MENDHAM _ Meredith Curtin's mind was consumed by Mendham's sectional quarterfinal versus Voorhees.
Curtin, a senior co-captain, hoped she and the Minutemen would knock off the Vikings and extend their season. She had her heart set on playing in Saturday's semifinals.
So, Curtin did all she could - scored, leaped, dove, sank all six of her second-half foul shots - to ensure that Mendham would remain alive in the North Jersey Section 2, Group III bracket.
The all-out energetic effort, though, wasn't enough as the third-seeded Minutemen fell, 51-46, to No. 6 Voorhees on Thursday, March 2.
"This game meant so much to me," Curtin said. "In the week leading up to the game, it was all I thought about. I wanted to keep going, to play on Saturday. I wanted to do whatever it took to win. The tournament and the chance to win was right at our fingertips."
Mendham fought back from a 10-point deficit, cutting it down to three with 1:02 left on Curtin's free throws, yet could not pull in front. Voorhees rode the Marist-bound Allie Best (18 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks, 5 steals, 4 assists) to the win. Best made an abundance of big plays throughout, including taking down key rebounds and making a block in the fourth quarter. When the Minutemen closed to 46-43, Voorhees went to the line and converted 5-of-6 foul shots.
With 2:30 remaining, Voorhees was working the ball around to set up a field goal. Curtin leaped and swiped the ball and raced to the other end only to be denied by Best. No foul was called. Twenty-four seconds later, Jess Hall fired in a 3-pointer to bring Mendham within five, 46-41. On its next possession, the Minutemen were whistled for traveling. They got the ball back and Curtin was fouled. She netted both foul shots for 46-43.
"I was hoping for it to be called," Curtin said of the possibility of Best drawing a foul on the block at 2:30. "I can't blame the refs, though. It could have been a momentum changer."
Mendham coach Mark Gnapp was disappointed, of course. He was pleased with his squad's desire. Curtin's showing was typical, he said.
"We came back. There just wasn't enough time," Gnapp said. "All year, we've played tough. We played hard. We had a tough time making shots . We'll get better with our shooting over the summer. One of our goals was not to foul No. 12 (Best). We wanted to trap without fouling her. We tried to be aggressive.
"Meredith was trying to will our team to victory. That's her. She's mentally and physically tough. Meredith's great. We're going to miss her."
Best, a senior guard, had only two free throws in the opening quarter when Voorhees gained a 14-8 lead. Caitlin Reilly and Colby Gavornik had four points apiece. Best had six by halftime. The other elements of her all-around game were effective for the entire 32 minutes. Midway through the third quarter, Best knocked down a 3-pointer to put the Vikings on top for good, 27-25.
"She's a very strong player," Gnapp said of Best. "She does everything well. Her basketball I.Q. is high."
As for Curtin, who had 13 points along with teammate Joey Meyers, there will be more high school games. Curtin is also a lacrosse player and will continue with that sport at Elon University. She has played basketball since second grade and lacrosse since sixth grade.
"I feel like I've been doing this all my life," Curtin said of basketball. "I have something to look forward to because of lacrosse. I'll have to watch basketball instead of playing it. What I'm going to miss is not being on our court and not playing for Coach Gnapp."
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