FHS Sports: Lady Warriors Make History, Win Berth In State Championship Game
TOMS RIVER – Diamond Miller couldn’t stop smiling.
“I just can’t believe we beat them,” the sophomore sensation said. “We did everything we could do to win, and we got it. I’m just so happy right now.”
The “them” to whom she was referring was the Rutgers Prep girls basketball team, the top-ranked girls team in the state, whom the Lady Warriors had just upset.
Miller and her teammates had just defeated the Argonauts 66-57 in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions semi-finals at Pine Belt Arena on March 19, and in doing so earned a slot in the state championship finals.
The girls also entered the Franklin High School history books; the team eclipsed the FHS Lady Warriors of 2014-2015, a record-setting team in its own right, by becoming the first team in the program’s history to reach the state championship game.
Franklin will face off March 20 against Manasquan High School, which earlier in the day defeated Red Bank Catholic to earn its berth to compete for bragging rights as the best high school girls basketball team in the state.
Franklin is also the only team to beat Rutgers Prep this season, having bested them in the second game of the season in December 2016. The Argonauts got the better of Franklin in their second meeting, and, in fact, had not lost a game since that December matchup.
Until this night.
Rutgers Prep got off to a fast start, going up 4-0 in less than a minute of play.
But baskets by Kiersten McCloud and Miller tied the game up, and a score off a fast break by Camille Gray – who had a breakout game – put the Lady Warriors up by two.
The Lady Warriors were able to stretch that lead to 10-6 before a three-pointer by Argonaut Leilani Correa brought Rutgers Prep to within two points.
Two free throws by McCloud and a field goal by Miller brought Franklin’s lead to five points, 14-9, with about 2:49 left in the quarter.
The teams battled it out for about the next two minutes, and, with about 39 seconds left in the first frame, stood knotted at 16.
Miller hit a shot from downtown with eight seconds left in the quarter to give the Lady Warriors a 19-16 lead at the buzzer.
Two field goals by Correa and two foul shots by Rutgers Prep’s Gabbi Redden gave the Argonauts their second lead of the day, 22-19.
But that lead, too, was short-lived.
On the next run, Monique Davis-Campbell scored from the paint and was fouled along the way. Davis-Campbell has been pretty much money from the foul line during this tournament, and this was no exception. She sank her extra shot, tying the game at 22.
The Lady Warriors went on an 8-point run, bringing the score to 30-22, before Rutgers Prep went on its own 5-point run.
A shot in the paint by Miller brought the score to 32-27 at the half.
Overall in the first half, Franklin sank 46 percent of their field goals, 50 percent of their 3-point attempts and 83 percent of their free throws.
Rutgers Prep sank 33 percent of their field goals, 17 percent of their 3-point shots and 67 percent of their free throws.
Lady Warriors’ coach Audrey Taylor stresses defense, and her team was listening. Right out of the gate in the third quarter, Miller stole the ball and brought it down court, but missed on the scoring attempt.
The teams traded baskets for the next two minutes, bringing the score to 38-35 Franklin, when field goals by Keona Schenck and Gray gave the Lady Warriors a 7-point lead, 42-35.
Another Schenck field goal, another 3-pointer by Miller and a field goal by Tiana Jackson gave the Lady Warriors their biggest lead up to that point, 49-39, with 1:16 left in the 3rd quarter.
A free throw by the Argonauts’ Correa ended the scoring in the 3rd quarter with the Lady Warriors up 49-40.
A split of two free throws by Miller gave the Lady Warriors back their 10-point lead early in the 4th quarter.
For the next 7 minutes and 15 seconds, the two teams pretty much traded baskets; the Argonauts would cut two or four points off Franklin’s lead, but then Franklin would answer with a couple baskets of their own, maintaining a lead of between nine and 12 points.
The Argonauts’ Brooke Pikiell made the last basket of the game with five seconds left, bringing the final score to 66-57, Franklin.
In the second half, Franklin sank 65 percent of its field goals, all of its 3-point attempts and 64 percent of its free throws.
For the game, the Lady Warriors sank 54 percent of their field goals, 67 percent of their 3-point attempts and 71 percent of their foul line shots.
Rutgers Prep in the final half sank 41 percent of its field goals, 17 percent of its 3-point shots and 75 percent of its free throws. For the game, the Argonauts sank 37 percent of their field goals, 17 percent of their 3-point attempts and 69 percent of their free throws.
Camille Gray had a breakout game, leading all Franklin scorers with 20 points. Miller scored 15 points, Jackson scored 12 points, Keona Schenck scored eight points, Davis-Campbell scored seven points and McCloud scored four points.
The Argonauts’ Correa led all scorers with 26 points.
The Lady Warriors went into the game confident, but knowing the odds were against them.
“We always knew we were the underdogs,” Miller said.
“Our whole team had our heads together that we were going to win the game,” Gray said. And when that happens, she said, “can’t nobody stop us.”
“Basically, we realized that they are beatable, they are human, they do lose, and we just happened to be the team that beat them,” Miller added. “Twice.”
“We knew that we had to hustle our hardest today, but we weren’t going down without a fight,” Gray said.
Taylor’s pride in her team was apparent after the game.
“There’s no other words but extremely proud,” Taylor said. “I love these girls, they’re an awesome group.”
“We’re a family, and the difference between a team and a family is that in any situation, we pick up for one another if we have to, and these girls do that,” she said. “They’re amazing.”
Taylor said that Gray’s contribution to the win was immense.
“The confidence today, and knowing that it was her attack and her speed that was going to get her there, was awesome,” she said. “I can’t tell you from last game to this game what made Camille come out and do what she did, but we told her that the key factor was going to be either her or Tianna. So we needed those two to make sure they played strong, because we all know about Diamond, we all know about Mo, so those other people had to play big roles.”
“I thought Kiersten came in and played valuable minutes for us,” Taylor said. “She was boxing out, she was getting loose balls.”
Taylor made Franklin history two years ago when the Lady Warriors went all the way to the semi-finals before losing to Manasquan. She said it was “amazing to get a little further than that group, but it would be more amazing if we win it. To get there is great, but to win it would be even sweeter.”
2017 NJSIAA TOC Semi-Finals vs Rutgers Prep
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