BERNARDS TOWNSHIP – After splitting two hard-fought battles during the regular season, the Somerville High School girls basketball team knew exactly what to expect when it arrived at the Pingry School on Tuesday for its second-round Somerset County Tournament contest. And just as they expected, the Pioneers had to fight for every point in an impressive victory.
Junior guard Angelica Borja led the way with 16 points and eight rebounds, and sophomore Nyasia Thomas added 13 points and five boards, as ninth-seeded Somerville battled its way to a 56-44 victory and a trip to the quarterfinals.
“We tied them in the regular season, going 1-and-1, so we knew that this game, No. 8 vs. No. 9, it was going to be competitive,” said Borja, who scored seven of her points during the fourth quarter where Somerville was forced to hold off a late Pingry rally. “We knew we’d have to fight to win this game.”
“Pingry’s a very physical team, they pressure you, and that’s something we knew coming in,” said Somerville coach Kerry Fodderingham, whose team will visit top-seeded Franklin on Thursday. “They do a great job putting pressure on you and I thought we handled it well and applied the same pressure to them.”
With both teams trapping, pressing and throwing their bodies around, the game developed as a manic, high-energy war, with each team putting forth max effort on both sides of the ball.
Somerville at Pingry girls basketball in second round Somerset County Tournament game held at Pingry in Basking Ridge. On Tuesday Feb. 17, 2015 Photo: Mark R. Sullivan/Staff Photographer
Somerville built a 31-21 lead by halftime, led by nine points from Melody Van Ness, who finished with 11 before fouling out in the fourth quarter. The sophomore also did a nice job on defense, particularly on Pingry star Cory Ransom, who scored just nine of her game-high 24 points in the opening half.
But while the Pioneers cruised for much of the contest, Pingry was plagued by an abysmal outing shooting the ball, as the Big Blue hit on just 23 percent from the field.
Where the Big Blue did excel, however, was on the offensive glass. Pingry collected 18 offensive rebounds, including nine by Sarah Moseson, who finished with 14 total boards and eight points. Ransom, too, was a beast on the glass, collecting 14 rebounds, but the Big Blue couldn’t cash in those second-chance opportunities.
Final: Somerville 56, Pingry 44. Pioneers will face top-seeded Franklin in Thursday's quarterfinals #NJGirlsBasketball
— Simeon Pincus (@SimeonPincus) February 17, 2015
“We usually shoot a lot better than that,” Pingry coach Courtney Tierney said. “It just seemed like the shots didn’t go our way today. We didn’t get enough rebounds and put-backs, but that goes to them. Somerville played great D and outplayed us today.”
Pingry hit its low point in the third quarter, where it opened up the period shooting 0-for-10 and committing six turnovers. A free throw by Ransom with 5:14 remaining in the period and a 3-pointer by Charlotte Curnin with 28 seconds remaining proved to be the Big Blue’s lone points of the period, as Somerville stretched its lead to 38-25, despite shooting just 4-for-13 from the field, itself.
The Big Blue finally came to life in the fourth quarter, as Pingry followed up a Beatriz Tomale bucket to start the period by embarking on a 14-3 run as Somerville, curiously, continued to attack the basket and give Pingry chances on the boards and on the other side of the court. Ransom scored 14 points in the fourth quarter to help Pingry closed its deficit to 43-39, but Borja took control and then hit 5-of-6 free throws over the final three minutes to thwart the rally and secure the victory.
“That’s poise that shows my kids are growing up a little bit,” Fodderingham said. “Angelica Borja, I thought, was a big part of that. She made a lot of free throws down the stretch, handled the ball in a lot of pressure situations, and she was tough – she got hit and came back in. I thought leadership was a big part today, and our sophomores are starting to lead, as well.”
“Unfortunately, I wish we could have picked that up a little earlier,” Tierney said. “But sometimes you have days like this. I just wish it wasn’t today.”
Simeon Pincus can be reached at CNGirlsHoops@aol.com and on Twitter @SimeonPincus