SOMERDALE — The Cedar Creek High School girls basketball team saw its bid to win a second straight state championship end Wednesday.
The Pirates, who won the Group I title last season, suffered a 61-50 loss to host Sterling in a South Jersey Group II quarterfinal.
“We knew it was going to be tough to win again after moving up to Group II,” Cedar Creek senior Kristine Miller said. “We knew going into the season that nobody was going to just roll over against us. We had a target on our back.”
Fourth-seeded Sterling (24-4) used a second-half surge to advance to Friday’s semifinals, where the Silver Knights will meet top-seeded Willingboro.
Trailing 27-24 at halftime, Sterling, No. 5 in The Press Elite 11, took the lead for good at 36-33 when Maiya Rollinson swished a 3-pointer from well behind the arc with 3 minutes, 30 seconds left in the third quarter.
“We were behind early, but I wasn’t too nervous,” Sterling coach Kate McDonald said. “The third quarter has traditionally been our best quarter all year and it was again today.”
Any chance Cedar Creek, No. 11 in the Elite 11, had of advancing in the tournament ended early in the fourth quarter. Trailing 42-39 after the third period, the Pirates went scoreless for the first 3:56 of the fourth while Anyssa Sanchez converted back-to-back layups and Jenna Scully hit a jumper to help the Silver Knights take control of the game at 48-39.
Sterling forward Tyra Satchell took over down the stretch, scoring 10 of her team-high 26 points in the final 2 minutes, 29 seconds to hold off Cedar Creek’s attempt at a rally. Satchell converted a three-point play and made all seven of her free throws in the fourth quarter.
“Tyra was great for us today,” McDonald said. “She came over to us during a timeout and asked what we wanted her to do. We told her to be the floor general out there. The girl is a gamer and she did everything we asked of her tonight. She carried us out there.”
McDonald needed a strong effort from her team to beat Cedar Creek.
The Pirates looked ready to pull off the upset in the early going. Michelina Hesse’s 3-pointer and Miller’s two foul shots gave them a 5-4 lead and they held it for most of the first half behind Miller.
Morgan Stefanski played a big role in the first two quarters for Cedar Creek, scoring eight points, but Miller was the key. While Sterling tried to contain Cedar Creek’s outside shooters, the Fairfield University-bound center dominated the paint. Miller scored 18 of her team-high 26 points in the first half and snared eight of her 14 rebounds in the first half.
“Kristine is a phenomenal athlete,” McDonald said. “It was very hard to contain her.”
After the game, Cedar Creek coach Francine Raph addressed her team in the locker room and ushered the Pirates to their bus without commenting.
Miller and Hesse, Cedar Creek’s only two seniors, were part of the an emotional meeting that had both players in tears afterward.
“I can’t begin to describe how close we are,” Miller said. “We known each other since we were freshmen (at Oakcrest High School) and she’s like a sister to me. I can’t believe our (high school) careers are over. I feel like I should be going to practice tomorrow. It’s just mind-boggling.”
Contact David Weinberg:
Cedar Creek 17 10 12 11—50
Sterling 12 12 18 19—61
CC—Miller 11 4-6 26, Mo. Stefanski 2 4-6 8, Me. Stefanski 1 2-2 4, Mi. Stefanski 3 0-0 7, Hesse 1 0-0 3, Thomas 1 0-0 2. Totals 19 10-14 50.
S—Sanchez 5 3-4 13, Shinkowitz 5 2-2 12, Rawlinson 1 0-0 3, Satchell 8 9-9 26, Naone-Carter 1 0-0 2, Sparrow 0 1-2 0, Scully 2 0-2 4. Totals 22 15-19 61.
RECORDS—Cedar Creek 19-5, Sterling 24-4