Immaculate Conception girls basketball downs Payne Tech in county tourney opener
The Immaculate Conception girls basketball team showed why it is the No. 1 seed in the Essex County Tournament on Saturday, and now the Lions are looking to pin a first loss on another team.
Immaculate took care of 16th-seeded Payne Tech on Jan. 28 in an easy 77-33 victory at home in Montclair, raising its record to 14-2. In the quarterfinals on Saturday, Feb. 4 (2 p.m.), the Lions will be going up in class, facing ninth-seeded Glen Ridge, which was 16-0 as of last week.
Senior guard Tyonna Bailey led the Lions with 27 points as nine Immaculate players scored against Payne Tech. Sophomore Camille Wiley added 10 points.
Coming into that tournament first-round game, Immaculate had won three out of its last four. The Lions lost their first game of the season, 63-51, to Etiwanda of California at the St. James MLK Classic in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 14.
Lions head coach Jimmy Kreie pointed out what his team has been working on to get back to the Essex County Tournament finals after winning the title last year. Immaculate defeated University in the 2022 ECT championship game.
"We needed ball movement and shot selection," Kreie said, "as well as aggressiveness and communication."
Against Payne Tech, the Lions set the tone from the start as they jumped out to a 12-0 lead after a Wiley bucket. Immaculate was ahead 21-1 before Payne Tech registered a field goal, four minutes into the contest.
While Payne Tech's leading scorer, Kayla Butler, registered her game average of 18 points, the Lions’ defense allowed only 15 points from the rest of the Payne Tech roster. That happened even though starters Bailey, Wiley, sophomore Nila Giraud, senior Ore Ogunwolere and junior Brenae Jones played half the game or less.
For Kreie, it was nice seeing the bench players get minutes.
"It definitely helps the energy on the bench and in the locker room," he said. "It's hard always cheering but never having an opportunity to be cheered. It's nice seeing what everyone has been working on and trying to add to their game."
Two Lions players saw extensive minutes off the bench and contributed to the victory, senior Ciera Cevallos and junior India Lee, who had seven and six points, respectively.
While Glen Ridge is undefeated, its schedule has not been as difficult as Immaculate’s. The Lions not only have taken on four quality out-of-state programs, but second-seeded University and one of the best teams in Bergen County, Immaculate Heart. The best teams that Glen Ridge has faced are two Essex County teams, 11th-seeded Millburn and 14th-seeded Nutley.
Immaculate Conception Girls Basketball Schedule
(Games at 4 p.m. unless noted)
Feb. 2 Columbia, 7 p.m.
Feb. 4 Glen Ridge, TBD, Essex County Tournament quarterfinals
Feb. 5 at St. John Vianney, 5:10 p.m.
Feb. 8 at Long Island Lutheran, New York
Feb. 11 Essex County Tournament semifinals at West Orange, TBA
Feb. 14 at Newark Central
Feb. 15 at Mount St. Dominic
Feb. 18 Essex County Tournament finals at Essex County Community College, 3 p.m.