Whippany Park completes perfect holiday tournament

Whippany Park completes perfect holiday tournament

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Whippany Park completes perfect holiday tournament

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WHIPPANY

The Whippany Park girls basketball team capped its annual Holiday Invitational with a 35-31 victory over Newton on Monday and finished a perfect 3-0 at the end of the three-day tournament.

The Wildcats (3-1) defeated Bergen Charter 65-4 the first day and Montclair Kimberley 43-25 on the second day, but faced their toughest opponent in the Braves in the final game of the invitational that also included Villa Walsh and Hanover Park.

“It would have been better if (the tournament) was a little more balanced, but you’re kind of limited,” Whippany Park coach Tom Wilson said. “Hanover Park’s in our league, Villa’s in our league, so we don’t want to play each other any more than we already do, so we want to try to get three teams in to play us and you’re just limited. I’m always happy to play over Christmas and it’s even better to get a couple of wins, so no complaints.”

Against Newton, the Wildcats were put to the test as the Braves (2-2) play a strong man-to-man defense, and Monday was the first time this season Whippany Park had seen that type of pressure. But the Wildcats managed to give it right back, which led to a slow start for both teams and numerous turnovers.

After the first quarter ,the score was tied 7-7 but Whippany Park started to pull away in the second quarter thanks to three 3-pointers from junior guard Kayla Wrigley and outscored Newton 10-4 to take a 17-11 lead at the half.

“That’s basically I’m sure what both teams expected,” Wilson said. “It’s two very, very good defensive teams with limited offensive capabilities and we just expressed to the kids how hard they were going to have to work the entire game defensively to be successful. Newton did the exact same thing and we were fortunate to make a few more shots.”

Both teams struggled in the third quarter, with Whippany Park only outscoring the Braves 7-5 to lead 24-16 after three. In the fourth quarter, Newton started to climb back into the game. With 5 minutes, 18 seconds left to play, the Braves got within eight on a basket by senior guard Kayla Delnero. Whippany Park senior guard Mickel Dunbar then hit the front end of two free throws to give the Wildcats a 29-20 lead, but Newton went on a 6-0 run to pull within three, 29-26, with 2:58 to go.

Wrigley was then fouled three-straight times in 38 seconds and only made two shots to put Whippany Park up 31-26 with 58.5 seconds left. A basket by junior guard Kayla Chambliss got Newton within 31-28 six seconds later, but the Braves then fouled Dunbar twice in under 10 seconds to send her to the line for four shots. Dunbar only made two, which gave the Wildcats a 33-28 lead with 33.8 seconds left.

With 4.3 seconds left, Delnero connected on a three-point play to pull Newton within 33-31, but Dunbar was fouled again with 3.5 seconds left. This time she made both baskets and Whippany Park held on for the 35-31 final.

“Well A, we haven’t seen any man-to-man this year, which is really unusual … three games in, you haven’t seen man-to-man … but B, we saw really good man-to-man today,” Wilson said. “I’m always pleased to get a win but I kind of thought this game would be in the 30s, and that’s exactly what happened.

“We rebounded really well, they very rarely got a second shot, which is key. We had some good size, so even though we don’t have the outside shooter we’ve had in the past, but Kayla actually banked in three 3s which was key because it got us that early lead. It’s exactly what I expected and I’m happy we got the win.”

Wrigley led Whippany Park with 13 points and Dunbar chipped in nine points. Senior forward Julie Peterson had seven points and six rebounds. Sophomore center Nicole Dunbar pulled down 12 rebounds. For the Braves, Delnero led all scorers with 15 points. Senior guard Hannah Buckley had five points and four rebounds.

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