Tiffany Montagne couldn’t contain herself. She just had to do it. And, for that, the Jackson senior suffered the consequences for her actions.
For three quarters, Montagne dominated with her speed but in various areas besides the blistering burst that fueled her to the basket. She slipped underneath repeatedly to clear rebounds at both beat Freehold Township players to rebounds and instantly took off in the opposite direction, digesting what the defense was willing to concede and then dissecting with a heady pass that got shooters clean looks from the perimeter.
By the time the fourth quarter came around, Montagne had orchestrated an overall performance that staked Jackson to such a comfortable lead, points took a backseat in favor of a more deliberate, time-consuming approach. As she sought to control the clock, Montagne naturally dribbled through the defense only to reel herself back into the situation before reluctantly backing the ball outside in an effort to chew off more clock.
It went against her better nature but the playmaking point guard had already accomplished her job. By dropping in 20 points, pulling down a robust12 rebounds, handing out six assists and playing her usual hounding defense, Montagne figured in just about every aspect of Jackson’s 58-45 victory over Freehold Township on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 tournament in Jackson.
“Scoring early on really gave me a boost,” said Montagne, who accounted for six points, and four assists in the first quarter to spark second-seeded Jackson, which set a single-season school record with its 23 win, to a 21-9 advantage. “I can’t just stop at points, that’s not the type of player I am. I like to try and do everything, get an assist here, get some steals, get some blocks. If I just do points, that’s selfish of me.”
Junior guard Hannah Missry knocked down a pair of threes as part of a 12-1 opening surge and classmate Stephanie Mason hit another as Jackson (23-5) connected on 7 of 11 from the field in the initial eight minutes, showing exceptional floor balance in the process.
The Jaguars were also bolstered by the presence of Shannon Evans. The 5-11 senior forward, who has been playing limited minutes while nursing a sore knee, cleared three boards in the opening period and finished with five rebounds to go with 12 points.
“She rebounded so well for us,” praised Mason of Evans. “She had some big points. We’re glad to have her back.”
Freehold Township (17-10) was never able to dig out of the first-quarter hole. It trailed by no less than 11 points from the midway point of the first quarter on. Senior guard Michelle Johnston topped the Patriots with 16 points, including three 3-pointers that gave her 71 for the season, surpassing her school mark of 69 set last year. Senior forward Lily Weinstein added 11 points in the loss.
In other action from Thursday night…
Point Pleasant Boro 56, Rumson 38: An inspired Kelly Hughes fueled an incredible third-quarter outburst that saw Point Pleasant Boro rally from a 27-17 deficit in the period to assume a 38-31 lead by the end of the stanza in the quarterfinals of Central Jersey, Group 2.
Hughes erupted for 15 straight points before her twin sister Lauren buried a 3-pointer as part of an 18-0 tear that gained the Panthers a 35-27 advantage with 3:40 still left in the third. Compounding matters for Rumson was Point Pleasant Boro’s swarming full-court pressure that created turnovers to get it back into the contest.
Kelly Hughes pumped in 21 of her 29 points in the second half to go with nine rebounds, three assists and five steals. Freshman Lindsey Havens chipped in with 10 points in the victory.
Freshmen Claire Stefanelli and Sam Sabino paced Rumson with nine points apiece. The loss ended an incredible string of 13 straight seasons of at least 20 wins for Rumson, which finished at 19-9.
Ridgewood 44, Montclair 31: Lauren Beausoleil pumped in 23 points and Meghan Roxas added 11 to pace Ridgewood in the quarterfinals of North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4. Ridgewood rallied from a one-point deficit by fashioning a 21-7 outburst in the fourth quarter.
Shabazz 67, Caldwell 21: De'Ashia Jones and Aliyyah Handford dropped in 12 points each for No. 1 Shabazz (26-1) in the quarterfinals of North Jersey, Section 2, Group 2. Handford added six steals and six assists and Shabazz shot 48 percent from the floor (23 of 47).
Newark Academy 47, Morristown-Beard 35: Ashlyn Heller clicked for six of her 10 points during a 12-3 second quarter that staked Newark Academy (20-4) to a 22-10 halftime lead in the quarterfinals of North Jersey, Non-Public B. Morristown-Beard (17-11) drew to within 32-26 heading into the fourth but Carly Gruenberg netted six of her 18 over the final period to secure the outcome. Jill Raia hit five 3-pointers and ended with 15 points for Morristown-Beard.
Gregg Lerner covers girls basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner