By LESLEY GRAHAM
There is an old adage in sports: “You either win or you learn.”
Friday night, the Ocean City High School girls basketball team was on the receiving end of one of those lessons, suffering a 66-44 loss to conference rival Mainland.
The loss dropped the Red Raiders to 16-6 overall, while Mainland improved to 15-5.
Senior Abbey Fenton led the way in scoring for the Red Raiders with 18 points, all of them coming from three-pointers. Cadence Fitzgerald of the Mustangs led all scorers with 20.
Ocean City was unable to find an answer to what the Mustangs threw at them throughout the entire game. While Mainland was finding the open looks, moving the ball in transition and creating steals on defense, Ocean City struggled to get shots to fall and had unforced turnovers, resulting in second opportunities for Mainland.
The Red Raiders started to chip away at the lead late in the first quarter with two big threes by Fenton and fellow senior Lauren Mirsky to close the gap to 14-12.
As the second quarter got underway, the Raiders were able to find some shooting rhythm and picked up their hustle, especially by sophomore Marlee Brestle, to get second opportunities at the basket.
Ocean City was making shots, but unfortunately for the Raiders, Mainland was able to answer right back. At the end of the first half, Mainland took a 32-23 lead.
The Raiders were not about to lay down without a fight and came out in the second half with fire in their eyes, clawing to get back into the ball game, possession by possession.
With under three minutes to play, momentum was in Ocean City’s corner after a huge charge call on Mainland’s Kylee Watson caused by Fenton, who then converted for another three points on the other end.
Ocean City was chipping away, still down as the fourth quarter got underway, 45-34.
The final quarter was dominated by Mainland as the Mustangs increased their lead to 20 with under four minutes to play. They dropped 21 points in eight minutes to Ocean City’s 10, making the lead insurmountable for the Raiders to overcome.
The Raiders are back in action 6 p.m. Tuesday at home against Cedar Creek for their final game of regular season Cape Atlantic League play.