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Small school, big career for Colleen Maguire


gister a difficult and noteworthy basketball achievement.

That perspective makes Colleen Maguire’s (nee McCrea) career eyepopping. The South Hunterdon star hit the 1,000-point plateau twice.

The only three-time Hunterdon-Warren Tournament MVP, Maguire scored 2,162 career points. “We were naturally an afterthought: this little Group 1 school taking on probably the largest school in Hunterdon County,” Maguire recalled one of her most meaningful prep memories: South Hunterdon’s upset over Hunterdon Central in the 1993 tournament final. The Eagles trailed significantly at halftime and were greeted with “Overrated!” chants during warm-ups.

“Each minute we ate away at that lead. That game wasn’t about me,” Maguire reminded. “It was a complete team effort from every girl. I don’t remember what my stats were and I don’t even care. To come back from 17 points down and win that game was unheard of. Coach (Bill) Panella never lost his confidence in us.”

South Hunterdon also won the 1992 Group 1 state championship. Maguire’s 19-point, 15-rebound performance helped the Eagles defeat Group 4 champion Linden, and future WNBA star Tamecka Dixon, 60-53 in the Tournament of Champions. It is arguably the biggest upset in TOC history.

Maguire won Regional Player of the Year field hockey honors in 1991 while leading South Hunterdon to the last of their remarkable eight straight sectional titles. “I adored our coach, Rita Sweeney. It was a lot of fun but I picked up a stick in August and put it down in November,” Maguire admitted. Basketball served as her college ticket.

In her freshman year at George Washington, Maguire appeared in every game, leaving no doubts about her ability to transition to Division 1. “GW was a small school,” Maguire shared. “I liked its coziness and family feel.” As with Panella, Maguire developed a strong tie with GW coach Joe McKeown.

“The biggest commonality for me was the direct relationship with the coaches,” Maguire continued. “The point guard sets the tone for the rest of the team as far as keeping everyone involved. In college, I didn’t have to score 2,000 points to be successful and I really enjoyed that. I felt that it was my job to make sure that everyone else out there looked good.”

The Colonials went 103-27 and won at least one NCAA tournament game during each of Maguire’s four seasons. They twice reached the Sweet 16.

GW clobbered Georgetown 94-58 in its 1994-1995 home opener. “I was seeing everything that game. The flow of the game was exactly what I liked. I was hitting everyone and having a blast out there,” she recalled. Maguire dished out 14 assists – still tied for the GW single-game record.

Although Maguire, who was inducted into the Colonials’ Hall of Fame in 2009, graduated nearly 23 years ago she still ranks third at GW in career assists and fifth in career steals. Her 109 steals and 197 assists in 1996-1997 stand as the respective second and third-highest single-season totals in GW history.

In the 1997 NCAA regionals, No. 5 seed GW knocked off No. 1 seed North Carolina 55-46 to advance to the Elite Eight. Maguire guarded UNC point guard Marion Jones – who would later win (and be stripped of) three golds in the 2000 Olympics. “Walking out, Coach pats me on the back and says, ‘You’ve got this. She’s really not that fast!’ Maguire smiled. “That was another game like South Hunterdon-Hunterdon Central where we got down early but kept calm and poised and had patience and faith in each other. We picked away at that lead and pulled out the win.”

Off the court, Maguire graduated Summa Cum Laude and earned numerous Atlantic-10 All-Academic Awards. “I always had the perspective that basketball is fun and I want to have success in college but that experience should set me up for the real world,” Maguire pointed out. “Basketball was not going to pay my bills or be my life moving forward.”

Yet indirectly, athletics are still significant in Maguire’s life. In August 2014, after a career as a bank executive, NJSIAA hired her as the director of finance. “It was the perfect fit. I can’t be any happier,” she concluded.