WOODBURY – Nyasia Clark has all the characteristics of a ball hawk. She has quick hands, and quick feet and she knows the exact time to make her move.
“She is a ball hawk,” said Woodbury girls basketball coach Rahmond Noel. “If she has a chance to get a steal she’s going to get it. She has quick hands and quick feet and she’s smart. She knows when to go for it.”
With five seconds on the clock, Haddon Township, which fell behind 15-0 to start the game, clawed its way back and needed a 3-pointer to tie it. The Hawks tried to inbound the ball to Kay Armstrong, but Clark knocked the ball away, scooped it up and raced in for a layup as time ran out.
The steal and layup secured Woodbury’s victory, 52-47, over the Hawks in a South Jersey Group 1 quarterfinal game. The Thundering Herd (22-6) will meet top-seeded Glassboro in the semifinals on Friday.
“I had to do something to help my team,” said Clark, who had 10 points, all in the second half. “I was watching her eyes to see where she was going to throw the ball and when she did I went for it.”
That the game would come down to that play was not on anyone’s radar after the first quarter. Woodbury was all over Haddon Township from the opening tap. The Thundering Herd had their zone press cranked up and the Hawks felt the pressure. They controlled the glass on both ends of the court, limiting the Hawks to one shot at the defensive end and getting sometimes two and three chances off the offensive glass.
Milani Harvey, who finished with 12 points, opened the game with a three-pointer and another bucket from the corner, while Ali Wilkinson, who scored a game-high 14 points, got three put-back baskets in the paint as Woodbury finished the first quarter with a 20-6 lead.
“We made a lot of mistakes,” said Haddon Township coach Tom Mulligan. “We got down early and it was all because of simple mistakes. The kids battled back but we had quite a few breakdowns in key situations and that hurt. We were capable of winning this game and we knew that.”
The Hawks, who finished at 19-9 for the season, started battling back in the second quarter getting three-point baskets from Sara Wiedeman, Molly Walsh and Kay Armstrong (10 points) and went into the locker room trailing 28-17.
“I think our focus slipped a little bit in the second quarter,” Noel said. “It leveled off again in the third quarter but slipped again in the fourth quarter. We have to learn to stay focused.”
Maggie Mulligan put the Hawks on her shoulders in the third quarter. She scored eight of her team-high 12 points in the quarter. Three times she grabbed a defensive rebound, dribbled the length of the floor under pressure and took it right to the basket for a layup. An Armstrong trey pulled the Hawks within nine, 37-28, heading into the fourth quarter.
Woodbury still held a 44-36 lead midway through the final quarter when Haddon Township got what amounted to a five-point possession. Sydney Farnham, who scored nine of her 11 points in the fourth quarter, hit a high-arching three-pointer. While the ball was in the air, Woodbury was whistled for a foul away from the shooter. The shot counted and the Hawks had the ball under their own basket. On the inbounds play, Mulligan got the ball, hit a layup and was fouled. She missed the foul shot, but Woodbury’s lead was down to 44-41.
Lyonna Brown hit a layup to put Woodbury up five, but Farnham hit another three to cut the deficit to two only to have Milani Harvey get a putback basket for Woodbury to make it 48-44.
Farnham hit another bucket with 35 seconds left to make it 48-46, but Haddon Township couldn’t get a basket to tie.
Woodbury was only two for five from the foul line in those final seconds, but Clark’s steal and layup sealed the deal and carried the Herd into the semifinals.
“I was scared,” said Milani Harvey, who scored 12 for Woodbury. “When they started hitting those shots and started coming back, I was scared. We just said we got to stick together and we did.”
Woodbury 52 Haddon Twp. 47
Haddon Twp. 6 11 11 19 – 47
Woodbury 20 8 9 15 – 52
Haddon Twp - Sydney Farnham 11, Kay Armstrong 10, Sara Wiedeman 6, Maggie Mulligan 12, Molly Walsh 6.
Woodbury – Aniyah Nichols 5, Milani Harvey 12, Lyonna Brown 4, Nyasia Clark 10, Ali Wilkinson 14, Keisha Pierce 7.