The third time was the charm. Then again, so were the first and second times.
The girls basketball team defeated Monroe, 55-30, in the opening game of the Central Jersey Group IV playoffs at home on Tuesday night. It was the third time South Brunswick has defeated Monroe this season.
"I think winning the first two games gave us a leg up coming into this one," South Brunswick Coach Beth Barrio said. "We knew the things that were effective, helped us win the first two games."
The biggest thing is having four returning starters from last season, including . The South Brunswick junior led all scorers with 20 points.
"We were pretty confident going into this game," Padovano said, noting the two previous one-sided wins over Monroe. "Even so, we knew we still had to work hard and earn the win."
That was the key for Barrio. She liked the confidence, but didn't want to see it range into overconfidence.
"You can become complacent, think you won the game before it's even been played," Barrio said.
Right from the start, it was obvious that wasn't the case. While South Brunswick did miss a few open shots early in the game, it never stopped working on the defensive end. Monroe rarely got a second shot on a possession, and the first ones were often forced.
Ashley DeGroff, Padovano and Danielle Roberts -- three of the four returning starters -- did all of the scoring as South Brunswick built an 11-4 lead after a quarter.
South Brunswick's lead continued to build as all the girls on the team got involved in the offense. South Brunswick led 28-11 by the half and 41-22 after three quarters.
Eight of the 10 girls on the team scored at least a basket. All of the girls played and contributed to the win. Padovano, DeGroff (13 points) and Roberts (9 points) were the top scorers.
With the win, South Brunswick improved to 22-4 and earned the right to advance in the playoffs. South Brunswick will host Marlboro on Thursday in a Central Jersey Group IV quarterfinal. South Brunswick defeated Marlboro in the opening round of the playoffs last year.
South Brunswick finished the 2010-11 season with a record of 14-9. It was eliminated from the state tournament in the contest after its win over Marlboro.
"We're just looking to go as long in the state tournament as we can," Padovano said. "We want to keep playing smart and working hard. We know we have a lot of potential on this team to keep going in this tournament."
Obviously, Barrio agrees.
"We knew this could be a special year," Barrio said. "We started it last year and envisioned this, hoped the girls could reach their potential. They have done a great job."