Kelly Hughes scored 19 points and Kerry Malleck added 15 as Point Boro defeated Middle Township, 54-38, in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Girls Basketball State Group 2 semifinals at Deptford High School on Wednesday night.
Boro (23-8) will play Newark's Shabazz at 2 p.m. Sunday at Pine Belt Arena in Toms River.
This will be the second trip to the state finals in the history of the Point Boro girls basketball program; the Panthers defeated Caldwell to win the State Group 2 Championship in 1996.
On Wednesday night, Point Boro held a tenuous 17-13 advantage at the half as Middle Township (24-5) successfully dictated a slow pace during the game's first 16 minutes.
Holding a 24-18 lead early in the third quarter, Boro went on a decisive 11-0 run to increase its lead to 35-18 as the third quarter ended.
The decisive run was capped when Hughes rebounded three of her own misses from close range before banking in a layup, getting fouled and making the free throw for a conventional three-point play.
On a night when the outside shots were not falling, junior forward Jess Macchi battled foul trouble, and junior guard Lauren Hughes missed time with an ankle injury in the second half before gamely returning to action, the Panthers overcame adversity and a strong effort by Middle Township - the South Jersey champion - to get the win and reach their first state final in 16 years.
Kelly Hughes finished the game with 12 rebounds, five steals and four assists; while Malleck - who has taken her game to another level in the later rounds of the state tournament - pitched in with seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.