WILDWOOD - A defensive switch at halftime and senior leadership down the stretch made the difference for the Washington Township girls' basketball team yesterday.
Senior twins Dana and Shawna Wert combined for 10 of Washington Township's final 12 points as the Minutemaids defeated Sacred Heart, 55-40, in the Mayor's Cup bracket of the Boardwalk Basketball Classic at the Wildwood Convention Center.
"Dana and Shawna are the heart and soul of our team," Washington Township coach Jen Natale said. "They step up when we need them."
Junior center Ashley Giedemann collected 26 points and 15 rebounds for Washington Township (3-0), which is ranked No. 1 in South Jersey by The Inquirer.
Washington Township plays Shore Conference power Red Bank Catholic (3-0) at 2:15 p.m. today in the championship game. RBC beat Absegami, 57-17, yesterday in the other Mayor's Cup game.
Senior guard Ashley Durham scored 24 for Sacred Heart (2-1), the Vineland-based team that is No. 7 in the rankings.
"We needed this," said Sacred Heart coach Steve DiPatri, whose team played without one of its starters because of a scheduling conflict. "You have to play tough games early in the year to be ready come March."
The 5-foot-5 Durham, who is one of South Jersey's most explosive players, scored 17 of her points in the first half.
But Washington Township switched to a diamond-and-one defense for much of the second half, and Durham scored just seven more points, including a basket at the buzzer. She finished 7 for 28 from the field.
"She's a phenomenal player," Natale said. "We knew she would get her points, but we didn't want her to have a career night."
The Wert sisters, along with senior guard Alyse Maiden, who also had seven assists, took turns as the "chaser," who played man-to-man on Durham in the defensive formation.
"We scrimmaged her before in AAU," Shawna Wert said. "She's quick, but we tried to frustrate her and make her work for everything."
Despite her struggles from the field in the second half, Durham had Sacred Heart in position to spring an upset. Her step-back three-point jumper pulled the Lions within 41-38 with 3 minutes, 41 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
But Washington Township scored the next 14 points before Durham made a short jumper as time expired. Giedeman started the run with a short jumper, then the Wert sisters took over.
Shawna Wert, who finished with 11 points, went 4 for 4 from the foul line and added a layup off a steal. Dana Wert scored all four of her points in the final 1:55, making two free throws and adding a layup off a steal.
For the game, the Wert sisters evenly split six steals.
"My shots weren't falling early in the game," Dana Wert said. "But we know if we continue to play hard and play as a team, we'll have a chance to step up in the end."
Sacred Heart 11 12 8 9 - 40
Washington Township 12 16 9 18 - 55
SH: Ashley Durham 24, Ashley Ferrucci 2, Tyesha Simmons 8, Wonie Lungu 6.
WT: Alyse Maiden 4, Dana Wert 4, Shawna Wert 11, Rachel Armor 6, Ashley Giedemann 26, Victoria Jordan 2, Alex Koutras 2.