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SJIBT semifinals recap: Kassidy Thompson, Gabby Recinto power their teams to Sunday’s final

VOORHEES (N.J.) - With the regular season winding down, both the Camden Catholic and Cherokee girls basketball teams have an in-season championship on their minds.

The two will each get a chance to fulfill that goal in the South Jersey Invitational Basketball Tournament final on Sunday afternoon. Both teams advanced with dominating wins at Eastern on Friday night.

The Lady Chiefs defeated Camden Catholic, 44-30, on January 24.

Camden Catholic 72, Williamstown 45: The Fighting Irish coasted to the semifinal round of the SJIBT with blowout wins over Kingsway, Moorestown and Woodbury.

Camden Catholic's Kassidy Thompson led the Fighting Irish with a game-high 30 points in a dominating win over Williamstown in the Final Four of the South Jersey Invitational Basketball Tournament at Eastern in Voorhees, New Jersey on Friday, February 10, 2023. Chris Baker/D2 Sports Network

Cinderella opponent Williamstown was the next to stand in the way. The Lady Braves knocked off second-seeded Shawnee, 41-36, in the Elite Eight.

Camden Catholic refused to be a victim of an upset.

Williamstown's Alivia Mauz opened the contest with back-to-back triples and traded buckets with Camden Catholic standouts Aaryn Battle and Kassidy Thompson as the Irish led 19-17 after one quarter.

Camden Catholic pulled away over the final three quarters to earn a 72-45 victory over the Lady Braves.

Thompson, a Quinnipiac commit, led the Irish with a game-high 30 points including 20 in the second half. Battle, UMass commit, and freshman Gabrielle Vaughn chipped in 13 points each for Camden Catholic.

Mauz led the Lady Braves with a team-high 18 points including four three-pointers.

Thompson's 30 points stood out, but her defensive effort was the difference in the contest.

"Kassidy's defense is one of her most underrated parts of her game," Camden Catholic coach Christine Matera said. "Yes, everyone may look at the stat sheet and say oh, she had 30 points, but I truly believe her defense was her best asset tonight."

Thompson and her teammates are hoping to avenge their loss to Cherokee in a championship setting.

"It's great that we may get a chance to avenge a loss we suffered earlier in the season," Thompson said. "In a championship game? At a neutral site? I think the team as a whole would be excited for another shot at Cherokee."

Cherokee 54, Cinnaminson 30: Jefferson commit Gabby Recinto exploded for a career-high 28 points as the Lady Chiefs, ranked second in the latest South Jersey Sports Zone Top 15 high school girls basketball rankings, cruised past No. 11 Cinnaminson, 54-30, on Friday night.

Cherokee opened the contest on an 18-2 run and held the Lady Pirates scoreless from the 5:10 mark of the first quarter until 4:39 remained in the second quarter. Cinnaminson's Ava Sztenderowicz buried a 3-pointer to terminate the drought.

What was Cherokee coach Ron Powell's gameplan?

"Come out, go get them," he said. "They're a real good Group 2 school having a great year, well coached. We thought we could get after them and trap them and just kind of give them the experience of what Olympic Conference basketball is all about. We came out and did that."

Recinto scored 16 of the Lady Chiefs' first 22 points and helped her team build a 17-point advantage at intermission.

She also capped a run of 11 unanswered points with a pair of free throws to give Cherokee a 49-19 advantage in the fourth quarter.

The Lady Chiefs led by as much as 31 points.

"We executed well on the offensive end," Powell said. "Gabby had a lot tonight, but in our most recent games we've had really balanced scoring."

Olivia Selverian added nine points and freshman Brielle Alaba contributed seven. Jada Branford scored five points in the fourth quarter.

Brooke Sztenderowicz powered Cinnaminson with a team-high eight points. Freshman Shiloh Moore and Ava Sztenderowicz rallied six apiece.

Cherokee clinched its sixth SJIBT final appearance. The Lady Chiefs have won the tournament four times and lost only once in the championship round during Powell's tenure.

The combination of a single elimination format and high intensity atmospheres has prepared the developing players in Powell's program with the postseason right around the corner.

"You can't simulate that stuff until you get into the playoffs so it's good for our younger kids," Powell said. "Our older kids have been in this situation before. The older kids know what to expect when it's state tournament time. To play in an atmosphere like this against a good team, a well-coached team, only helps us for the end of the year."

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