What seemed inevitable all season happens Monday.
The Mainland Regional and Ocean City high school girls basketball teams will meet for the South Jersey Group III championship. Tipoff is 5:30 p.m. at Mainland Regional. The winner advances to Wednesday’s state semifinal against the winner of the Central Jersey title game between Colts Neck and Westampton Tech.
This is the third straight season the Mustangs and Red Raiders will play for the sectional title. Ocean City won the previous two finals, 36-32 last season and 38-31 in 2017.
Monday’s meeting will be the 10th between these teams since the start of the 2016-17 season. Mainland holds a 6-3 edge, including two regular-season victories this season.
Mainland (25-3) is the No. 1 seed, Ocean City (23-6) the No. 2 seed.
Mustangs junior forward Kylee Watson is one of the nation’s top juniors. The 6-foot-4 Watson returned from a concussion to score 22 points in a 49-31 quarterfinal win over Winslow Township and 18 in a 46-34 quarterfinal victory over Absegami. The Mustangs also rely on the perimeter shooting of Claudia Mairone and the defense of Taylor Dalzell.
Senior point guard Danielle Donoghue (11.3 points per game) leads the Red Raiders. Junior Abbey Fenton has made 33 3-pointers. Junior center Emma Finnegan averages 9.9 points.
In addition to Mainland and Ocean City, four other teams from Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties will continue their pursuits of S.J. titles Monday. A preview of those games follows:
Boys basketball South Jersey Group IV Championship
Millville (23-6) at Cherokee (21-8)
Fourth-seeded Millville will make its first appearance in a S.J. final since 1970. The Thunderbolts’ last sectional title came when they won the Group IV championship in 1969. Aundrey Green scored at the buzzer to give Millville a 61-60 upset of top-seeded Eastern Regional in Friday’s semifinal. Thunderbolts senior guard Rynell Lawrence is Millville’s career scoring leader with 1,641 points. Senior guard Eddie Jamison averaged 18 points in Millville’s three tournament wins.
Gavin Gibson averages 13 points for Cherokee.
Monday’s winner advances to Wednesday’s state semifinal against the winner of the Central Jersey championship game between Trenton and Freehold Township.
South Jersey Non-Public B semifinal
Immaculata (21-7) at Wildwood Catholic (26-1)
Fourth-seeded Immaculata is located in Somerset County, 147 miles from Wildwood Catholic. Immaculata advanced to the semifinals with a 70-59 quarterfinal win over St. Joseph. Jordan Myers, a 6-foot-3 junior, averages 13.2 points for Immaculata. Junior guard Jaden Honis has sunk 61 3-pointers this season
Wildwood Catholic is in the midst of one of the best seasons in school history. The top-seeded Crusaders have won 21 straight. Taj Thweatt, a 6-7 junior, averages 20.9 points. Junior guard Jahlil White averages 18.8.
The winner advances to Wednesday’s South Jersey final at Jackson Liberty (Ocean County) against the winner of Monday’s other semifinal between third-seeded Rutgers Prep and second-seeded Ranney.
South Jersey Group I CHAMPIONSHIP
Haddon Township (23-6) at Wildwood (21-8)
Senior guard Maddie McCracken leads a young Wildwood team. The Warriors are the No. 1 seed. McCracken needs 21 points to reach 2,000 for her career. McCracken averages 21.4 points and 10.8 rebounds. Freshman guard Imene Fathi averages 10.2 points for Wildwood, while sophomore forward Jenna Hans averages 7.3 points and 6.5 rebounds.
Haddon Township has won 12 straight, all but one by double digits. Senior Madison Bradley averages 16.3 points.
The winner advances to Wednesday’s state semifinal against the winner of the Central Jersey championship game between Bound Brook and Middlesex.
South Jersey Non-Public B semifinal
Wildwood Catholic (23-5) at Trenton Catholic (23-3)
Sophomore guard Marianna Papazoglou averages 18.4 points and seven rebounds for fourth-seeded Wildwood Catholic. Junior forward Gaby Turco averages 16.4 points. Junior guard Maniya Custis averages 14.7 for top-seeded Trenton Catholic. The winner advances to Wednesday’s South Jersey final against the winner of the other semifinal between Rutgers Prep and Gloucester Catholic.