Taylor takes over, guides Paramus Catholic
Dejah Taylor wanted to take over and the Paramus Catholic center didn’t need to speak a word to get that message across to her point guard.
“I know when she wants the ball,” junior playmaker Tianna Smith said. “If I see her with a size advantage, I’m going to give it to her and she just has to finish.”
Smith makes it sound so simple and Taylor did her best to embody that ease. By building sturdy seals on the offensive blocks with her rugged 6-1 frame, Taylor turned in a dominating performance in the fourth quarter that revived Paramus Catholic and enabled it to outlast host Pascack Valley for a 57-47 victory on Wednesday in the semifinal round of the Joe Poli Tournament in Hillsdale.
Paramus Catholic (3-3) was on the verge of breaking the game open in the third quarter when a 3-pointer by Alisha Cornett gave the Paladins a 39-30 lead midway through the stanza. However, Catherine Rodgers, who was the offensive catalyst throughout for Pascack Valley, rallied her team by depositing eight of her game-high 25 points an 11-2 burst that forged a 41-41 deadlock heading into the fourth.
“We had to remain positive,” Taylor said of withstanding Pascack Valley’s third-quarter surge. “We had to think that we were going to win this game no matter what.”
Taylor wasted no time establishing that tenor as an inside option, ready to be utilized over the final eight minutes. She gained perfect position to receive a feed from Smith, which she converted into a three-point play nine seconds into the fourth to reclaim the lead for Paramus Catholic at 44-41.
“Ti and I have a lot of chemistry,” noted Taylor, who dropped in all but two of her team-high 13 points in the closing period and shot 55 percent from the floor (5 for 9) to go with nine rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots. “We’ve been playing together since the seventh grade. She knows my weaknesses and my strengths.”
In a span of 2:10, Smith took charge and scored eight consecutive points for Paramus Catholic, including another three-point play and a layup, both of feeds from sophomore Jina Crawford, to extend the lead to 56-47 with just under three minutes left to play.
Smith complemented Taylor’s play underneath by netting 12 points on an array of lightning-quick drives to the hoop. She also contributed seven rebounds, five assists and a steal.
Paramus Catholic made the most of its height advantage around the glass, crafting a 31-14 edge on the boards. When Taylor exited the game after picking up her third foul with 1:25 left in the first half, 6-1 sophomore Corrine Poitevien came off the bench to supply four points and a pair of rebounds to send the Paladins into halftime holding a 30-25 lead.
Paramus Catholic advanced to the tournament final on Friday where it will face unbeaten Montclair (5-0), No. 11 in the MSG Varsity New Jersey Top 15 power rankings.
MONTCLAIR 41, IHA 31
The Mounties fended off Immaculate Heart in the second semifinal, 41-31, behind the strong play of sisters Kyra and Myisha Hines-Allen.
Myisha, a 6-2 sophomore swing, delivered 16 points, nine rebounds, three assists and six steals, while Kyra, a 5-9 senior forward, chipped in with 13 points, eight rebounds and two steals.
Each emphatically came through with a signature finish in the closing minutes to help seal the outcome. With Montclair clinging to a 34-31 lead, it spread the floor just enough for Kyra to find a seam in the lane, which she drove en route to a layup with 1:47 to go.
Not to be outdone, Myisha came out high to get the ball and drove hard past a defender before finishing at the rim to give the Mounties a 38-31 advantage with 1:11 showing.
Senior forward Raquel Scott topped Immaculate Heart (4-1) with eight points.
SECAUCUS 62, PARAMUS 58 - LADY HAWK HOLIDAY HOOP JAM
Freshman Julia McClure was at the root of a third-quarter outburst that helped rally Secaucus to a 62-58 triumph over Paramus on Wednesday night in the semifinal round of the Lady Hawk Holiday Hoop Jam at River Dell.
With Secaucus (5-0) facing a 12-point deficit at the half, McClure erupted for 12 of her game-high 26 points during a 23-8 uprising and the Hudson County school built as much as a 15-point lead in the fourth before Paramus rallied to narrow the deficit to just two with five minutes left to play.
Freshman point guard Andie Lennon, junior forward Danielle Roesing and McClure combined to convert 10 of 13 free throws over the final two minutes to secure the victory.
McClure finished with 18 rebounds while Roesing grabbed 14. Secaucus will meet unbeaten Northern Highlands in the tournament championship on Friday at 5:15.
Gregg Lerner covers girls basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner