The Oak Knoll Girls’ Varsity Basketball team is heading to the Union County Tournament Final at Kean University this evening to face 3rd seed Gov. Livingston, who are the defending county champs. Tip off is 6 p.m.
Oak Knoll, the 8th seed, enters the game 21-3 overall this season after pulling out recent victories over Linden (46-42) and Roselle Catholic (49-43).
“It feels great to be in the Union County Finals. We were disappointed with the 8th seed at first, but we knew we had to deal with whatever draw we were given,” said Oak Knoll Head Coach John Bertollo. “In getting the 8th seed, we knew we would need to beat some really good teams in order to make it far into the tournament. I never imagined we would make it this far, but with the way the team has been playing, I can't say that I am surprised. We've been fortunate to get contributions from everyone and have the ball bounce our way a few times. We know that we have one last huge test in front of us, but we will come into Sunday prepared and ready to play.”
Governor Livingston, which is 19-4 this season, ousted Cranford (36-27), Hillside (66-52) and Johnson (60-33) to reach the final county match-up for the third consecutive year. The team is heavily armed for this game, as Erin Ferguson and Mallory George can easily score 15 points each if Oak Knoll’s defense doesn’t do a good job of battling them down low, Bertollo said.
“We also need to be careful of their outside game as we know they have some really good shooters,” he explained. “We just need to keep playing with confidence and see where it takes us.”
Coming off a stellar victory over Roselle Catholic in the quarterfinal, Oak Knoll faced a tough competitor in Linden during the semifinal game.
Oak Knoll came out flat in the first half and had a difficult time getting into a rhythm, Bertollo said, while Linden came out strong defensively.
“We played a zone to start and Linden was getting some easy scoring opportunities. To end the half, we switched to man and that sparked us,” Bertollo explained. “In the second half, it took a few things to go our way, but we started feeling the momentum and went on a 12-0 run to take the lead. This run was special because we are used to Kerri [Moran] leading the run, but in this case, everyone contributed."
While Linden presented a tough challenge for Oak Knoll, the team is ready for tonight’s game.
“Governor Livingston has the experience, this being their third consecutive UCT finals,” Bertollo said. “As an 8th seed, nobody expected us to be here. Nobody expected us to beat Roselle Catholic or Linden, and I'm sure a lot of people won't expect us to beat Governor Livingston either. As long as we play our game, it should be an exciting game on Sunday.”
Oak Knoll’s starting lineup: Kerri Moran, Kelly McAloon, Catherine Booner, Monica Fritz and Julia Wanfried.
Governor Livingston’s starting lineup: Erin Ferguson, Mallory George, Alyssa Cranston, Marielle Jankowski and Sara Dilly.
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