Mateer photo

Ocean City’s Mary Kate Mateer, left, drives against Jefferson Township’s Julia  Murawinski on Sunday in the state Group III final in Toms River. Mateer scored a team-high 14 points.

Brian Branch-Price

TOMS RIVER — Ocean City senior Mary Kate Mateer found her shooting touch just in time for Sunday’ state Group III girls basketball final at Pine Belt Arena at Toms River North High School.

The Red Raiders’ leading scorer, senior Julia Duggan, got into foul trouble early and sat out most of the first half. That’s when Mateer, who was only averaging 2.8 points per game during Ocean City’s playoff run, stepped up.

Mateer posted a team-high 14 points on 50 percent shooting to lead Ocean City to its first state title 50-37 over Jefferson Township. The 18-year-old Ocean City resident connected for nine of her points in the first half to go along with seven rebounds.

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“We rely on Julia a lot usually, so when she goes out, we know we have to step,” Mateer said.

“I just think everyone did a great job. It was a team effort, and I was just glad I could contribute.”

“She was unbelievable,” coach Paul Baruffi added. “I told them before the game, ‘Listen, they are going to do what they do to Julia. You guys have to be ready to shoot. If you’re open, let it go.’ And they really took it to heart. Mary Kate was awesome.”

Mateer hit most of her shots from mid-range. Her jump shot fueled Ocean City in the first half as she helped the Red Raiders jump out to a 23-15 lead. Her aggressiveness on the boards also shined. Ocean City held Jefferson to four points in the first quarter. The Red Raiders outrebounded the Falcons 16-5 in that period and Mateer led with five of them.

Mateer made up for her shooting average in the playoffs by doing all the little things right for Ocean City. She was held scoreless by Timber Creek in Ocean City’s South Jersey Group III final victory 34-26 and followed that with two points in the 35-26 state Group III semifinal win over Freehold Borough.

“I haven’t been shooting well lately, so I got a little confidence with my shot and when I can hit shots and when everyone can hit shots it distributes well,” Mateer said.

“She came to play. She was ready and she stepped up and helped us win the game,” Baruffi added.

Mateer helped Ocean City stretch its lead to 39-24 after three quarters with five more points. She also grabbed her eighth rebound. She ended the game shooting 80 percent from the free-throw line, making 4-of-5 shots.

Seniors Nicole Landi and Duggan balanced out the scoring with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Landi also grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds and five assists.

“We got a lot of momentum from that lead and as soon as the second half came, I think we really stepped it up,” Mateer said. “Natalie’s 3-(pointer) at the end of the third quarter was a huge push that really pumped us up. I think from that point on we knew we had it.

“From the beginning of this year, we knew we wanted to do (this), especially the seniors” Mateer said. “I’m never going to play in a game like this again, so we knew that it was our time to step up and I think we did really well.”

“I’m not playing in college, so this is really special to have this with me and in an arena like this.

“It’s such a fun atmosphere, and I’m so glad we won. This is awesome.”

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