UNION CITY — There was plenty to celebrate Monday night as the Maplewood Tigers girls basketball team clinched a bye in the first round of the District 10 playoffs by downing the Union City Bears in a Region 2 contest.
Among them was Jordan Roser eclipsing 1,000 points in her career, a feat that many Tigers’ faithful made the trek to witness.
The night began after a slight and unique delay spent cleaning up a handful of Swedish Fish that scattered onto the court just as referee John Frey was set to clear the opening tip. It was the first of many smiles shared on the night.
Maplewood dominated from the start and only allowed four points in the first quarter, an omen for what was to come for Union City on their senior night.
The Tigers enjoyed a 14-0 run to start the game as Izzy Eimer opened scoring with a lay-up. After Sadie Thomas chipped in a bucket, Roser was off to the races and netted her first field goal. She’d score the next three points from the line before bookending her personal run with another make from close range. That’s when Eimer connected from behind the arc. Free throws by Roser, Megan Mangus, Liliane Moorhead and Thomas concluded the 22-4 first quarter run for the Tigers. The Bears got buckets in the frame from Eliza Reynolds and Clarisa Higby.
It came as a bit of a surprise to Tigers head coach Kyle Krepps and Roser alike, but Jordan would eclipse the 1,000-point mark in the second quarter, having come into the contest needing 18 points.
“I thought it would take her more than a half,” the coach mentioned as he headed for the halftime locker room.
Eimer and the Tigers continued their mastery in the second, starting it off by getting to the free throw line and hitting a pair.
Roser followed with a trip in which she went 1 for 2, then Mangus assisted a Thomas lay-up. Mangus hit a bucket of her own, then Roser went to work on the defensive end, following up one 2-pointer with another off a steal. After Eimer followed up a block with a steal, Roser assisted an Eimer 3-pointer to put the Tigers up 36-9.
Roser was within three points of her milestone with four to play in the first half, and it wasn’t a secret, as dozens of cameras were pointed at the floor with every trip down court. Roser hit a field goal at the 3:35 mark and the energy was palpable. After a Maplewood timeout, despite her excellent track record as a free throw shooter, Roser missed both opportunities at the stripe to the angst of her fans.
Roser talked about the nerves she was feeling while at the line.
“Everybody’s been talking to me about it, and it’s been in my head non-stop,” she said. “But you know, I didn’t really care about getting that, I wanted to win the region more than anything, but to get that as well is awesome.”
Roser hit a picturesque jumper with 6.4 seconds left in the second quarter to reach 1,001 points in her high school career. The crowd roared and the game paused, as Roser got her due and Maplewood assumed a 42-13 halftime lead.
Her parents were among those elated to be on-hand to witness the momentous occasion.
“She’s worked really hard these last four years, and she really deserves this,” her mom, Kasey, said with a smile. “They’re a wonderful team, the girls all love each other and they were gonna work together to make it happen.”
Jordan’s dad was a bit surprised by just how she hit the mark, but proud nonetheless.
“It’s a big relief, just awesome,” Scott said as he looked for the right words to sum up the accomplishment. “The only thing that would have been better would have been if she’d have gotten it with a three, because that’s really how she got the majority of her points.”
The third quarter was evenly played. Thomas answered two points by the Bears with a cool lay-in off a Roser feed, before Eimer connected again from two-point range. A Moorhead put-back followed by a free throw and a tenacious offensive board and finish by Thomas gave Maplewood a 53-16 advantage.
The Bears got six points back before the third quarter closed and Maplewood led 53-22.
The fourth quarter brought more reason to celebrate, but there was still business to take care of, according to Krepps, who knew he needed to get some of his reserves ready for potential action in the playoffs.
“I don’t like (bye weeks),” the coach said. “We’ve got about 12 days until we play again, but, lucky for me, I’ve got a nice crew of 19 girls and the JV team pushing us pretty hard.”
After Eimer and Roser hit a free throw a piece, Eve Beuchat connected from three for the first time in her career and the Tigers crowd roared yet again. Alexis Doolittle converted a feed from Cassidy Mangus, Daphne Atkins hit from three, Joey Blake got on the board with a career-high four points, and Cassidy Mangus hit two free throws to close out the win.
Maplewood took the game by a 72-29 final. The Tigers will have a bye week in the first round of the district playoffs, set to begin Saturday. They’re expected to return to action on Feb. 22 in the quarterfinals.
Jordan Roser finished with 21 total points and her family was happy to hold onto the commemorative 1,000-point balloons she was handed for the entirety of the second half.
Thomas went for 14 points and six rebounds, Eimer contributed 13 points and Megan Mangus had six. Moorhead had 3 points to go along with 13 rebounds, three blocks and three steals.
Rounding out scoring for Maplewood was Blake with four; Atkins, Bailey Varndell and Beuchat with three; and Cassidy Mangus and Doolittle with two.
“It’s really awesome to finish the region undefeated. That’s huge for us, and it’s what we’ve been working for all season,” Roser remarked after the conclusion. “It’s a big stepping stone into the playoffs.”
Despite the individual successes on the night, Krepps hasn’t lost sight of the goal at hand.
“It’s good to get that (1,000-point milestone) out of the way for the team,” he said. “Not that it’s a bad thing in anyway, we just don’t want it to distract from what we’re doing. We don’t want it hanging there with playoffs approaching.”