Gill St. Bernard's falls in overtime

Gill St. Bernard's falls in overtime

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Gill St. Bernard's falls in overtime

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JACKSON

The Gill St. Bernard’s High School girls basketball team picked a bad time to start a game as poorly as it did in Tuesday’s NJSIAA Non-Public B South final.

And while the Knights managed to post a phenomenally impressive rally that brought them back from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime, it was simply not to be.

Senior Taylor Rooks capped her brilliant career with 29 points and 12 rebounds, with 19 points and 10 boards coming in the second half and overtime, while senior Jasmine Sina finished with 15 points, including a clutch 3-pointer with 25.6 seconds left in regulation to force the extra session, but second-seeded Gill St. Bernard’s fell, 78-74, to sixth-seeded St. Rose at Jackson Liberty High School.

“I’m so proud that we were able to fight back from the deficit we had,” said Rooks, whose team wraps up the season at 26-4. “It shows what we’re capable of, even though we’re done. But you’ve got to look at everything we’ve done this year and the last couple of years.”

After winning the Somerset County Tournament final in overtime, it seemed Gill St. Bernard’s had it made when the game went into an extra period. Getting there, however, would be the hard part.

The Knights, who were outrebounded 20-13 in the opening half, including 7-2 on the offensive boards, also shot just 11-for-21 from the field and trailed 36-27 at intermission. Gill played much better in the third, but St. Rose wasn’t going away, and the Purple Rose led 57-47 headed into the fourth.

Jess Louro, who finished with 16 points, got the period started for St. Rose with a bucket, and after Gill missed a pair of free throws, the freshman hit one of her own to make it 60-47, giving the Shore Conference’s runners-up its biggest lead of the game.

That’s when the Knights came back from the dead, as they turned up the defensive intensity they lacked early and began controlling the boards. Led by Rooks, who scored seven points during Gill’s 19-8 run, the Knights closed the deficit to 68-66, after freshman Allison Coffey hit the second of two crucial free throws.

After Payton Smith hit one of two free throws for St. Rose to make it 69-66, Knights coach Josuf Dema called a timeout and dialed up a play that saw Sina drain a 3 from the left corner to tie it with just under 30 seconds left, marking the first time since the opening tip Gill St. Bernard’s didn’t trail.

“In the first half, they really got all the second-chance opportunities,” Rooks said. “All those rebounds were keeping them up. And we knew that we had to come out with the extra energy, and that’s what we did.”

“It all starts with defense,” Dema said. “In the beginning, our defensive intensity wasn’t where it needed to be and we allowed a good team to do what they do well. Then, for a while, we imposed our will on them on the defensive side, and they started throwing the ball away. We got steals and layups and those are the kinds of things you have to do against a team like that; get them out of their element. Once we did that, we were able to come back.”

Ultimately, however, it was Gill St. Bernard’s struggles from the free-throw line that proved the difference. The Knights shot an abysmal 11-for-26 for the game, and had a chance to take the lead with two attempts with 3.4 seconds left in regulation, but missed both. Gill missed another in overtime that would have tied the game with 37 seconds left, but the miss led to the Knights being called for a rare foul off the ball that set up two successful free throws by St. Rose’s Kat Phipps, who paced the Purple Rose with 19 points.

“It’s very unusual,” Dema said of his teams woes from the stripe. “In practice, we do drills where if you miss (a free throw) you have to run up the court, and you look up and nobody’s running. We can go for five minutes and we’re hitting 90 percent of ours shots. We miss some here and there (in games), but, usually, in bid spots and big moments, they usually do (convert). To shoot close to 30 percent, when we shoot that from the 3-point line, is tough to swallow.”

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