The Bergen Bulldogs women's basketball team lost a wild game Saturday to the Sussex Skylanders. This game was the first round of the National Junior College Athletic Association Region XIX Playoff Tournament. The #4 seed Bulldogs were favored at home over the #5 seed Skylanders. After a wild overtime thriller that at one point had Bergen playing with only two players on the court, Sussex came out victorious in overtime 51-46. The Bulldogs are now eliminated after one round the playoffs and the Skylanders will advance to play #1 seed Cumberland in the next round.
The Bulldogs played with only five players on their roster and no one available on the bench. The game started off slowly with the first basket not coming until 2:30 into the first quarter. The first quarter ended with Sussex ahead 10-7. Sussex came out strong in the second quarter scoring the first 5 points and eventually stretching their lead to 22-14 by halftime. This 8 point lead would hold through the third quarter with Sussex leading 29-21 to start the final quarter.
The fourth quarter is where the game got exciting. Bergen was able to cut their deficit down to two points, 31-29 with five minutes left in the game. This was the closest the score had been since 4-2 in the opening quarter. However, Sussex was immediately able to extend the lead back to 7 points at 36-29. With a1:40 remaining in the game Liana Martinez of the Bulldogs went up for the ball and her legs were taken out from under her by a Sussex player. Martinez hit the ground hard in obvious pain. She would be helped off the court by the trainer, unable to return to the game. With no bench, this meant Bergen would be playing with only 4 players for the remainder of the game. The four girls played hard and here able to once again pull with in two points with 43-41 with 18 seconds remaining. A foul on Bergen sent Sussex to the line where Alina Hoxha made one of the two shots for a three point Sussex lead. Bergen brought the ball up the court for their final attempt to tie the game. Liz Vargas hit a three-point shot with 15 seconds remaining to tie the game and fans erupted in cheers. This was the first time Bergen had been able to pull even since the game started at 0-0. Both teams missed an opportunity for a game winning shot and the game proceeded to overtime tied at 44.
Eighteen seconds into overtime Nicole Gaito fouled out for Bergen and the Bulldogs were down to 3 players for the rest of the game. Minutes later, with Sussex leading 45-44 Amy Culhane was the next plyer to foul out for the Bulldogs. This left only Liz Vargas and Anira Calamia on the court for Bergen for the remaining 3 minutes of overtime. Calamia made a lay up with 1:44 remaining. This gave Bergen a shocking lead as they were playing short handed 5 girls against 2. It was short lived however as the Skylanders scored on their next possession to retake the lead and eventually pulled away for a 51-46 overtime victory. Calamia and Vargas received a warm show of appreciation from the home crowd as the two girls had played their hearts out on the last 3 minutes of the overtime.
"They finished out tough, it was unfortunate that we ended with only two players on the floor," said Bulldogs head coach Tracy Green, "if we had five I truly believe we would have won that game." She went to say she very proud of the girls and they did a great job.
The Bulldogs season is now over and Sussex will now advance to the next round of the tournament. With a young team of mostly freshman, Bergen looks like they will be a very tough team next year.
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Written by Eric Meistrich