The Ocean City High School girls basketball team poses with its state Group III championship trophy Sunday night. The Red Raiders return to action in Toms River at 8 tonight for a first-round Tournament of Champions game against Red Bank Catholic.

Press photo by Brian Branch-Price

Coach Paul Baruffi of the Ocean City High School girls basketball team devised a simple game plan for tonight's Tournament of Champions quarterfinal game.

The sixth-seeded Red Raiders will play third-seeded Red Bank Catholic at 8 o'clock at Pine Belt Arena in Toms River. The winner advances to Thursday's TOC semifinals against second-seeded Rancocas Valley. The TOC features the six teams that won state titles. Ocean City won Group III, while Red Bank Catholic won Non-Public A.

"We're the sixth seed out of six teams," Baruffi said. "We have nothing to lose. I told them, 'All I ask is that you come to play.' I don't want them to be totally satisfied that we won a (state championship). I want them to give it their best effort, and I want them to enjoy it and to be able to savor the moment."

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The Red Raiders have been busy since they won the first state title in the program's history by beating Jefferson 50-37 at Pine Belt Arena on Sunday night.

"It has been crazy," Ocean City standout center Julia Duggan said. "It's been a long 24 hours, but it's been great. There are six teams left playing in New Jersey and to be one of them is really great."

The Red Raiders received constant text messages and phone calls congratulating them.

"I've been hearing from friends and former players," Baruffi said.

Ocean City celebrated at a Somers Point restaurant Sunday night. On Monday, the Red Raiders traveled to Edison for the Tournament of Champions luncheon at the Pines Manor. The luncheon featured the six boys teams and six girls teams that won state titles. The Red Raiders sat with players from Group II champion Malcolm X. Shabazz.

"The girls had a great time," Baruffi said. "It was pretty cool. My girls are pretty sociable. They don't shy away from something like that. It was a real neat experience."

Ocean City returned to school Monday afternoon and held a practice to prepare for tonight's game.

Red Bank Catholic is a perennial power. The Caseys won the TOC in 1996 and 2000. Red Bank Catholic is undefeated against New Jersey teams this season. This year, the Caseys won the Shore Conference, which is always one of the state's best girls basketball leagues.

"They're a tough team," Baruffi said. "They penetrate and kick out (for open 3-pointers). They're going to put (defensive) pressure on us. We worked on some of those things at practice (Monday)."

Duggan said the Red Raiders would approach tonight as they approached every state tournament contest.

"For the seniors, every game could be your last," Duggan said. "We've been thinking that ever since we got into the playoffs. We just have to keep playing the way we've been playing and we'll be perfectly fine. I want to keep (playing) for as long as we can keep playing."

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