Article originally featured in The Trentonian here.
The Lawrenceville School varsity girls basketball team has learned to pride itself on defensive challenges.
The Big Red’s improved defense was a large part of the reason head coach Grey Simpson’s team found itself in the championship game of the Mid-Atlantic Prep League Tournament Sunday.
But L’ville’s second day at the Erik B. Hanson Field House in the Ian H. Graham Athletic Center on the campus of the Peddie School would have been any defenses nightmare.
Top-seeded Blair Academy repeatedly extended the second-seeded Big Red’s aggressive zone by hitting 16 3-point field goals on the way to a 76-47 victory for its ninth consecutive MAPL title. It also marked the fifth time in the last eight years (including two in a row) that the Bucs swept the MAPL crowns after their boys squad defeated Hill, 65-56.
Making the 16 treys that much more unbelievable was the fact that 11 of them came from the hands of one player, 5-foot-10 senior guard Camille Clarin.
Clarin hit early and often from downtown, including seven in the first half, four of which helped Blair open a 21-17 lead in the first quarter.
“During one of the timeouts, our coaches told us we have to watch out for the corners, and we needed to talk more on defense,” Lawrenceville’s 6-foot-1 freshman center Gabby Hemenes said. “It was frustrating to see someone hitting shots like that. But talking more really opened things up for us.”
Stopping Clarin was a different story. The Hamilton College-bound sharpshooter hit three more treys in the second and third quarters before connecting on her final bomb with 4:50 left in the fourth quarter.
“This was my last MAPL championship game, so I wanted to make it something special,” said Clarin, who led all players with 33 points and broke her former record for 3-pointers in a game on that final shot. “This was very rewarding.”
Clarin, who reportedly struggled with her outside shot Saturday in the semifinal round, used the strong play of fellow sophomore guards Dominique Darius (13 points) and Olivia Miles (11 points) to put Lawrenceville in a 42-25 hole by intermission.
Almost as in tribute to Clarin’s big day, the Bucs scored 21 points in each of the first three quarters, matching Clarin’s uniform number.
“They have two guards (Darius & Miles) who you have to pay a lot of attention to, so there’s not a whole lot the girls could do,” Simpson said. “Man-to-man defense wasn’t really going to be an option for us, so I told the girls they needed to be more aware and extend the zone as much as they could.”
The only problem with that plan was that when Blair Academy did miss, it had 6-4 freshman center Tabitha Amanze inside, where she produced 10 more points.
The Big Red did their best to counter with junior guard Heaven Figueroa scoring 18, sophomore guard Paige Gillen connecting on 11 and Hemenes adding 10 points. But with L’ville only hitting three 3-pointers, their attack was unable to hang with the Bucs.
“I feel like, at first, there was a lot for all of us to learn this season. But now we all have a feel for it, and we’re enjoying it,” said Hemenes, whose team will begin its next challenge in the Prep A Tournament at home against Pingry 4:45 p.m. Tuesday.
Figueroa 7-3-18, Dugan 1-0-2, Molgat 1-4-6, Murray 0-0-0, Mario 0-0-0, Gillen 3-3-11, Bunnell 0-0-0, Balewitz 0-0-0, Hemenes 5-0-10, Katz 0-0-0.
Totals — 17-10-47.
BLAIR ACADEMY (76)
Darius 3-6-13, Groseibl 1-0-3, Kreider 0-0-0, SDavis 0-0-0, Miles 3-2-11, Clarin 11-0-33, Lovisolo 1-0-2, Amanze 5-0-10, Abdul-Hamid 2-0-4.
Totals — 26-8-76.
L’ville(11-10) 17 8 7 15 — 47
Blair (15-7) 21 21 21 13 — 76
3-point goals — Figueroa, Gillen 2 (L), Darius, Groseibl, Miles 3, Clarin 11 (BA).