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Newark Tech senior leaders Caitlin Townes (left) and Abbey Lawernce hold the Essex County Tournament championship trophy after helping to lead the Terriers to a successful defense of their title with a 71-62 upset win over top-seeded University on Saturday at Essex County College in Newark. Newark Tech avenged two regular season losses to Phoenix. (Sideline Chatter photos)

The Newark Tech players and coaches surround their championship trophies

The celebration begins on the court as cheerleaders and Newark Tech players all enjoy their monumental upset win of top-seeded University in ECT title tilt.

Newark Tech Stuns University
To Defend ECT Championship
By Steve Tober

NEWARK- Jaylah Bennett is one of the more unsung Newark Tech Terriers on a team that features a terrific veteran point guard in Caitlin Townes, a savvy 4-year starting swingman in Abbey Lawrence and a legitimate ‘Big’ in 6-3 junior Mariah Perez.

What Bennett brings, along with the aforementioned trio and the other role players on an experienced Newark Tech girls hoops squad is an unrelenting desire to get the job done at crunch time, something the Terriers had done last year in winning their first-ever Essex County Tournament title with an overtime victory vs. West Orange, and what they did once again on Saturday, avenging two lopsided regular season defeats at the hands of top-seeded and overwhelming tourney favorite University while posting an impressive 71-62 championship victory over the stunned Lady Phoenix while also snapping their Newark neighbors’ 21-game winning streak which dated back to Dec. 21.

Bennett, a hard-working 5-7 senior, scored 7 of her 14 points in the critical fourth quarter as second-seeded Newark Tech (19-8) fended off a last-ditch effort by University (24-2) in posting the most stunning and impressive result of the 2017-2018 Essex County girls basketball season in the biggest spotlight on the Essex County College floor on championship Saturday.

With Townes running the offense with precision while scoring a game-high 21 points, Lawrence connecting on a couple of critical 3-pointers in the third quarter and Perez finishing her solid inside effort with 17 points and 9 rebounds, the Terriers were a complete team in a huge spot following two lopsided losses to University in Super Essex Confererence-American Division action, 76-59, on Feb. 6, and 94-49, way back on Jan. 11.

Saturday’s 44th ECT final in which the Terriers staged a quite miraculous and courageous defense of their county championship, the aftermath of considerable film work coupled with intense practice sessions and a veteran team’s overall determination spelled victory in a huge way.

“After watching loads of film and seeing all the second-chance opportunities they had against us in the previous games we knew that we had to out-rebound them and I thought we did a real good job of that today,” said Bennett. “We knew that we had made more than our fair share of mistakes in those first two games against us. We just didn’t show up the day they beat us by 45 and then after playing well for a while in the second game we couldn’t finish well at all so we knew we had to tweak our mistakes and come out here in a county final and show that we are Newark Tech and that we’re still a very good basketball team to be reckoned with.”

Townes, who was going up against her former Shabazz teammate Danielle Robinson (17 points, 10 rebounds), played up the high standards she has set for herself the past two seasons at Newark Tech where she has been a huge crunch-time clutch performer.

` The senior point guard scored six points as the Terriers overcame a 40-34 deficit with a 15-0 run, leading to a 51-44 Newark Tech lead entering the fourth quarter.

“We knew we had to come out in the second half and not allow any run they might have to take us off our game,” said Townes, who had hit a long buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give her team a 37-34 halftime advantage. “We were incredibly determined to play our best basketball today and I thought everyone simply stood up and came through with big plays at the right time.”

Lawrence, the 5-8 senior who has started since her freshman season, had been scoreless in the first half, but her first of two big tri-fectas ignited the 15-0 third quarter burst and she helped Townes and fellow guards Nia Mallette and Zianna Goda do a good job of handling the relentless University pressure defense.

“We had a lot of motivation and we all trusted in each other,” said Lawrence. “University is a great team and always gives us a great game and they had handled us in two earlier games this season, but we didn’t doubt ourselves and we knew we are a Newark Tech team that is here to stay and proved that in this game.

“I’m so proud of my teammates like Jaylah, who was terrific off the boards helping Mariah rebounding and Cait is our floor general and keeps us composed out there with the way she handles any situation on the court.

“This was a great program win today and for our seniors’ last hurrah in the county I couldn’t think of a better win than this one!”

Newark Tech’s fifth-year head coach Keith Jefferson, who is very good at turning the page and planning for a new day, did an excellent job substituting his 7-girl rotation against the 9-deep substitution pattern utilized by his counterpart Middy Baraka.

“I’m proud of our girls with the way they came through today,” said Jefferson. “Each day is a new opportunity to come out and prove yourself and we showed what we are made of against a strong University team to successfully defend our county title and it’s a great win to take into the (North 2, Group 2) state tournament, that’s for sure!”


(2) NEWARK TECH (19-8) 14 20 17 21 -71

(1) UNIVERSITY (24-2) 17 19 13 18 -62

Newark Tech: Caitlin Townes 6-1-6-21, Zionna Goda 0-1-3-6, Mariah Perez 8-0-1-17, Abbey Lawrence 1-2-1-9, Jaylah Bennett 5-0-4-14, Nia Mallette 0-0-2-2, Bianca Glover 1-0-0-2. Totals: 21-4-18-71

University: Teresa Ortiz 3-3-5-20, Danielle Robinson 4-1-6-17, Amaya Powell 3-0-0-6, Tanesha Tucker 1-1-0-5, Tara Johnson 4-0-4-12, Nyshaya Holmes 1-0-0-2, Tamara Johnson 0-0-0-0, Zyheima Swint 0-0-0-0, Dominique Joseph 0-0-0-0. Totals: 16-5-14-62

ECT Girls Basketball Finals Year By Year:

2018: Newark Tech 71 University 62

2017: Newark Tech 55 West Orange 53 (in OT)

2016: East Orange Campus 42 Newark Tech 40

2015: East Orange Campus 51 Montclair 32

2014: Shabazz 54 Montclair 51

2013: Shabazz 61 East Orange Campus 46

2012: Shabazz 59 Montclair 33

2011: Shabazz 61 University 58

2010: Shabazz 67 Columbia 57

2009: Shabazz 61 University 50

2008: University 65 Shabazz 51

2007: Shabazz 64 University 58

2006: Shabazz 71 Bloomfield Tech 60

2005: Shabazz 70 Bloomfield Tech 55

2004: Shabazz 72 Orange 45

2003: Shabazz 81 East Orange Campus 45

2002: Shabazz 82 East Orange 31

2001: Columbia 59 Shabazz 55

2000: Bloomfield 41 West Side 26

1999: Columbia 57 Orange 45

1998: Columbia 64 Clifford Scott 52

1997: Bloomfield 53 Shabazz 47

1996: Columbia 49 Bloomfield 41

1995: Mount St. Dominic 57 Bloomfield 45

1994: Clifford Scott 59 Mount St. Dominic 53 (OT)

1993: Clifford Scott 46 Livingston 37

1992: Clifford Scott 55 West Side 36

1991: Shabazz 52 Clifford Scott 51

1990: Immaculate 51 University 48

1989: Bloomfield 58 Immaculate 46

1988: Bloomfield 65 University 50

1987: University 71 Shabazz 42

1986: Irvington 57 East Orange 50

1985: Shabazz 58 Irvington 57

1984: Shabazz 51 Belleville 46

1983: Shabazz 62 Clifford Scott 60

1982: Shabazz 61Clifford Scott 55

1981: Clifford Scott 51 East Orange 49

1980: East Orange 53 Barringer 45

1979: Columbia 38 Barringer 37

1978: Columbia 73 Glen Ridge 24

1977: Nutley 56 Columbia 34

1976: Nutley 55 Columbia 33

1975: West Side 55 West Essex 48

Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister

Newark Tech players surround Caitlin Townes as Terriers enjoy huge victory in the Essex County Tournament final, a stunning 71-62 win over University.

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