【N.J】 H.S. GIRLS BASKETBALL: Bayonne beats Cherokee for first state championship – – – New Jersey News

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TOMS RIVER – Something had to give when Bayonne and Cherokee met for the NJSIAA state Group 4 girls basketball championship earlier this month here.

The North Jersey 2 champion Bees had won 12 straight games coming into the title game March 4 at the RWJ Barnabas Health Arena, while the South Jersey champion Chiefs were riding a 16-game winning streak.

Led by sophomores Janaya Meyers (14 points) and Mckenzie Neal (10 points), Bayonne earned its first state championship in school history with a 40-39 victory over the Chiefs.

Bayonne scored the game’s first six points and led, 10-6, after the first quarter. Neal scored eight of her 10 points in the second quarter as a 16-7 run gave the Bees a 26-13 advantage at the break.

Cherokee fought back after the intermission.

“The adjustment we made was to play better defense and close the driving lanes they took advantage in the first half,” said Cherokee coach Ron Powell. “Offensively, we got the ball to Gabby Recinto. She battled all game against our bigger opponents. What a great game she played. I was very proud on how we played in the second half, especially defensively. Our defense is what got us back in the game in the third quarter.”

Recinto, who has accepted a four-year scholarship to Jefferson University in Philadelphia, scored 18 of her game-high 22 points in the second half.

The one-point loss was tough for the Chiefs to swallow. It marked Cherokee’s second consecutive setback in the state finals. Last year, the Chiefs fell to Westfield, 43-37.

Coach Powell doesn’t see losing again in the state championship as a negative however.

“I don’t think we came up short,” Powell said. “When you get to this game, there are not any slouches left. We had some opportunities to tie or win the game, we did not capitalize on them. We lost to a very good Bayonne team. Other than Paul VI, they were the next best team we played all year in my opinion. To finish 28-3 when no one picked us in the pre-season to do anything, was very gratifying. All of the pundits said it was some of the other schools in in South Jersey Group 4 who would win the sectional final. Turns out it was another Lady Chiefs year.”

Powell was impressed with 17-year coach James Turner’s Bayonne squad.

“Bayonne had all of the ingredients of a championship caliber team,” he said. “Size, quickness and athleticism and they were well coached. The had very good interior players with size and also good guard play.”

When asked what his message was to the team afterward, Powell commented:

“The message was, one game does not define us. We won the Olympic Conference American Division for the eighth year in a row, our fifth South Jersey Invitational Basketball Tournament championship over Camden Catholic, most by any school and our fourth sectional championship since 2015. We have been to the state Group 4 final three out of the last four years. There was none in 2020-21 due to COVID. My message was how proud we are of the kids, their commitment to our program. If winning was easy, everybody would be doing it.”

NJSIAA State Group 4 Championship

Bayonne 40, Cherokee 39

Bayonne (30-3) 10-16-3-8 – 40

Cherokee (28-3) 6-7-10-16 – 39

Bayonne: Kayla Neal 3, Ailanni Dasher 5 (2 rebounds), Janaya Meyers 14 (7 rebounds, 5 assists), Mckenzie Neal 10 (3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block), Giselle Davis 8 (11 rebounds), Christina Centeno (1 rebound), Tatyanna Watson (2 rebounds), Cynic Smith (2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, 2 steals).

Cherokee: Gabby Recinto 22 (7 rebounds, 2 steals), Delaney Jackson 9 (5 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal), Brielle Alaba 4 (4 assists, 2 steals), Courtney Furman 2 (1 rebound), Jada Branford 2 (1 rebound); 3s: Jackson.

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