By EDWARD KENSIK
kensik@montclairlocal.news

The Immaculate Conception girls basketball teamhas taken its first step toward adding some more hardware to its 2021-22 collection.

The Lions were in fine form as they jumped on sixth-seeded Roselle Catholic early and often, pulling away and never looking back in an 87-35 victory in the quarterfinals of the Non-Public North B state sectionals on Friday, March 4, in Montclair.

Immaculate raised its record to 20-4 with its 11th straight victory. The team travels to second-seeded Morris Catholic on Monday, March 7, at 7 p.m. in the sectional semifinals.

Immaculate this season won the Super Essex Conference American Division and the Essex County Tournament.

Junior Tyonna Bailey, who transferred this season from Morris Catholic, led the Lions with 24 points against Roselle Catholic as seven different Lions scored. Senior Nyah Whitten and sophomore Tayla Thomas chipped in 15 points each. Thomas had a double-double on the night, with 11 rebounds.

It was Bailey who was on fire from the start. She scored the Lions’ first seven points, and then topped off the first half with a three-point bucket from the right corner. The junior would score 17 of her 24 points in the first half.

“I just let the game come to me,” she said. “The team was great in setting me up.”

Immaculate head coach Jimmy Kreie said Bailey was getting the most out of the minimum. “She was very efficient,” Kreie said. “She had 24 points on only 13 shots, and had six assists.”

Defensively, Immaculate looked to stop Roselle Catholic’s top scorers, Jasmin McKay and Amaris Jenkins.

“We were looking to stop [No.] 1 [McKay] and 23 [Jenkins] and get them to pass to somebody else,” Bailey said. 

McKay, who was averaging 17 points per game, was limited to six points by the Lions’ defense. “It was pressure, pressure on their guards,” Kreie said.

Immaculate junior Ore Ogunwolere brings the ball up against Roselle Catholic in the state playoff game. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
Immaculate junior Ore Ogunwolere brings the ball up against Roselle Catholic in the state playoff game. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
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The coach said it was perfect team basketball, especially on the offensive side of the court.

“That is the point of a team,” Kreie said. “When they are concentrating on one aspect, you counter it. When they were double-teaming Tayla [Thomas], they were blatantly leaving the wings open. And our shots were going down.”

Everything worked to perfection for Immaculate, whether on offense or defense.

After Bailey dropped the game’s first seven points, the Lions’ defense did not allow a point until almost three minutes were gone in the first quarter.

And then the Immaculate defense did not allow a Roselle Catholic bucket until 42 seconds were left in the first quarter.

Just after that, Lions freshman Nila Giraud hit two free throws to end the first quarter and give Immaculate a 26-5 lead.

While Roselle Catholic was dropping some three-point buckets to keep itself slightly in the game, Bailey dismissed that with a pair of threes in the final two minutes of the first half to hand the Lions a 44-16 lead going into intermission.

For Immaculate, it was good to get back on the court. Before the win over Roselle Catholic, the Lions played last on Feb. 24, winning 59-24 over Mount St. Dominic on the road. Thomas and Bailey led the Lions with 17 and 15 points respectively.