By Lesley Graham
At tournament time, as the saying goes, “win and advance.” Luckily for Ocean City, ugly wins still count.
In what was a sloppy outing, the Red Raiders defeated the Lions of Lacey Township, 50-34, in the quarter round of the state Group 3 playoffs.
The win upped the Red Raiders’ record to 22-6, while Lacey Township ended its season at 9-16.
Ocean City senior point guard Danielle Donoghue led all scorers with 18 points.
In the first eight minutes of play, Ocean City held Lacey Township to only two buckets while scoring 17 points.
After what was a productive first quarter, the second was filled with stagnation from both teams, with quite a few missed opportunities, turnovers and overthrown passes. Going into halftime, Ocean City grabbed a 25-11 advantage.
As the second half got underway, Lacey Township came out firing on all cylinders, not giving up the fight for a victory. The Lions were not getting the friendly roll, though. Ocean City was playing strong box-out defense, denying Lacey Township second looks at the basket.
At the end of the third quarter, Ocean City turned up the intensity and relied on its relentless defense to build a healthy lead against the Lions. Entering the fourth quarter, Ocean City was up 41-21.
With the final eight minutes ticking down, Lacey was not going quietly. The Lions continued to battle, chipping in their highest point total of the game with 13 points. But it was too little, too late for Lacey, as Ocean City was able to hold on for the win.
Ocean City Head Coach Paul Baruffi noted that the team did some good things, but missed some simple shots.
Going forward, Baruffi emphasized the need to stay the course, especially during tournament time.
“We didn’t as a team take in what we were trying to do defensively,” Baruffi said. “I told the team, you have to do a better job of listening to what we are telling you in practice – respecting what we are telling in practice and be more focused in what we are trying to do.”
The win continues Ocean City’s quest for a state title, propelling the Red Raiders into the semifinal round against Toms River East. The game will be hosted by Ocean City Saturday afternoon.