BLOOMFIELD, NJ – The dream season continues.
Senior forward Sarah Edmond and junior point guard Samantha Columna each scored 14 points to lead the fifth-seeded Bloomfield High School girls varsity basketball team to a 43-38 victory over sixth-seeded Morristown in the championship game of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group 4 state tournament, Tuesday night, March 5 in front of a sellout crowd at BHS.
The Bengals, under first-year head coach Zac Dearwater, won a sectional state title for the first time in 19 years.
BHS improved to 19-7 overall and will face undefeated Franklin in the Group 4 state semifinal at Union HS, Thursday night, March 7 at 7 p.m. Franklin, the reigning two-time defending Group 4 champion, improved to 30-0 with a 70-38 over Bayonne in the North 2, Group 4 final.
With Bloomfield leading 41-38, BHS sophomore reserve guard Asiyah Edmond, Sarah’s sister, stole the ball and converted a fast-break layup while getting fouled for her only points of the game, sealing the win and sending the packed crowd into a frenzy.
The Bengals led 9-5 at the end of the first quarter and 17-16 at the half. Bloomfield increased its lead to 29-23 at the end of the third quarter.
The Bengals were clutch at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, making 10-of-15 from the stripe.
Indeed, the free throws were crucial.
“When it mattered the most, we were going to have make them, and they did that tonight,” said Dearwater.
Freshman starting guard Chiara Hilario had five points; freshman reserve center Lucy Heyman had three points; senior starting guard Carmyn Referente hit one three-pointer; and junior reserve guard Gina Perrotta had two points for the Bengals.
After the game, the Bengals were overjoyed as they get to hang a sectional title banner since the 1999-2000 season when they defeated Columbia HS in North 2, Group 4.
“It feels great,” said Sarah Edmond. “It’s been 19 years since they actually won one, and we made it here and we got it. It means everything to win this. We worked hard every day in practice and we made our effort to get here today.”
Referente also was elated for winning a sectional title in her final year.
“It feels great,” Referente said. “To be honest, this is my senior year and my last year. It feels great to be a sectional champion.”
Teamwork proved to be a key factor in the team’s amazing run to the title.
“I feel incredible,” said Heyman. “It’s crazy. (My teammates) are amazing, everyone is so great. We made it. We’re together as one, we know how to work together. We can do everything well together as a team.”
The Bengals’ determination is what makes this team so special, said Columna
“We play hard,” Columna said. “We don’t stop. No one expected us to go this far. We’re like the underdogs, if you want to say. We’re dedicated. What we want, we’re going to get. We play as a team. No one takes things for granted. It’s always a team effort.”
Indeed, winning the sectional title required a strong team effort, and the Bengals delivered, much to Dearwater’s delight.
“I knew going into this game, that everyone was going to have to contribute, from the last person on the bench, to Sarah and Samantha who are on the court all the time, to get this done for our team,” Dearwater said.
For Dearwater, who was an assistant coach for this team for many years, it’s been an absolute joy to coach the team.
“They’re great girls, across the board, from in the classroom, from in the school, from in the practice room; everything they do. They are just great kids. They are all awesome kids.”
The Group 4 state championship will take Sunday, March 10, at the RWJ Barnabas Health Arena at Toms River North HS. The other Group 4 semifinal pits Middletown South against Lenape at Central Regional HS, March 7.
Photos by Jerry Simon
Bloomfield vs. Morristown, North 1, Group 4 state tournament final, March 5, at BHS