The sixth-seeded Red Raiders struggled through the first half, but walked away with a 43-33 win over No. 11 Westampton Tech in the first round of the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 3 playoffs at home.
Freshman Grace Sacco led the way with 16 points, followed by sophomore Nicole Piergross, with 12.
The Red Raiders trailed by one point at halftime, 19-18, but erased that deficit with a 16-2 third quarter. Piergross had 10 of those 16 points.
“We were telegraphing our shots in the first half,” Ocean City coach Paul Baruffi said. “In the second half, we got the ball to our guards and they hit some great shots.
“We set (Piergross) up and she hit some big ones.”
Junior Sierra Schoenewald had five points for the Red Raiders, followed by four from freshman Nicholl Fenton and three from sophomore Olivia Briggs.
The Red Raiders improved to 18-6 and will play again Wednesday night in the quarterfinals, at No. 3 Winslow Township.
Ocean City must play two nights in a row because the first round game, originally scheduled for Monday night, was postponed due to a snow storm that dropped seven inches of snow on the city.
“In a way, I’m glad we play two nights in a row,” Baruffi said. “When you’re younger like this, sometimes it’s better to just go out and play.”
The Red Raiders boast six freshmen, three sophomores, two juniors and two seniors. Sacco stands 5-foot-3, and Piergross is 5-foot-4. Senior Taylor Price and Schoenewald are the tallest players on the team at 5-foot-10.
“We’re young and we were outsized in this game,” Baruffi said. “It’ll probably be a similar situation in the next game.”
The Red Raiders are rebuilding after winning the program’s first state championship with five seniors in 2013. Ocean City was bound to take a step back this season, but Baruffi is pleased by what he’s seen.
“We lost a couple of close games to Middle Township, and they won the (Cape-Atlantic League title),” Baruffi said. “We’re not far off and we keep improving.”
Middle Township defeated Ocean City 33-31 and 36-32 this season. Baruffi was also proud of the way his team played in a 50-36 loss to Point Pleasant Boro this season. Following that game, the Red Raiders won seven of their last nine games to close out the regular season before Tuesday night’s win.