WEST ORANGE, NJ – In one of the most intriguing matchups in the state tournament, the second-seeded West Orange High School girls’ varsity basketball team will host 11th-seeded and highly-regarded East Orange Campus in the semifinals of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group 4 state tournament on Friday, March 3, at 7 p.m.
Both teams earned thrilling quarterfinal victories on March 1.
West Orange, which finished runner-up in the Essex County Tournament the previous weekend, squeeked by seventh-seeded Ridgewoood, 37-35 to improve to a stellar 23-3 record. Senior point guard Jewel Burnett had 16 points with four assists; sophomore guard Mya Bembry had 10 points, 10 rebounds and three steals; sophomore guard Kaija Jones had five points and three rebounds; junior guard Nahtali Simpson contributed three points and five rebounds; senior guard Dawn Flood had two points and five rebounds; and junior guard Shayna Fortfoskey added a free throw for the West Orange Mountaineers, under fourth-year head coach Caniece Williams.
East Orange overcame a nine-point deficit with three minutes left in the game to beat third-seeded Bloomfield, 53-49, to improve to a 16-8 record. Sophomore guard Lakel Willis had 21 points with four rebounds and two steals; sophomore point guard Brianna Mills had 18 points, four rebounds and five assists; freshman guard Brianna Turner had six points, two rebounds, three steals and three assists; junior forward Moriyah Jordan pulled down 17 rebounds and scored three points; senior Hadiyah Hassan had three points and seven rebounds and senior Chania Johnson added two points for the East Orange Campus Jaguars.
East Orange, under 14th-year head coach Derrick Johnson, has won section titles in each of the past two seasons; and three in the past four. East Orange won the Section 2 titles in 2013 and 2016 and won the Section 1 title in 2015.
East Orange also is seeking its fifth straight section final appearance. In 2014, East Orange lost in the Section 2 final against Franklin.
In its first-ever ECT championship appearance in the 43-year history of the tournament, third-seeded West Orange lost to top-seeded Newark Tech, 55-53 in overtime on a buzzer-beating layup.
In comparison, East Orange lost all three meetings with Newark Tech this season (twice in the Super Essex Conference-American Division by scores of 64-33 and 42-33, and the other game in the ECT semifinals, 49-33). The second SEC game and ECT semifinals were back-to-back games for East Orange on Feb. 20 and Feb. 22.
West Orange upset No. 2 seed University, 42-29, in the ECT semifinals. East Orange lost to University in both SEC-American meetings, 50-39, in the season opener Dec. 17, at University; 44-38, Jan. 17, at East Orange.
East Orange lost to two out-of-state teams this season, Moore Catholic of New York and Potter’s House Christian Academy of Jacksonville, Fla. East Orange’s other loss was to Teaneck.
West Orange, which won the SEC-Liberty Division title with an undefeated record, lost to Bergen County champion Saddle River Day. West Orange also lost to Queen of Peace.