Lady Warriors Earn Fourth Trip To Group Finals With Come-From-Behind Win

Onoseta Ufuah goes up for a shot in heavy defense during the Lady Warriors’ March 11 game against Randolph.

UNION – Most days, ask Lady Warriors’ basketball team head coach Audrey Taylor about the overarching factor in a particular win, and she’ll tell you “defense.”

But after the Lady Warriors came back to win the NJSIAA state Group 4 semi-finals from a scrappy Randolph team March 11, Taylor had another answer: “trust.”

“As a unit we’ve built trust, their trust in me to know that I see things and if we make that adjustment, we’ll get some positive out of it,” Taylor said. “But altogether, I think it’s our trust right now, believing that we can turn it around, and them believing that we can make some adjustments. I really do think it comes down to trust.”

That trust in their abilities and in their coach’s judgment buoyed the Lady Warriors into a 41-29 win over Randolph at Union High School, but it did not come easy.

Plagued by missed shots and an aggressive Randolph team crashing the boards early, Franklin didn’t seem able to find its footing the entire first half.

Randolph’s scoring began on their first possession, with a successful and-1 following a shooting foul. The team would lead by as many as six to eight points at different stages of the half.

The buzzer at the end of an uncharacteristically slow first quarter saw Franklin trailing 11-7.

Things picked up a little in the second quarter, when Franklin matched Randolph with 10 points in the frame and walked into the locker room trailing 21-17.

Senior guard Keona Schenck said that it was in the locker room when the team took a deep breath and got itself together.

“We were panicking at times, but then when we got to the locker room at halftime, we said we’re better than this team, we can run them, and we have to beat this team,” she said.

“We weren’t coming out like we usually come out in other games,” Schenck said. “That affected us because they were up, and we didn’t know what to do.”

This is where the team’s trust in their coach came into play, Taylro said.

“I went in at halftime and I saw their heads dropping, and I went in there and I said, what are you doing? What are you thinking … everything is not always going to be perfect,” she said. “The side we get in on is defense and this is going to be our adjustment.”

“We gave them a little more space, they were getting by our waist, we were over-helping, they were getting dumps, they were getting easy shots, and again, kudos to them for that because they played well, they really did, they hit shots, they moved the ball well, they were very aggressive, so kudos to them,” Taylor said. “But we had to make an adjustment on the defensive side, in order to get that momentum.”

Taylor said she also turned to her senior forward, Onoseta Ufuah, with a directive.

“I told Onoseta, what are you doing, what do you do well? That’s penetrate, we need you to do that for us today,” she said.

The Lady Warriors took that to heart and came out in the third quarter redy to chip away at Randolph’s lead.

They were down by as much as four, but managed to get a few back and end the quarter trailing 29-27. For the first time in the game, Franklin outscored Randolph, 10-8.

But it was the game’s final frame when the Lady Warriors came alive. Stifling Randolph with their defense, Franklin prevented the Rams from scoring in the entire quarter while putting 14 on the scoreboard.

Early in the frame, a shooting foul sent Ufuah to the free throw line, where she deposited both shots to tie the game at 29.

Shortly after, junior center Kyierah Dempsey-Toney grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled on the follow. She sank one of her two free shots, putting the Lady Warriors up 30-29, a lead they never relinquished.

With about six minutes left in the game, senior guard Kennady Schenck knocked down a trey, putting Franklin up 33-29, and the Lady Warriors were rolling.

Later, Ufuah grabbed an offensive board and tipped in a layup to put Franklin up 35-29.

A foul against Kennady Schenck with Randolph in bonus led to two more points and Franklin up 37-21 with a minute left in the game.

The final two scores were layups by Ufuah and Kennady Schenck, and Franklin had the game 41-28.

The team fed off each other’s energy, Keona Schenck said.

“It started from O (Ufuah) when she started attacking them and getting fouls” Schenck said. “We feed off of each other’s energy, so when she started, it gave everybody else energy, and we started going to the basket and getting fouls. That started everybody working together as a team.”

Ufuah led all scorers with 17 points. She also pulled in eight rebounds and had one assist and three steals.

Kennady Schenck had 10 points – six of them from outside the arc – five rebounds and a steal, and Keona Schenck scored eight points, with three rebounds and two steals.

“My shot was off today, but my teammates stepped up to help me,” Keona Schenck said. “I know that when my shot’s off, other people are there to help me.”

Dempsey-Toney scored four points and had nine rebounds, a block and a steal, and freshman guard Tarae Jackson had two points and a steal.

The Lady Warriors travel to Toms River on March 15 to meet 30-1 Cherokee High School for the NJSIAA Group 4 championship game, their fourth consecutive trip to the Group finals.

The winner then moves on to the Tournament of Champions, for which the Lady Warriors are the defending champions.

Here are some scenes from the game:

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