By Bobby Klatt
SSN Correspondent

TOMS RIVER - Behind a balanced scoring attack with three players in double digits, seventh-seeded Toms River North broke Wednesday’s WOBM Christmas Classic semifinal game open late to pull off the 56-45 upset of the third-seeded Ewing 56-45 and move on to Friday’s final.

Toms River North will play Point Boro in Friday’s championship game, which will be the Mariners’ first appearance in a girls WOBM Classic final since they won the tournament in 2004.

“It feels amazing to be going to the final,” said senior guard Ashley Tutzauer. “We haven’t done this in a while and it’s a great opportunity for us.”

Toms River North sophomore Jenna Paul, pictured last seasno. (Photo by Eric Braun)

After shooting just 2-for-14 from deep in the first half, the Mariners caught fire in the third quarter behind Tutzauer, who knocked down four of her six three-pointers in the second half and led all scorers with 22 points. Mya Grimes had eight of her 10 points in the period for Ewing.

“We just caught fire and got on a roll,” said Tutzauer. “We got on a roll and were making that extra pass and knocking them down.”

The fourth quarter was more of the same from the outside with Tutzauer and Jenna Paul, who had 13 of her own, knocking down shots from behind the arc to extend the lead to eight. Cayla Sexton kept Ewing around late in the fourth with seven of her team-high 19 in the period, but the Mariners were able to seal the game late by going 11-for-13 from the free throw line in the quarter to pull away for the 11-point victory.

“Our girls are really playing together as a team,” said Toms River North head coach Vicki Gillen. “I do think we are disciplined and we have balanced scoring like tonight, so I think we can be tough to beat when we play to those terms.”

In addition to the three-point line, the free-throw line was also a difference in the game, with Toms River North going 20-for-23 in the game while the Blue Devils shot just 8-16 from the line. The Mariners shot 8-for-24 from behind the arc, six of which came in the second half.

Ewing opened up the game with six of their nine first quarter points coming from behind the arc while Paul went 4-for-4 from the free throw line for the Mariners to push Toms River North to a 9-8 lead after the first.

“We knew rebounding was going to be key,” said Gillen. “The game plan was to try and be physical down low against their height and we did that.”

Ewing answered right away to start the second as they went on a quick 5-0 run to regain the lead, but the Mariners came right back with a 6-0 run of their own before the teams entered the locker room all tied up at 17. Sexton led all scorers with 12, nine in the second quarter.

Point Boro Eyes Another Classic Title After Holding off Red Bank

In the second semifinal, Point Boro held on late despite going 5-for-10 from the free-throw line in the final two minutes to beat Red Bank Regional 61-57 and move on to face Toms River North in the WOBM Christmas Classic Final Friday.

Point Boro will look to win its second Christmas Classic title in the last five years on Friday night. The Panthers were the last team other than Manasquan to win the tournament title when they took home the banner in 2012.

“These girls just kept fighting hard against a good RBR team and prove they keep on getting better each game,” said Point Boro head coach David Drew. “Toms River North is a great team. They can shoot and can go back door, it’s a great matchup. We’re excited to have the opportunity.”

Point Boro senior Ally Lassen, pictured in previous action. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Like in the first semifinal, the free-throw line opportunities paid off in the end with Point Boro going to the line 33 times and knocking down 22 of them, while the Bucs went a mere 7-for-8 from the stripe.

The Panthers had three players finish in double-figures. Ally Lassen finished with a game-high 19, Kate Letergez with 17 and Megan Hughes with 14 – 10 of which came in the second half.

The Bucs had three of their own in double figures. Emma Keegan scored 15 on five three-pointers, Grace Dengler added 13 and Bridget Tobin scored 10 off the bench.

The 33rd annual WOBM Christmas Classic final between Point Boro and Toms River North will tip at 5:30 at the Pine Belt Arena as part of the championship doubleheader.