said of his team. “The good part about this team is we can go 10 deep. We played nine today and that’s without Lexi (Carnegie, a sophomore who tore her ACL a week after the game against Saddle River Day). If you can play nine without a First Team All-State caliber player then you have a good team.”
Old Tappan managed to score 10 points in the final three minutes led by sophomore Sadie Murphy who swished two 3-pointers to finish with 9 points in the game. Senior Maya Giordano led the way with 14 points and 6 assists, while Maya’s twin sister, Layla, scored 12 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and had 3 steals.
“We knew what we wanted to do,” said Simpson. “We use our basketball IQ. It was really more of a mental thing - knowing we were up and didn’t need to score. We needed to slow the game down - we’re not playing with a shot clock. It was really just us playing together and focusing on the end goal.”
Teaneck improved to 19-6, while Old Tappan fell to 18-6.
“The last time Teaneck went to the county finals was 2012 and they won,” said Allen. “Some of the alumni from that team come and help us practice. They teach us the history and the girls know them personally so there is that personal connection. That drives them a little bit. It’s like a sisterhood - so it’s big sister and little sister moments. They’re telling them of the experience so they’re living examples of what we are trying to achieve.”
“We’re chasing history,” added Simpson. “Teaneck hasn’t won counties in over 10 years. It really is unbelievable. Everyone wants to win. We’re grateful. We’re not scared - it’s survive and advance and we’re ready for the next game.”
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