Wall lacks two things – size and fear.
On the surface, it’s relatively diminutive lineup seems better suited to make its offensive impact from the perimeter and it certainly features that element with a collection of shooters eager to fire from long range. However, that group can credit the clean looks they get to the brashness that’s revealed with each piercing drive into the lane.
“We have a lot of threats and our offense is pretty good,’’ freshman guard Jess Louro said. “It’s important that everyone gets a chance because we have a lot of options. We do have good shooters and we drive really well. And, that allows us to either drive and kick out or drive straight to the hole.”
The only thing that trumped Wall’s exceptional shooting touch was the spacing it used in producing its highest scoring output of the season. And, sophomore Sydney Darby exploited the lanes created with two critical layups in the closing minutes that enabled Wall, which led by as many as 16 in the second half, to stave off a furious late-game challenge and outlast Jackson Liberty for a 70-64 victory on Friday night in Wall Township.
Wall (5-5) owned a seemingly comfortable 48-32 lead in the third quarter before Jackson Liberty (6-8) rallied to close to within 62-59 with two minutes left to play.
Darby restored a semblance of order for Wall with an inside finish and backed that with a neat spin move into the paint and subsequent scoop to the hoop to give the Crimson Knights a 66-61 lead with 1:01 to play.
“I love to drive,” noted Darby, who deposited 10 of her 12 points in the second half to go with seven rebounds. “I feel like I have a better chance of scoring off the drive. I practice it constantly. When I see two people coming at me, I can throw a hook around shot, put the right spin on it and hope it goes in.”
Wall, which entered the contest averaging 43.2 points per game, had its offense clicking on all cylinders throughout. It shot 47 percent from the field (26-for-55), held its own on the boards against the bigger Jackson Liberty lineup and displayed its range of weaponry during an explosive sequence at the outset of the second quarter.
Trailing, 13-11, it went on a 14-2 splurge in less than two minutes and the eruption captured both its balance and scoring capacity from every conceivable spot in the halfcourt.
Kelsey Thompson sparked the run with a 3-pointer, one of four she hit en route to a team-high 14 points, to put Wall ahead, 14-13. Louro converted a steal on the ensuing inbounds into a layup and drove inside for another bucket moments later. Emily Cilinski canned a trey and Samantha Darby stuck in a putback before her twin sister Sydney finished a spin move for a 25-15 advantage with 5:27 showing in the quarter.
“I told them I didn’t care how many times they got their shots blocked, they had to continue to go inside” Wall coach Colleen Kilmurray said. “We keep preaching at practice, it doesn’t matter what grade you’re in or what position you’re playing. We don’t height. We work a lot on dribble penetration and kicks. They haven’t been playing together for years but they just have a sense of where each other are going to be.”
Cilinski produced a layup with 2:47 showing in the third that pushed Wall to a 48-32 lead. The deficit sent Jackson Liberty (6-8) into desperation mode and it got an immediate reward, paring the deficit to 52-42 heading into the final eight minute.
April Szymczyk clicked for consecutive buckets, the second on a putback that trimmed the margin to 58-52 with 4:20 to play and touched off an 11-4 spurt. Courtney Titus nailed a 3-pointer which drew Jackson Liberty to within 62-59.
After Sydney Darby layup made it 64-59, Anijaah White finished at the rim to make it 64-61 with 1:40 to go but Jackson Liberty drew no closer.
Louro finished with 13 points to go with four assists and Cilinski netted 11 and added three assists for Wall, which hit eight 3-pointers. Sisters Anijaah (10 rebounds) and Kyasia White each netted 18 for Jackson Liberty while Szymczyk ended with 12 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.
Newark Academy 39, Livingston 36: Carly Gruenberg scored 15 points, including a pair of free throws in overtime, to pace Newark Academy. Maddie DeLamielleure’s lone bucket of the game forced overtime for Newark Academy. Taylor Smith collected 10 points and 12 rebounds in the triumph. Livingston, which came back from a 17-9 halftime deficit, got 17 points from Sam Rothenberger and 14 by Katie Horiuchi.
Secaucus 60, Wallington 39: Freshman Julia McClure recorded a triple-double with 14 points, 19 rebounds and 10 steals for Secaucus.
Gregg Lerner covers girls basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner