Thursday, March 9, 2017
By Rich Barton
NJS.com Staff Writer
Raven Farley-Clark had a monster game with 28 points, 19 rebounds, and four blocks for Queen of Peace, which won its first-ever section title with a 78-60 victory over defending champion Saddle River Day.
PATERSON – The Queen of Peace players that were on the floor last season in the section final remember the feeling of blowing a fourth-quarter lead and watching Saddle River Day celebrate a state sectional championship. It is not the fondest of memories, but, after an upset of top-seeded Immaculate Conception in the section semifinals, Queen of Peace earned another shot at the Rebels in the same round and on the same floor and this time it seized the moment and played its best in crunch time.
The fourth-seeded Golden Griffins got contributions from everyone in the fourth quarter. Senior Raven Farley-Clark had her way in the paint with teammates Natalie Arrouaye and D’aviyon Magazine each hitting huge 3-pointers before the Queen of Peace closed it out down the stretch at the foul line to win the first section title in school history. By outscoring No. 2 Saddle River Day 32-8 over the game’s final nine minutes, Queen of Peace won the Non-Public B North title with a 78-60 victory on Wednesday night at Kennedy High School in Paterson.
“We really wanted another chance to play Saddle River Day, they’re a great team and we really wanted that challenge,” said Queen of Peace junior guard Sydney Watkins. “They played with more heart than we did last year. We had to come out and play hard for 32 minutes even though people were looking for us to fail. It was all about heart, all about focus and finding a way to fight through adversity.”
The atmosphere was intense right from the opening tap with the two teams going shot-for-shot. Saddle River Day used five straight points from Michelle Sidor before a steal and layup by Carolyn Carrera capped a 7-0 spurt to give the Rebels a 28-22 lead. Watkins kept Queen of Peace in the game with hot shooting from the perimeter. She nailed a 3 in the final minute of the first half and Farley-Clark hit two free-throws with one tick left on the clock as Queen of Peace grabbed a 39-36 lead at halftime.
Jenna Jordan had a big game in the post for Saddle River Day and finished with a team-high 22 points.
Saddle River Day controlled much of the third quarter thanks to the inside play of sophomore center Jenna Jordan. She matched Farley-Clark’s play with some crafty moves in the post. The Rebels regained control and were pulling away until a controversial call changed the entire complexion of the game.
With the Rebels up six in the final minute of the third quarter, Jackie Wolak made a steal near mid-court and Jayden Lafontant looked like she scored on an ‘and-one’ drive to the basket. One ref called a block on the play, but another came in to overrule, determining the play to be a charging foul on Lafontant and waving off the basket. Farley-Clark then scored on the other end in a five-point swing that kickstarted the huge comeback for the Golden Griffins, who trailed 52-48 at the end of three quarters.
“We were fortunate to get the call there; now we had to go out and take advantage of it,” said Queen of Peace head coach Jio Fontan. “We came out with a gameplan and had to switch it up a little bit. This was a game we wanted to keep in the 40’s or 50’s, but they pushed us to the limit. We had to respond and put it all together for those final eight minutes.”
Natalie Arrouaye only attempted two shots in the entire game, but both came at crucial times and both hit the nothing but the bottom of the net. After hitting a 3 to start the fourth quarter, Arrouaye nailed another from the wing to give Queen of Peace the lead for good, 58-55, with just over five minutes to play.
D'aviyon Magazine had 12 points for Queen of Peace, which will face Rutgers Prep, the No. 1 ranked team in the state, in the Non-Public B state final.
At that point, Fontan switched up his defense. He went to an extended box-and-one to force the ball out of the hands of the sophomore standout Michelle Sidor, one of the state’s leading scorers. It was an effective strategy as the Rebels could not find the rhythm offensively that they had through the first three quarters. Down six, the Rebels had a chance to cut into the lead but missed a pair of layups and two free throws. D’aviyon Magazine then hit a backbreaking 3-pointer from the corner with 1:48 remaining for a 66-57 lead. Amaya Santiago played tough all night and sealed the win with six free throws in the final 90 seconds as Queen of Peace finally got its chance to celebrate when the final buzzer sounded.
Farley-Clark led all players with 28 points, 19 rebounds, and four blocks for Queen of Peace (17-6). Watkins had all of her 13 points in the first half with Santiago and Magazine each adding 12 points. Jordan led the way for Saddle River Day (24-7) with 22 points. Sidor was the only other Rebel to reach double-figures with 17 points.
Queen of Peace will look to add more hardware on Saturday but it will not come easy. They will face New Jersey’s No. 1 ranked team, Rutgers Prep, in the Non-Public B state final. The Golden Griffins have had the odds stacked against them before though and feel comfortable in that role.
“We know Rutgers Prep is big and has good guard play, but we have nothing to lose so we’ll be loose,” said Farley-Clark, who was recently named New Jersey’s lone representative in the McDonald’s All-American game and will play at Louisiana State University next year. “This is my senior year and I don’t want my high school career to end. It’s a great feeling to work hard and earn that feeling of being a champion. Now we have a chance to experience that feeling again and that’s what we’re going for."