BLOOMFIELD, NJ – The Bloomfield High School girls varsity basketball team needed a clutch play to win and keep its season alive.
Samantha Columna delivered.
Following a timeout, the junior took an inbounds pass and drove furiously upcourt before draining a dramatic three-pointer with seven seconds left to lift the fifth-seeded Bengals to a 33-30 win over a solid East Orange Campus team.
East Orange had tied the game on a free throw. After Columna hit the three-pointer, EOCHS immediately scrambled upcourt for one final shot, but the shot was no good as Bloomfield held on for the win.
The victory sends the Bengals to the championship of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group 4 state tournament.
Columna finished with 21 points as the Bengals improved to 18-7.
The Bengals, under first-year head coach Zac Dearwater, will host sixth-seeded Morristown in the championship game Tuesday at 7 p.m. Bloomfield is in a sectional final for the first time since 2000 when it won North 2, Group 4.
Senior guard Sarah Edmond had seven points; freshman forward Lucy Heyman had three points and sophomore guard Melina Hidalgo added two points. Bloomfield led 9-4 at the end of the first quarter and 16-15 at the half. East Orange, seeded ninth, rallied to take a 25-24 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Morristown upset No. 2 seed Ridgewood,35-34,in the other semifinal to improve to 16-9.
The Bengals upset fourth-seeded Livingston, 46-42, in the quarterfinals Feb. 27 at Livingston.
Columna had a triple-double with 15 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists along with three steals to lead BHS. Edmond had 13 points and 13 rebounds; Heyman had 10 points; freshman guard Chiara Hilario and senior guard Camrynn Referente each had three points; and Hidalgo had two points and six rebounds.
Tied 24-24 at halftime, the Bengals took a one-point lead, 36-35, at the end of third quarter. BHS held on for the upset as the Bengals outscored Livingston, 10-7, in the fourth quarter. Livingston finished the season with an 18-6 record, including winning the Super Essex Conference-Independence Division at 14-0.
East Orange upset defending champion and top-seeded West Orange, 55-45, in the quarterfinals. West Orange was coming off its first-ever Essex County Tournament championship.
This year’s marks the 30th anniversary of Bloomfield’s Group 4 state championship and its appearance in the inaugural State Tournament of Champions.
Photos by Jerry Simon
Bloomfield vs. East Orange, North 1, Group 4 state tournament semifinals, March 1.