WILLIAMSTOWN -- Too much defense plus a double dose of Washington Township standouts Emily Johns and Julia Marino proved too much for host Williamstown as the Minutemaids hung on for a 38-29 triumph Thursday night in a South Jersey Group 4 girls basketball quarterfinal contest.
The two four-year varsity starters enjoyed one of their finest performances of the season -- and they hope to extend their careers even further in the Group 4 playoffs. Johns, who is headed to American University next year, collected 20 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocked shots to lead the way while Marino pumped in 11 points and had two steals, turning in a clutch fourth-quarter performance to help her team pull away.
The Minutemaids began strong, racing out to a 9-0 lead, but had to survive poor foul shooting and a strong Braves' rally in order to advance. They now will meet Olympic Conference nemesis Cherokee in the South Jersey semifinals on Saturday.
The win was the 11th straight for Township over the Lady Braves -- but many of these games were hard-fought battles to the end.
"We expected nothing less in a big game like this against Williamstown," said Minutemaids coach Jenn Natale. "We were up 9-0, and they battled to the end. But we weren't ready for our season to end."
The 9-0 advantage closed to 26-24 at the start of the fourth quarter thanks to a three-point jumper by Williamstown's Danielle Jeffreys.
But Johns and Marino took over as the Maids went on a 7-0 run and outscored the Braves 12-5 the rest of the way.
This despite suffering through dismal 1-for-10 foul shooting in the final period. Marino reversed that trend by sinking four free throws in the final four minutes and Johns netting 8 points in the final period. The Maids held their largest lead at 36-24.
"Looks like we need to work on our foul shooting a lot tomorrow in practice," noted Johns. "We're definitely better than we showed at the line, but we picked it up when we needed to."
Perhaps their strongest area proved to be defensively in smothering a potent Braves offense throughout the game. The Lady Braves top scorer was Jeffreys, who finished with 13 on a quiet night offensively.
"It all starts on defense for us," said Marino, who will head to Wilkes University next season. "We love to create turnovers and take our opponents out of their offense."
Next up for Washington Township will be a semifinal contest vs. Cherokee, the first time the team has advanced this far during the four-year varsity careers of Johns and Marino.
"I know the girls can't wait -- we know Cherokee well and it will be a major battle," said Natale.