Posted: Jan. 21, 2019 12:01 am
WANTAGE — An impending snowstorm could not derail another year of the fantastic festivities at the Pretty in Pink Classic.
Moving the main event — the girls varsity game between High Point and Kittatinny — up to 3 p.m., the four games of the day were all completed before a single snowflake had fallen Saturday. Despite the incoming inclement weather, the four sets of bleachers in the High Point gym were packed to capacity.
The Pretty in Pink Classic, now in its ninth year, was founded by former High Point basketball player Taylor Smith in 2010 and has raised more than $300,000 for cancer awareness and research since its inception. High Point was expecting to raise between $25,000 and $30,000 this year.
Not only was it a day for a great cause, Kittatinny and High Point played a game that came down to the wire. Despite Kittatinny trailing 13-0 at the end of the first quarter, the Cougars eventually fought all the way back to tie the score, 33-33, with 2:45 remaining in the fourth quarter.
As she often does, it was Tyra Wingle who played the role of the clutch performer for High Point. Her catch-and-shoot 3-pointer with 2:09 left in the game put High Point back up by three and allowed the Wildcats to close it out with a 39-33 win.
“It’s really special,” senior Madison Smolen said. “I’m really sad it’s over, but I’m glad that I was able to be a part of this by going to High Point and doing something great. I’m glad that we got to come out with the win for our last Pretty in Pink game.”
“As a senior, it’s really sad for this to be the last time,” Morgan Smolen said. “Every year we go into this all pumped up because we know it’s bigger than basketball, but we always go out there with our hearts still with basketball too. We want to win the basketball game, especially as a senior.”
The game opened up with High Point’s Julianne Mangano scoring the first bucket of the game on a put-back before the traditional pink and black streamers were thrown onto the court. At around the four-minute mark of every quarter, the game was halted to honor somebody in the community impacted by cancer.
“It’s an unbelievable event,” High Point head coach Brad Dragone said. “I’ve been to every one as a spectator. It’s maybe the best thing they do here at High Point overall. To be a part of it this year and be the head coach of the girls team, it’s an unbelievable honor and I love every minute of it.”
For the first quarter, a $1,000 donation was given to the Christian Copeman fund. Copeman was a varsity football and basketball player for Kittatinny, and his life was taken by cancer on Feb. 6, 2014 at the age of 17.
A special moment then took place in the second quarter when Newton girls basketball head coach Whitney Dugan was honored with a check for $7,500. She was introduced by former High Point varsity head coach Chris Dexter, who stepped down after last year but still played a prominent part in the Pretty in Pink Classic and coaches the junior varsity team.
Dexter coached against Dugan as a player and a coach, including many times in the Pretty in Pink Classic. Last summer, Dugan was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and has been unable to coach her Newton team from the sidelines, despite treatments going well so far.
With her team standing at center court behind her, Dugan was able to go out in her customary tall boots and give the crowd a speech after receiving a standing ovation. The award given to Dugan was the Pretty in Pink hero award.
“Basketball has prepared me for the biggest fight of my life,” Dugan said in part of her speech. “It has taught me love for a team and dedication to big goals. Life is truly a team sport. Having a strong support system like my family, teammates and the community have all been crucial to success.”
In the third quarter, Jackson Tilves was awarded a check for $7,500 as the recipient of the Pretty in Pink courage award. Tilves was a first team All-State lacrosse player as a senior at Mount Olive who scored 70 goals last spring before being diagnosed with cancer. He had 60 family and friends in attendance and is enrolled at Stockton University.
“I think donating the money to another basketball coach this year was very special,” Madison Smolen said. “Also donating the money to the Mount Olive student knowing he was a high school student and that we get to help him out, it really touches my heart. I’m glad that we got to do that this year.”
For the basketball game, Madison Smith led Kittatinny with 15 points while Brittany Hill (12 points) and Wingle (10) in double figures for the Wildcats. It looked like there would be no drama early when High Point’s ferocious defense got it a 13-0 lead after the first quarter.
Wingle finished the game with five steals while Madison and Morgan Smolen played their usual tight on-ball defense.
“We know that we are a defensive team,” Morgan Smolen said. “We just love to get in people’s minds and play with them to get them to mess up. We had that 13-0 lead in the beginning, and it’s just an awesome feeling to have. We always focus on our defense, and I think we have a solid five that can play great defense.”
The Cougars were able to stabilize the game with a 9-7 second quarter, but really got back into it with a 16-10 third quarter and only went into the final quarter down 30-25.
Smith opened things up with a hoop to cut the lead down to three points before Hill hit a 3-pointer off the bank to put High Point back up by six, 33-27, with 4:31 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Four straight free throws by Smith made it a 33-31 game before Cassidy Mulroy tied the game, 33-33, with 2:45 left in the game.
Following a time out, there was little doubt the number Dragone would call. Wingle scored 14 points in last season’s Pretty in Pink Classic, made the game-winning buzzer beater to win High Point a sectional title as a sophomore and is known for the big shot.
The play worked perfectly to get Wingle a wide-open look, and it swished with nothing but net.
“We weren’t making anything and I called her number,” Dragone said. “The play we ran is a play for her. The kid just has ice water in her veins. She’s unbelievable. It never gets talked about, but the defense she puts in on the defensive side is incredible. She’s maybe the best defensive player I’ve ever seen in my life.”
High Point 39
K 0 9 16 8 — 33
HP 13 7 10 9 — 30
Kittatinny: Madison Smith 15, Cassidy Mulroy 6, Olivia Redden 6, Brianna Batta 1, Reese Vanderhoof 3, Lauren Wrigley 2
High Point: Taylor Hemmer 2, Brittany Hill 12, Julianne Mangano 2, Leia Ruvo 6, Madison Smolen 4, Morgan Smolen 3, Tyra Wingle 10
Records: Kittatinny 6-4, High Point 7-6