ROBBINSVILLE, N.J. - Scoring goals isn't a priority for Cherokee's Kelsey Overbeck. An attacker on the girls' lacrosse team, Overbeck is content to distribute the ball.
Her ability to play within herself paid off yesterday as the sophomore set up goals by Melissa Arthur and Brittani Keys in the first overtime period as Cherokee edged Bridgewater-Raritan, 13-12, to capture the NJSIAA Group 4 championship.
It was Cherokee's first girls' lacrosse state title and moved the Chiefs into tomorrow's Tournament of Champions semifinal game against Moorestown at 5 p.m. at Monmouth University.
"During the overtime, I put all my heart into it," said Overbeck, who also scored twice. "I try to pass off more than score. I always look for the open player first."
Cherokee (16-7) forced the two three-minute extra sessions when Kristin Thompson, assisted by Arthur, deposited a goal with 1 minute, 15 seconds left in regulation.
The Panthers had an opportunity to win in regulation when Kelly Fenton, who scored five goals, was awarded a free possession shot from about nine yards with 1.2 seconds left. Fenton rushed toward the goal and took a hard shot that was turned away by Chiefs goalkeeper Lindsay Barrie.
Barrie, a sophomore playing her first year of lacrosse, turned back 14 shots, including four at almost point-blank range in overtime.
"I just tried to keep calm and maintain my composure at the end and did everything I could to stop that last shot," Barrie said. "[Fenton] has a strong left hand, and I kept an eye on her during the entire game."
Cherokee bolted to a 12-10 lead in the first overtime period and extended the margin to 13-10 in the second overtime period when Arthur scored what turned out to be the game-winner with 2:33 left.
Bridgewater-Raritan (22-2) held a 4-2 lead at halftime, but Cherokee, ignited by senior Elizabeth Fox's second goal of the game, scored five unanswered goals to open the second half and take a 7-4 lead with 19:25 remaining.
"It was quite a pep talk at halftime," Fox said. "We came out strong and were more aggressive. Scoring some quick goals got our momentum going. We played as a team today with desire and a lot of heart."
The game was an intense, see-saw affair throughout the second half with both teams scrapping for every loose ball and forcing numerous turnovers.
"The girls' play exceeded our expectations," Cherokee coach Kate Maloney said. "In the second half, we won almost every 50-50 ball and played with more intensity. On offense, we made the connections on attack and moved the ball well."
Bridgewater-Raritan 4 6 0 2 - 12
Cherokee 2 8 2 1 - 13
Goals: C-Melissa Arthur 5, Elizabeth Fox 2, Brittani Keys 2, Kelsey Overbeck 2, Katelyn Haverstick, Kristin Thompson. BR-Kelly Fenton 5, Anna Tichy 4, Juliana Pope 2, Alyssa Dragon.