Smith’s 3’s and defense propel Pascack Valley into Bergen County final by Paul Schwartz of The Record
MAHWAH – Brianna Smith could always shoot. But that wasn’t helping her stay on the court two years ago as a freshman at Pascack Valley.
“Jasper told me I couldn’t guard his grandmother,’’ said Smith. “He told me I wasn’t going to play a lot until I started to play defense.’’
When a 1,000-win coach tells you to do something, you listen.
Sunday, Smith’s four three-pointers in the first six minutes propelled the second-seeded Indians to an early 15-0 lead over third-seeded Immaculate Conception and Pascack Valley breezed to a 53-25 win in the 44th annual girls Bergen County basketball championships and into its first final in a decade.
“It doesn’t help if you make four threes and give up 20 points on defense,’’ said Jasper. “It took a while for Brianna to learn that but once she did, she had free rein to shoot on the offensive end.’’
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And both parts of Smith’s game were on display Sunday at the Bradley Center. She and Kelly Smith (no relation) led a tenacious man-to-man defense that forced an inexperienced IC team into missed shots, turnovers and few offensive rebounds. After one period, the Indians led, 17-2 and it was 25-6 at halftime.
“To play defense against a team like that and hold them to six points in the first half is special,’’ said Jasper, whose team is now 21-1. “We rebounded well and never gave them any resets and played the game the way it was supposed to be played.’’
Brianna Wong started the scoring for the Indians in the second minute with a three of her own. Then Smith went to work, she nailed threes on consecutive possessions, the second on a nifty feed by Wong, then hit two more a minute apart before IC coach Jeff Horohonich called a time out with 2:19 left in the opening quarter.
Rose Sandiford finally put the Blue Wolves on the board 30 seconds later with a putback of the eighth straight missed shot by IC but Pascack Valley answered with three seconds left in the quarter when Kelly Smith had a putback of her own for a 17-2 first quarter lead.
Eleanor Robinson scored for the Blue Wolves off of the first possession of the second quarter but after both teams went cold for three minutes, Wong hit another three and Kelly Petro added one midway through the quarter for a 23-4 PV lead. Immaculate Conception never got closer than 17 points behind after that.
“Jasper always says that the worst shot for me is the one I don’t take,’’ said Brianna Smith, who missed 11 straight over a 12-minute span before nailing a fifth bomb for the first basket of the second half and a 29-6 lead. “I kept shooting after I missed a few because I still have confidence. At halftime, Kelly Smith and the other girls told me to keep shooting because the next one was going in.’’
Brianna Smith ended with a game high 20 points, with six threes, while Wong had 14, including three threes, Kelly Smith eight and Kelly Petro nine points and nine rebounds.