By TOM WILLIAMS
The Raiders are in the South Jersey Group 3 basketball semifinals – both of them.
The Ocean City girls dominated Camden Tech, 57-22, in the opener of an NJSIAA Group 3 doubleheader in the Dixie Howell Gym Wednesday night. And the boys rallied to defeat Winslow Township, 59-54, in the nightcap.
Winslow had won 13 straight games in South Jersey Group 3 over four seasons. The Eagles had won the last three South Jersey titles.
The wins moved the OCHS teams into Friday night semifinals – the boys at Seneca High School in Tabernacle and the girls at Winslow Township in Atco.
John Bruno’s boys trailed throughout most of the game and entered the fourth quarter down by two points. The Raiders were badly outsized – all five Winslow starters were taller than Donovan Graham, the tallest Ocean City starter. But junior Joe Sacco scored eight points and senior Tom Jamison seven in the fourth period as the Raiders brought defensive pressure and outscored the Eagles, 21-14, for the win.
“Even when we got down by nine-ten points,” said Bruno, “the kids didn’t panic. They really have a confidence on the court and they never quit.”
The win not only propelled the Raiders into the South Jersey semifinals on Friday, it was the 20th of the season, the first 20-win season in Bruno’s 29 years. “I never really told anybody this,” he said, “but when I started coaching the two things I wanted to do was play in a South Jersey championship game and win 20 games in a season. So, this feels good.”
Jamison finished with 14 points, including a big three in the third quarter and a three-point play in the fourth off an offensive rebound. Sacco, who made five free throws in the fourth period, added 13 points. Senior Jake McQuarrie scored 13 and junior Donovan Graham contributed 12 – all in the second half.
The Raiders had some foul trouble in the first half and sophomore Eric Greenling was out sick. But senior Issac Robertson gave them four points off the bench and freshman Gannon Brady drained a key three-pointer to keep it somewhat close. Junior Luke Varallo, the team’s leading scorer, was the target of Winslow’s defense and did not score, only getting a couple of shots. But he helped out in other ways.
Paul Baruffi’s girls ran out to a 26-2 lead after one quarter and maintained control from there. Juniors Danielle Donoghue and Savanna Holt each scored 17 points to pace the OCHS girls to their 10th straight win over three seasons in the South Jersey Group 3 Tournament. Donoghue had another well-rounded game with 17 points on 7-for 11-shooting, five rebounds, three steals and four assists. Holt made five three-pointers in eight attempts, tying the school record for most threes made in one game. She also had five rebounds. Sophomore Emma Finnegan added 10 points.
Senior Kilie Wyers, who had three points and four rebounds, talks about the win and the tournament in an exclusive video interview, below. Wyers leads the team with 43 three-pointers this year.
FREE THROWS: Savanna Holt’s five three-pointers tied the school record set by Megan Fox in 1999 and also tied by Reilly Larkin in 2012 and Grace Sacco in 2015 …. box scores, schedule, results, stats and more are available at http://www.oceancitysports.com/OCDiary.html.
Boys Group 3 Semifinals
Delsea (23-5) at Timber Creek (20-6)
Ocean City (20-7) at Seneca (16-12)
Girls Group 3 Semifinals
Toms River East (18-9) at Mainland (27-0)
Ocean City (20-8) at Winslow Township (24-3)