MIDDLETOWN, NJ: The most anticipated time of the basketball season is now upon us as the NJSIAA Sectional Tournaments are set to begin in just a few weeks. Count Middletown South High School as being among those girls basketball programs that are prepared for the playoffs, with the power of confidence and team unity on their side.
The Eagles are seeded sixth in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 4 Sectional bracket and they are scheduled to host 11th seed North Brunswick on March 3.
“My seniors have really shown solid leadership, either by example like Stephanie Mayerhofer and Emily Russo who come early, stay late, give maximum effort in everything they do, or positivity like Caitlin O'Connor, who used that positive mental approach to earn a starter's position and has carried it on in helping to keep teammates upbeat through the grind of a season,’’ Middletown South head coach Tom Brennan said. “Kayla Richardson has been an athletic leader-her stats support this, but she rarely is recognized for her insight in not only the game of basketball, but how to use those moments to help you later in the real world.’’
The Eagles have been getting contributions from student athletes throughout the roster this season. “Sophomore Bella Orlando has just steadily improved every day,’’ Brennan said. “She's the kind of kid you root for because she works hard, keeps the big picture in perspective when you get on her about mistakes and takes that criticism constructively. Freshman Abby Doherty was doing the same before being tabled by injury. Being a starting point guard as a freshman is a huge accomplishment and she was really starting to show command and confidence with the ball and her understanding of our offensive philosophy. Hopefully, she gets back on the floor pretty soon.
“Lara Brennan, Abby's backcourt mate as has made the two a defensive pain in the neck to deal with. Add Beth Rankin to that mix and we have been able to turn people over defensively to help generate offense.’’
Collectively, Middletown South has demonstrated steady improvements all winter long.
“I think we are better defensively than we were a month ago, we better be,’’ Brennan said. “This is time of year when you want to make big strides on defense. Our team defensive play is more in synch. Renee Wells has been a big part of that, drawing five charges in the last six games. That kind of sacrifice you don't see much in high school basketball anymore. She's old school in that she will try to do whatever the team needs to be successful.’’
There are some areas at which the Eagles still need to work on at this stage of the season.
“We have had some third quarter power outages offensively, that must change,’’ Brennan said. “Part of that is illness (flu ripped through us and is still hanging around) and injury. But the other part is inexperience. Coaches are good in this state. Half time adjustments and counters are frequent. I think our lack of varsity experience (10 players with little to no varsity time last year), shows up in spots like that and it takes us a while to figure things out. But we're getting better there too.’’
NOTES: Kayla Richardson scored her 1,000 career point on February 1 versus Rumson Fair Haven. She was selected to play in the New Jersey State Senior All Star Game.