By BRIAN CUNNIFF
ERMA – Kaitlyn McGuigan caught her breath just in time to make a very critical free throw for the Lower Cape May Regional High School girls basketball team early Monday afternoon.
With her team ahead by three, the sophomore guard sank the front end of a one-and-one opportunity with 17 seconds left that helped seal a 46-42 victory over rival Cape May Tech.
The free throw came moments after McGuigan had to be helped off the floor after being knocked down after securing a loose ball. McGuigan fell on the ball during the play, causing her to momentarily lose her breath. Lower Cape May coach Pat Holden called a timeout in order to be able to keep McGuigan in the game to shoot the free throws.
“I just knew I needed to make them,” McGuigan said. “I had to breathe and concentrate. I knew how important that first shot was. I got unlucky on the second one but at least that first one helped us get the win.”
McGuigan finished with a game-high 17 points to pace Lower Cape May (3-5) in the victory.
Lower Cape May shot the ball well from the outside. McGuigan made three three-pointers and Breanna Loper sank two. Alex Vogt, who added 14 points for Lower, knocked down a few mid-range shots.
“We hadn’t come close to scoring 46 points all year so making shots really made a big difference for sure,” Holden said.
Lower got the win despite a pair of fourth-quarter runs by Cape May Tech. The Lady Hawks rallied from a 10-point deficit late in the third quarter and a nine-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to twice cut Lower’s lead to three points. Alex Garcia sparked Tech’s surges by making a pair of three-pointers and scoring 12 of her 14 points in the fourth quarter.
But Lower Cape May did enough to hold off the challenge and finally sealed the win on McGuigan’s free throw.
Kennedy Campbell led Cape May Tech (1-3) with 16 points.
Lower Cape May has been playing shorthanded for much of the season. Star guard Lindsay Holden, the head coach’s daughter, suffered a knee injury in late December and is out at least a few more weeks. Forward Janaya Elam has also been out recently with an ankle injury.
“Our program, historically the past few years, has struggled but I give our girls a lot of credit,” Holden said. “They’ve been dealt with a lot of adversity and they’re pushing through that. I’m a perfectionist and I’m pushing them but at the end of the day, we lose our best player in Lindsay and then Janaya gets hurt, but these girls are finding ways to compete. It’s not pretty and we have some mistakes we have to correct but they’re finding ways to finish games and I’m proud of them for the way they’re doing it. These girls are working hard in practice every day. We just want to get incrementally better each week.”