OCEAN CITY — The Rancocas Valley girls basketball team may have taken a few pointers from host Ocean City in the first half of the opening game of the Jack Boyd Memorial Doubleheader that closes out the Ocean City PBA Tipoff Weekend each year. Ocean City used pressure defense to force the Red Devils into a slew of turnovers in the second quarter that helped the Red Raiders build a 33-26 lead.

In the fourth quarter, Rancocas Valley returned the favor on Ocean City’s young guards and the Red Devils outscored Ocean City 22-8 in the fourth quarter to post a 60-53 victory.

Ocean City — which graduated several starters from last year’s team that reached the South Jersey Group 3 championship game — took a 45-38 lead into the fourth quarter, but with 4:38 left Lexi Linton tied the game at 50 by draining a 3-pointer. Two minutes later she went baseline for a layup that stretched the lead to 55-50, then added another driving layup with less than a minute to go after the Red Raiders had cut the deficit to 55-52 on an inside bucket by Lauren Mirsky.

R.V.’s Kayla Williams finished off the Red Raiders with a pair of free throws with 38 seconds left that gave the Red Devils a 59-52 lead.

“She’s fantastic. She looked like that on film, too,” Ocean City coach Paul Baruffi said of Linton, who finished with a game-high 26 points and added five steals. “But that’s why we’re playing teams like this. We pressed and that helped us, and a couple of times we got them to turn it over late, but they just, athletically, made plays on us. Even when we did stop them they got boards and we fouled them.

“(Our) pressure helped us when we needed it, but they are a very good team. And we’re playing some very good teams early on,” he added. “We have a lot of new faces, but I thought we did some really good things. I thought when we kept our composure we make plays, but we lost our composure with the pressure, and their length bothered us.”

Inside-outside game: Ocean City was down early, but came storming back in the second quarter by going down low to players like Mirsky and senior Emma Finnegan, then kicking the ball out to senior guard Abbey Fenton, who connected on three 3-pointers and finished with 13 points. After R.V. had taken a 22-18 lead, Fenton drained a three to pull the Red Raiders within one, 22-21, then Finnegan fed Mirsky on the break and Marin Panico converted a traditional 3-point play off a Marlee Brestle steal as the Red Raiders took a 26-22 lead.  Freshman Avery Jackson nailed a three later in the second quarter to push the lead to 31-24, and Ocean City took a seven-point lead into halftime.

Pressure-packed: The turning point, however, came midway through the second half when Rancocas Valley went to its pressure defense and forced Ocean City’s inexperienced guards into a bunch of turnovers in about a three-minute span that saw the Red Devils climb back from a 48-41 deficit to tie the game, 50-50. In all, Ocean City was forced into 27 turnovers, and R.V. collected 20 steals. Perhaps a contributing factor was the Red Raiders being without senior guard Delaney Lappin, who is recovering from an injury suffered late in the soccer season. She likely won’t return until the second week of January.

“We knew that (pressure) is what they do and we did practice against it, but it’s not the same when you get out here and are playing against them. They were at six fouls and we needed to get that next foul to be able to get to the foul line and maybe stop them from coming up on us like that,” Baruffi said. “We’re down Delaney Lappin, who is a veteran player, and that hurts. But when the pressure comes like that it can go one way or another, and tonight it went against us. But it’s early and I scheduled teams like this, and Washington Township, Cherokee and Lenape early because — let’s face it — if you want to be there at the end of the year these are the types of teams you have to go against. We’re not ducking anybody. I think we have one of the toughest schedules in South Jersey, so this has to be a positive learning experience.”

Despite the loss, Baruffi said he did see some things he liked from his young lineup, and the new starters will continue to get tested as the Red Raiders (1-1) face Washington Township, Cherokee, Holy Spirit and Absegami all before Jan. 15.

“The other girls have stepped up. One girl I put out there tonight, Avery Jackson, is a freshman. All these girls have potential,” Baruffi said. “I thought Marlee and Marin, for being new, played well and did their best. They pressure got to us, but I told them that’s on me, too, to figure out how we can better go against it, break it, and do what we have to do to be more successful.”

Stat sheet: Williams shot 50 percent from the field and finished with 16 points for R.V. while also adding seven rebounds and three steals, and Kylie Bradford and Adriana Agosto combined for 13 points and 10 rebounds. For Ocean City, Mirsky led the way with 14 points while Finnegan had seven points and 10 rebounds. Brestle chipped in with three points, four rebounds, six assists and seven steals. Fenton finished with 13 points, three rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals.

What’s next: Ocean City takes on Washington Township at noon on Dec. 27 at the Cherokee Showcase. Rancocas Valley travels to Trenton Catholic on Jan. 2.

Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays

More From 97.3 ESPN