EGG HARBOR CITY - Cedar Creek High School girls basketball coach Francine Raph needed to make a switch at halftime.
Lower Cape May Regional's Lauren Holden was getting to the basket too much, scoring 12 first- half points in their South Jersey Group II final on Saturday. With Cedar Creek holding a 27-25 lead at the half, a crucial adjustment proved necessary to hold off the Caper Tigers.
Holden scored just five points in the second half and Cedar Creek went on to dominate the half en route to a 64-39 win.
The third-seeded Pirates will host No. 4 Middle Township - which beat top-seeded Deptford 49-27 earlier in the day - at 6 p.m. Monday in an all-Cape-Atlantic League final.
Cedar Creek outscored Lower 37-14 in the second. The Pirates opened the half with a 12-0 run to build a 39-25 lead.
Junior forward Casey Thomas said what Cedar Creek did in the first half wasn't working.
"We decided to do a half-man, half-zone and we adjusted well I think and it ended up working out for us," Thomas said.
The Pirates pushed the Caper Tigers to the outside, forcing low-percentage shots. Lower's 3-point attempts and outside jumpers kept falling short and the rebounds were gobbled up by Thomas and sophomore Fatimah Blackwell.
Thomas and Blackwell each had double-doubles. Blackwell scored 13 points and pulled down 10 of her 16 rebounds in the second half, and Thomas added 15 points and 10 rebounds in the game.
The Pirates outrebounded Lower 44-15.
"This was the best rebounding effort we've had," Raph said.
"Just getting that experience, they've both done really a big (job) in the playoffs," she added.
Lower's lack of size also caused it to take unnecessary fouls down low. The Caper Tigers were called for 27 fouls to Creek's 13, and four players fouled out by the end of the game.
The added charity shots given to Cedar Creek didn't help Lower's cause at all.
"When we're outsized and outmuscled down there, fouls happen," Lower coach Scott Douglas said. "It had nothing to do with the refs. We committed some fouls, got into foul trouble and we couldn't do the things offensively that we wanted to do."
Middle and Creek met just once this season. Cedar Creek dominated the game on Jan. 11, winning 68-39.
Despite that outcome, the postseason is a whole different situation. Plus, Middle point guard Lauryn Fields injured her ankle and did not play in the second half, and the Panthers were without senior Lauren Legler in that Jan. 11 game.
"It's not to be taken lightly at all," Thomas said. "We know Middle is a good team. We have to be coming out trying to play our best and expecting a brand new, clean slate and just coming out and playing our game.
Contact John Russo:
Lower Cape May 12 13 7 7-39
Cedar Creek 16 11 21 16-64
LCM-Gibson 2 0-0 4, Holden 7 2-3 17, Sulecki 1 0-0 2, Magee 2 0-0 5, Turner 1 1-2 3, Wunder 4 0-0 8, McNeal 0 0-2 0. Totals-17 3-7 39.
CC-Mi. Stefanski 4 3-4 13, Mor. Stefanski 0 6-6 6, Jaffe 1 3-4 6, Me. Stefanski 1 6-6 9, Blackwell 5 3-8 13, Thomas 5 5-8 15, Reaves 1 0-0 2, Tank0 0 0-2 0. Totals-17 26-38 64.
3-pointers-Holden, Magee LCM; Mi. Stefanski (2), Me. Stefanski, Jaffe CC.
Records-Lower Cape May 17-11, Cedar Creek 23-4.