Randolph shakes off Mendham for sectional crown
- Written by Sandy Seegers
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RANDOLPH _ Allyson Kuridza has an abundance of bruises and wears them proudly, knowing they were acquired while going into battle with the Randolph girls basketball team.
Eight days after getting her largest one - a contusion three inches in diameter on her upper right arm - in a first-round game against Rahway, Kuridza, known for her hard-nosed play, gained a few more while putting in a top-notch effort in a 53-43 win over Mendham on Tuesday, Feb. 28 in the North Jersey Section 2, Group III final.
The sectional title was the Rams' second in four years. In 2020, Randolph trimmed Hackensack, 32-30, to prevail in Section 1, Group IV.
"This feels unreal," said Kuridza. "We've gotten so much support. I'm proud of everyone. All of our hard work is paying off. I'm happy we won. It's well deserved."
Kuridza, with a career-high 19 points, seven rebounds and four blocks, was at the core of the victory, which involved a comeback. The 5-foot-10 senior, seemingly always in the midst of the action, wasn't hurting at all after this one. Having the opportunity to play another day had Kuridza in a state of bliss.
"I don't feel any of them," she said referring to the bruises while clutching a piece of the net the Rams had cut down minutes before. "I just go home and realize I have a new bruise or two. I do have a lot of them but I don't mind."
Kuridza and Sydney Jenisch (15 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) scored in every quarter for Randolph, whose record swelled to 27-2. The Rams fell behind 17-11 in the first period as the Minutemen frustrated the Rams by trapping and making steals.
"I think we underestimated how hard they'd come out," said Kuridza. "They came out to play and we were kind of slow."
Madison Jenisch agreed and noted how tough it is to play a team for a third time. Midway through the opening quarter, the Rams, hurt by turnovers, were down, 12-2.
"We were soaking in the environment. We were nervous," Madison Jenisch said. "We had to play how we play and calm down. You never want to be down. I was concerned but it's happened before and we came back. We knew all about Mendham's 1-3-1. We had to slow it down and control the pace."
The first quarter ended with the Randolph facing a 17-11 deficit. Fueled by five points each by Syndey Jenisch and Kuridza and four apiece by Aliyah Lambo and Madison Jenisch, the Rams turned it around in the second period and went into the break with a 29-23 advantage.
Three minutes into the second quarter, Kuridza grabbed a rebound and powered in for the putback and was fouled. A free throw completed the three-point play and brought Randolph within three, 21-18. Sydney Jenisch's layup 2:26 before halftime left the Rams trailing by one, 23-22. Randolph got in front, 24-23, on Madison Jenisch's eight-foot jumper at 1:57. Sydney Jenisch then made a steal and passed to her sister, whose field goal made the score 26-23. With 53.1 seconds remaining before halftime, Syndey Jenisch fired in a 3-pointer for 29-23.
Randolph, which advanced to the Group III final by edging Teaneck, 40-39, outscored Mendham 15-9 in the eight minutesafter halftime to ensure they'd advance.
"This is incredible," said Rams coach Pete Torres. "We had to make adjustments. We had to move to the openings and not stand behind the defenders in the 1-3-1. We were catching and throwing at first. We had to catch, fake and attack the seam. That's how they found Ally and she finished."
Torres had much praise for Kuridza, out half of last season with a fractured wrist.
"This was, by far, the best game of her career," Torres said. "Ally's come such a long way since freshman year. She had the blocks tonight and was great on the defensive end."
Madison Jenisch considered the win and the sectional crown "amazing."
"I love accomplishing things with my sister and my friends," she said. "We've played travel and on other teams since fourth grade. We're all close."
Next up for Randolph is the Group III title game on Sunday, March 5 at the RWJBarnabas Health Arena in Toms River. Game time is 6 p.m.
***PHOTO GALLERY BELOW***
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