The clock struck midnight on a storybook season and tournament run Friday for the Ocean City High School girls’ basketball team.
The Red Raiders battled gamely but dropped a 62-37 verdict to a more experienced Ewing team in the Group III State Semifinals at Deptford (Gloucester County) High School.
Thus, Ocean City finished its season at 22-9, but not before winning an unlikely South Jersey championship.
Comprised mostly of underclassmen – Mickey Baker was the only senior starter – the third seeded Raiders clawed their way past second seed Winslow Township in the South Jersey semifinal and then handed archrival Mainland Regional a 36-32 loss on the Mustangs’ home court to secure the sectional crown.
Mainland came into that game undefeated at 28-0 and was among the top-rated teams in South Jersey. They had previously defeated Ocean City three times, all in overtime, but the Raiders’ aggressive play at both ends of the floor earned them their trip to Deptford to face Ewing (now 26-5.)
The game, twice postponed due to the severe weather earlier in the week, was a revenge match for Ewing, which fell in overtime to Ocean City in the state semi last year in the same Deptford gym. The Blue Devils returned most of that squad and had the clear edge in experience over the Raiders. Nevertheless, Ocean City courageously battled, and trailed by just 13-12 after one quarter of play.
In the second quarter though, Ocean City ran into a freight train. Ewing went on a 10-0 run to start the period. Then the Blue Devils scored the first two baskets of the third quarter to open up a 15-point lead and gain full control of the contest.
Ocean City junior point guard Danielle Donoghue and backcourt mate Tori Holt paced Ocean City with eight points apiece while Emma Finnegan scored 7 and Molly Hoffman chipped in with 5.
Jaycee Lowe, who scored a three-pointer during Ewing’s second quarter blitz, paced all scorers in the game with 18 points and center Mya Grimes tallied 11 to go with her 7 rebounds. Ewing advanced to the Sunday state final at Toms River with the win.
But Ocean City, which was not expected to have this level of success at the start of the year, can look forward to next year with the bulk of its roster intact and a wealth of state tourney experience under its belt.
Overall, it was another season to be proud of for the Red Raiders.