The Cedar Creek High School girls basketball team already has made school history.

The Pirates, a second-year varsity program, became the school's first champion in any sport Tuesday when they beat Gloucester City 66-29 in the South Jersey Group I final. Now, they have their sights set on another championship.

Cedar Creek (24-4) will play Central Jersey champion Metuchen (21-6) in a state Group I semifinal at 6 p.m. today at Williamstown High School. The winner advances to Sunday's state Group I championship at the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River.

"At this point, it's just a matter of playing our game," Pirates coach Francine Raph said following Tuesday's victory. "If we continue to do that, I think we'll be all right."

Cedar Creek coasted through the South Jersey bracket thanks to an imposing offense. The Pirates have averaged 73 points per game in the postseason.

Teams have been unable to match up in the post with Cedar Creek junior Kristine Miller, who is among the area's leading scorers at 17.8 points per game. Miller, a 6-foot forward, has averaged 25 points in the playoffs.

Along with Miller, sophomore sisters Mikila, Morgan and Mercina Stefanski have added a combined 36.3 points. Each one shoots well from beyond the 3-point line. Mikila Stefanski can penetrate the lane through traffic. Morgan Stefanski often scores on baseline drives.

The Pirates are eager to extend their historic season.

"It's just pure excitement," Miller said of winning at this time of year.

So far, no Group I school has been able to keep up with Cedar Creek's offensive power. The Pirates have outscored opponents in the playoffs by 155 points - nearly 40 per game.

But Metuchen has offensive power, too. Sophomore Cassie Smith averages 18.6 points, and senior Jenna Oyler averages 16.5.

Defense, however, carried the Bulldogs to the Central Jersey title. Metuchen has limited all three of its playoff opponents to fewer than 30 points. Cedar Creek will have to break through the Bulldogs' coverage.

The road to a state championship will be tougher than Cedar Creek's route to a South Jersey title.

"There are better teams out there. The players get better and better on each team (we face)," Mikila Stefanski said.

Before the state tournament, Cedar Creek qualified for the inaugural six-team Cape-Atlantic League tournament. The Pirates were eliminated in the quarterfinals but learned from a loss to Middle Township, which won the South Jersey Group II championship on Tuesday. The Pirates also had four tough, closely contested regular-season games against United Division rivals Sacred Heart and St. Joseph.

The Pirates have improved steadily throughout the season and are playing their best at the right time of year.

"Playing those teams during the year really helps us now," Raph said. "There's no doubt about it, the Cape-Atlantic League prepared us for where we are now," Raph said.

Contact Brittany Grugan:


State Group I girls basketball semifinal

South Jersey champion Cedar Creek (24-4)

vs. Central Jersey champion Metuchen (21-6)

When/where: 6 p.m. today at Williamstown High School

At stake: Winner advances to Sunday's state final at Pine Belt Arena in Toms River to face the winner of today's other semifinal, Whippany Park or Cresskill.

How Cedar Creek got here: Beat Wildwood 79-30; Paulsboro 71-42; Glassboro 77-37; and Gloucester City 66-29.

How Metuchen got here: First-round bye; beat Highland Park 58-28; South Hunterdon 49-12; and New Egypt 40-22.

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