ABSECON-The Ocean City High School girls basketball team was given opportunities to win late in Saturday's game.
Turnovers by Rancocas Valley Regional enabled the Red Raiders to cut an eight-point deficit to one point with 2 minutes to play.
Unfortunately, Ocean City turned the ball over multiple times as well. A deflected inbounds pass in the final 10 seconds sealed Ocean City's fate.
Rancocas Valley, No. 2 in The Press Elite 11, defeated No. 3 Ocean City 36-31 in a Prime Events Girls Basketball Shootout game at Holy Spirit.
Ocean City senior Julia Duggan led all scorers with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Rancocas Valley junior Lauren Moses had 10 points and nine rebounds.
Both 6-foot-2 centers are future NCAA Division I players - Duggan will play for Rider University and Moses verbally committed to Virginia a week ago.
It was a physical, fast game loaded with fast breaks and turnovers. Ocean City (11-2) turned the ball over 31 times as its players attempted to keep up with Rancocas Valley's speed.
"It was exactly what we needed to see," Red Raiders coach Paul Baruffi said. "That type of pressure. … I don't think we'll see that kind of quickness with that kind of talent (again)."
Despite its issues handling the ball, Ocean City kept the game exciting. The first half had six lead changes and six ties. The lead never changed in the
second half, and the Red Devils (12-1) extended their lead to eight - the largest of the game - by the end of the third quarter.
A jumper in the right wing by Duggan with 4 minutes, 49 seconds left cut it to six. A traveling violation on Rancocas Valley gave Ocean City the ball back.
Freshman Olivia Briggs dribbled to the basket and threw up a layup between two Red Devils defenders. She was fouled and completed the three-point play to make the score 32-29. The teams traded possessions and turnovers before Duggan was fouled and made both attempts.
A layup by Kristin Smith put Rancocas Valley back up by three with just more than a minute to go. Duggan attempted a 3-pointer that missed and was rebounded by Ocean City, but Sabrina Jackson scooped up a loose ball following the rebound and drove down the court for a layup.
"I thought we handled them well, but sometimes it got to our heads," Duggan said.
Briggs gave a tremendous effort for Ocean City. The 5-7 guard scored 10 points and had six rebounds while accounting for just two of the Red Raiders' turnovers.
"Olivia's really been showing us good stuff," Baruffi said. "The speed of a game like this does not bother her."
Briggs embraced the chance to play in such a high-pressure game and displayed no intimidation against the Red Devils. Twice, she drove through traffic, hit her shot and an ensuing free throw.
Although the game ended with a disappointing loss, Briggs left the locker room smiling as friends and family swarmed her to commend her performance.
"It was definitely fun. I've been our seventh or eighth man all year. It was kind of my night to go out and play my best," Briggs said.
Baruffi, Duggan and Briggs each mentioned the importance of playing a team such as Rancocas Valley in late January. The Cape-Atlantic League and South Jersey Group III tournaments are only a month away.
Ocean City doesn't lose often. The Red Raiders always take something important from those few occasions. Duggan said the team will focus on controlling the ball better against teams that play at a faster tempo.
"We'll be going against teams like this in the near future," Duggan said. "I'd rather lose now if it helps us win then."
Contact Brittany Grugan:
Rancocas Valley 10 7 15 4-36
Ocean City 11 3 10 7-31
RV-Ward 4 0-0 8, Moses 4 2-3 10, Lewis 2 0-0 4, Logan 3 0-1 6, Smith 2 0-4 4, Jackson 2 0-0 4. Totals-17 2-8 36.
OC-Johnson 1 0-0 2, Mateer 1 0-0 2, Duggan 3 11-12 17, Briggs 3 4-4 10, Landi 0 0-0 0. Totals-8 15-16 31.
Records-Rancocas Valley 12-1; O.C. 11-2.