Sectional champion Bombers fall short in Group IV finals

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By Warren Rappleyea

It was a great run through the postseason for Sayreville War Memorial High School’s girls’ basketball team, as the Bombers came up one win short of making a trip to the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Tournament of Champions.

Franklin High School (22-7) ended the Blue and Gray’s run in the overall Group IV championship game, coming away with a decisive 68-36 victory March 12 at Pine Belt Arena in Toms River.

Sayreville found itself down, 9-3, just minutes into the game, and the first quarter ended with Franklin ahead, 21-14. By halftime, the score was 36-18, as the Bombers were held to just four points in the second session. Franklin’s Dominique Campbell-Davis, who ended up with 19 points, proved to be a handful inside for the Bombers defense.

“I’m very proud of the girls,” Sayreville coach Janet Cook said. “Several of them have been playing together all four years, and they worked hard to get to this point. They earned their success because they play as a team.”

After Franklin scored the first four points of the second half, Ryane Brush connected on a 3-pointer, and it seemed like Sayreville might pick up some momentum. Franklin, however, continued to play well defensively and gradually extended its lead. Isi Enahoro led Sayreville with 15 points.

The game was similar to a regular-season encounter between the two teams, when Franklin got off to a big lead and went on to win, 76-54.

Cook’s girls earned a trip to the Group IV championship by edging Cherokee High School (27-3) March 8. Sayreville’s swarming defense forced 29 turnovers, but Cherokee took a 22-19 lead into halftime and, at one point, was ahead by eight in the third quarter.

A late rally put the Bombers ahead, 30-29, entering the fourth quarter. Enahoro scored 13 points, including a trio of 3-pointers to pace the offense. Brush and Patrice Harding pitched in with 10 points apiece.

On March 6, Cook’s team won the Central Jersey, Group IV crown by downing South Brunswick High School, 44-37. The Lady Vikings (24-5) briefly trailed, 32-31, in the third quarter before an 11-2 run by Sayreville put the Bombers back on top. Morenike Akinrefon’s 11 points led Sayreville. Brush and Harding again added 10 points each. South Brunswick sharpshooter Amber Brown was limited to only seven points.

It was Sayreville’s third win against South Brunswick. The Bombers had downed the Lady Vikings just a week earlier in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament championship game, 59-52. Cook’s team also prevailed, 53-25, in a regular-season matchup.

Akinrefon, Brush, Enahoro, Harding and point guard Katie Esposito — all familiar faces to Bombers fans — will graduate in June.

Sayreville ended its memorable year with a 29-3 mark. For the most part, the Bombers dominated opponents by playing an up-tempo game to force turnovers that led to offense. A balanced offense made it difficult for opponents to focus on any one player.