LINWOOD — Coach Scott Betson gave Mainland Regional high school freshman Kaitlyn Boggs a heads-up before the Mustangs’ game Saturday morning.
The coach told Boggs she would probably play more against a physical Toms River North than she typically does.
The 5-foot-11 Boggs responded with her best performance of the season.
She came off the bench to make several timely plays and spark Mainland to a 52-42 win in a War vs. the Shore game at Mainland. Mustangs junior standout Kylee Watson scored 18 points and grabbed 15 rebounds.
“It was really nerve-wracking,” Boggs said. “But (Betson) talked to me before the game and told me it would be OK and not to let the nerves show and just play like I usually do.”
Boggs scored eight points, grabbed six rebounds and had two assists. Her statistics don’t adequately convey her impact on the game. It was when Boggs made her plays that made the difference.
She passed to Watson for two baskets on high-low plays as the Mustangs built a double-digit lead in the third quarter.
“When (Boggs) came in, it kind of spread out their defense,” Watson said. “She made some great passes, great reads. I don’t know if we would have won by that much without her. I’m proud of her and how far she’s come since the beginning of the season.”
After a Toms River North mini-rally, Boggs scored on a spin move in the lane to put the Mustangs up 39-33 with 5 minutes, 52 seconds left in the contest.
“I think (Betson) and the team really helped me,” she said. “They really brought up my energy and told me if I messed up a little bit, it would be OK, and I would make the next play.”
The War vs. the Shore featured Cape-Atlantic League teams against their Shore Conference counterparts. Mainland/Toms River North was one of the day’s featured games. Mainland (19-2) is ranked No. 3 in The Press Elite 11, while Toms River North (17-4) is No. 10.
Mainland struggled early. The Mariners led 14-5 in the first quarter.
Toms River North senior guard Brielle Bisogno sank a 3-pointer in the first half to score her 1,000th career point.
Mainland switched to a zone defense to slow the Toms River North offense in the second quarter. The Mariners surrounded the 6-4 Watson inside. That left Mainland shooters open, and senior guard Claudia Mairone sank three 3-pointers in the second quarter to help the Mustangs build a 25-21 halftime lead.
Boggs and Watson wore Toms River North down in the second half. The duo grabbed offensive rebounds to give Mainland extra offensive possessions it converted into points.
Freshman guard Camryn Dirkes sank 5 of 6 foul shots in the fourth quarter to help clinch the win.
The victory showed the Mustangs are ready for the postseason. Mainland should be the top seed when the CAL Tournament starts Friday. The South Jersey Group III tournament starts Feb. 26.
“We fought through some adversity,” Betson said. “We played nine kids today. To be able to claw back from being down nine early (shows) we’re not going to quit.”
Toms River North;14 7 12 9—42
Mainland Regional;8 17 12 15—52
TRN – Howell 8, Wavershak 2, Johnson 2, Bisogno 18, Paul 12
ML – Dirkes 8, Hafetz 5, Watson 18, Dalzell 2, Mairone 9, Schoen 2, Boggs 8