HARDYSTON -- For every New Jersey high school basketball team except for the winner of the Tournament of Champions, there will be a loss to end the season.
Unfortunately for the Wallkill Valley girls basketball team, that loss came a little bit earlier than it had hoped. The sixth-seeded Rangers dropped a 50-42 game to 11th-seeded Pompton Lakes in the first round of the North 1, Group 1 Tournament at home on Monday.
“We knew their size was going to be a factor,” Wallkill Valley head coach Earl Hornyak said. “They have six seniors, and those kids have a lot of experience. I thought we did a nice job on the boards and trying to contain them. I think Erin Anderson did a wonderful job today for a freshman.”
It was a tough draw getting Pompton Lakes, which had more talent than your average double-digit seed and came into the game with a 15-8 record. The Rangers were able to survive Jamie Struble picking up her third foul early in the second quarter and only trailed 28-25 at halftime without their top player.
However, the offense stalled out in the second half and the shots were not dropping. Pompton Lakes was never able to pull ahead by a huge margin to keep Wallkill Valley in it, but the Rangers could not take advantage.
Senior Emma Diamond was a tough cover inside and scored six points in the third quarter to help Pompton Lakes grow its lead to 38-33 after three quarters. A drive by Jasmine Sampong gave Pompton Lakes its largest lead of the game to that point, 44-35, with 4:35 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Yet, poor free throw shooting by Pompton Lakes down the stretch gave the Rangers a shot for a big comeback. A corner 3-pointer by freshman Trinity Hartung cut Wallkill Valley’s deficit to eight, 48-40, with 1:24 remaining. A Pompton Lakes throw-away and a layup by Struble gave the Rangers a ton of momentum down six with 1:08 left.
Pompton Lakes missed the front end of back-to-back one-and-one’s to give Wallkill Valley a big chance to make a dent in the deficit, but the Rangers missed 3-pointers on consecutive possessions.
“We were living and dying by the 3-pointer all of a sudden,” Hornyak said. “When we’re hitting them we’re tough to beat, but you know how that is. When you’re not hitting them than you’re struggling. We tried to mix it up a little bit. It just wasn’t enough. We were hanging over that edge, but just couldn’t get there.”
Despite the early exit from the state tournament, it was a season to remember for Wallkill Valley with 17 wins, which is almost double the nine it had last year. The team will return everyone next year except for Struble, who averaged 16.5 points per game as a senior. When she was a freshman, Wallkill Valley won just four games.
“I’m proud of the kids,” Hornyak said. “We made a lot of progress as a program. We’re heading in a positive direction. The 17 wins is the most in a long time. It’s tough losing Jamie because she has been part of the rebirth of our program. We’ll miss her scoring and rebounding. The younger kids worked hard this year and some success. We’re pleased where we are.”
PL;17;11;10;12; -- 50
WV: 16;9;8;9; -- 42
Pompton Lakes: Emily Ramirez 12, Kayla Sampong 12, Jasmine Sampong 8, Emma Diamond 16, Olivia Stygar 2
Wallkill Valley: Jamie Struble 15, Sam Opilla 8, Natalia Mianowski 2, Trinity Hartung 6, Erin Anderson 4, Stephanie Hutnick 6, Angela Christmas 1
Records: Pompton Lakes 16-8, Wallkill Valley 17-9