By BRIAN CUNNIFF
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — A stingy defensive effort in the opening half powered the Middle Township High School girls basketball team to another victory Wednesday evening.
The Lady Panthers held Ocean City to only two field goals and nine points in the opening half on their way to a 49-37 victory to remain unbeaten through eight games.
Middle got the victory without head coach John Leahy, who has been forced to quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You take our head coach out but for the girls it’s business as usual,” said Middle assistant coach and now acting head coach Brandee Day. “The game plan stays the same. All year we’ve been telling the kids it’s about them and that it’s their team, so the approach is the same. The kids came ready to play and I’m super proud of them.”
Trailing 22-9 at the break, Ocean City made a bit of a charge at Middle in the second half, twice cutting the deficit to nine points. But Kate Herlihy knocked down a pair of three-pointers in the third quarter and Brynn Bock and Brianna Robinson each scored multiple baskets in the second half to make sure the Raiders never got closer. Middle led by as many as 15 points late in the fourth quarter.
Herlihy, who made five three-pointers overall, led all scorers with 23 points. Jada Elston added nine points, Robinson scored eight and Bock chipped in seven for Middle.
Stephanie Carey led Ocean City (4-5) with 10 points.
For Middle, the victory sets up a massive showdown Friday in North Wildwood against Wildwood Catholic. The game will air live on 98.7 The Coast, with a live video stream at CoastSportsToday.com. A Middle win would just about lock up the Cape-Atlantic East Division title, while a Crusader victory would create a tie atop the division. Middle posted a 43-36 win in the teams’ first meeting on Feb. 1.
“For us, it’s basically let’s handle one day at a time,” Day said. “At practice (Tuesday) we were focused on Ocean City. We had to get this win and we’ll cross that bridge Friday when we get to it.
“We’ll go back and look at film from when we played them here. Obviously court size is a factor because theirs is much smaller. We’ll reevaluate what we do and try to tighten some things up.”