Cedar Creek blows by Whippany Park
The 3-point shot has been such a prominent component of Whippany Park’s success all season but when faced with the daunting task of trying to beat Cedar Creek’s Kristine Miller inside, it became an even more-glaring necessity.
“There’s really no contending with it,” Whippany Park’s Tom Wilson said of the 6-1 junior’s size and length. “You can’t go to the basket because she blocked shots.”
With even the slightest idea of penetrating virtually eliminated from its game plan, Whippany Park had to resort to an even greater degree on its perimeter touch. But, by the time it found it, Miller had already inflicted too much damage to fully recover from.
Her 22 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks, two steals and overall activeness in the paint powered Cedar Creek, in just its second year of existence, to a 50-38 victory over Whippany Park on Sunday in the NJSIAA Group 1 state final in front of 603 at the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River.
The state title was the first of any kind for Cedar Creek (26-4), which opened in September of 2010 while the loss capped a stellar 25-6 campaign by Whippany Park, which was making its first appearance in a state championship since bowing to South Hunterdon in 1992.
The setback could take little shine off a season in which Wilson surpassed former Mendham legend Fred Corona for the most wins among girls coaches in Morris County with 513. And, Whippany Park caught fire late by winning 10 straight, including a 69-66 triumph over Bloomfield Tech and 49-44 decision over two-time defending Group 1 state champion New Providence in the North Jersey, Section 2 final.
Miller provided some insight for what was in store with two putbacks in the opening quarter when Cedar Creek built an 11-8 lead. Behind its hard-nosed man defense, the South Jersey school limited Whippany Park to just a 3-pointer from Olivia Dudley in the second period while extending its advantage to 19-11.
“We just had that awful shooting in the first half which caused us to get behind by eight,” Wilson said of Whippany Park’s 4 for 23 showing over the initial 16 minutes. “We played a frenzied style afterwards to try to comeback.”
Miller converted underneath off a dish from Mercina Stefanski and the next trip down stuck in another putback to put Cedar Creek up, 28-16, midway through the third. Two buckets from Dudley in the closing 48 seconds of the third got Whippany Park within 32-27 entering the fourth.
Olivia and Alana Dudley buried consecutive 3-pointers to trim the deficit to 39-35 with 5:12 to go and Sara Boyadjis drew a charge on Cedar Creek to get Whippany Park the ball back but it could get no closer. It missed on its next five attempts while Cedar Creek embarked on a game-breaking 8-0 run powered by six points from Miller to open a 47-35 cushion with 1:44 remaining.
“We were able to coming back and knock down our 3-point shots in the second half, which is what we need to do a little more of in the first half,” said Wilson “We got to within (four) but they just made too many plays and made all their foul shots and did a lot of things well enough to win the game.”
Miller went 6 for 6 from the foul line and Cedar Creek was 15 of 16 overall. Olivia Dudley finished with 16 points and eight rebounds while Alana Dudley added 10 points. Cedar Creek owned the paint, outrebounding Whippany Park, 42-22 while outscoring inside, 24-10.
Gregg Lerner covers girls basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner