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Shore Regional upends Wildwood to reach third straight Group 1 state final

Shore's Reese Fiore dribbles the ball against Wildwood in the NJSIAA Group 1 state semifinal girls' basketball game played at Deptford Township High School in Deptford, New Jersey on Wednesday, March 6, 2024. Collin Conway/D2 Sports Network

DEPTFORD - The Shore Regional High School girls' basketball team trailed 34-33 after three quarters.

The Blue Devils found their offensive groove late.

Junior Reese Fiore was the catalyst as a buzzer beating layup to end the third and didn't slow down there.

Fiore and Conley Smolokoff combined for 11 of the team's 15 points in the fourth quarter to push Shore Regional past Wildwood, 48-42, in the Group 1 state semifinals at Deptford Township High School on Wednesday. The Blue Devils punched their ticket to a third straight state final and will play North Jersey champion University for the third year in a row.

In 2022, the Phoenix rolled Shore Regional, 66-31. The Blue Devils narrowed the margin a year later and fell, 57-47.

"I think the girls are glad that they get to play University again," Shore coach Will Wishart said. "Deptford is like our home away from home so to win here again and then play the same team for a third time, I think the girls really want to get the job done this time."

The road to a third consecutive Group 1 state final appearance was not easy.

The West Long Branch program trailed the Warriors until about six minutes left in regulation. The Blue Devils hit their stride when Smolokoff knocked down her first 3-pointer of the contest. Kimi Sayson and Ava Coyle each contributed a basket in the fourth quarter. Shore outscored Wildwood, 15-8, over the final eight minutes.

Smolokoff led all scorers with 20 points. Fiore added 17 and Coyle contributed seven.

"We've faced adversity throughout the year so today was just another challenge we had to overcome," Smolokoff said. "Chemistry is huge for us so throughout the game we had each other's backs, and no one got down at any point."

Wildwood attempted to hold onto its lead but Macie McCracken's team-high 19 points wasn't enough. The junior scored 11 of her 19 points in the third quarter after a slow start in the first half.

Experience in big games is key to any program. The Blue Devils only have a handful of returning players who saw meaningful varsity minutes in either of the last two state final appearances.

"The first year we played in the state final we weren't really sure how to mentally prepare," Fiore said. "We have a few girls back from the last two teams but this year, those of us that have been there before need to lead the way for the rest of the team."

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