SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - There were plenty high moments for South Plainfield High School during the 2016-2017 winter high school sports season. With the season officially in the books, here’s a recap of how the year went for all of South Plainfield’s teams.
Girls basketball: If there’s any team that surpassed expectations this year, it’s South Plainfield’s girls basketball team. The graduation of 1000-point scorer Sara Cargill last spring seemed to put the Lady Tigers in a tough spot heading into the 2016-2017 season. South Plainfield managed to overcome their inexperience though, and put forth an impressive season 12-16 season that featured a home playoff win.
After losing four of their first six games, the Lady Tigers caught on fire and went on a six game winning streak, all of which came against Greater Middlesex Conference opponents. The last win of that streak, a 45-41 win over a tough Metuchen team, gave South Plainfield their eighth win in the first half of the season, which earned them a spot in the state tournament, and their first home state tournament game since 2012.
The Lady Tigers took advantage of their home court advantage in the first round of the North 2 Group 3 tournament by dominating a 17-8 Belleville team 61-36. In the next round, South Plainfield fell to the eventual sectional champions Somerville 70-42.
There were many contributors to the Lady Tigers’ success this season, but two of the biggest factors were undoubtedly senior guard Caity Hughes and freshman forward Mackenzie O’Brien. O’Brien proved herself to be one of the strongest newcomers in the conference by averaging 12 points and 11 rebounds per game and racking up 15 double-doubles on the season, five of which came during South Plainfield’s mid-season winning streak. Hughes was a leader on both sides of the floor, as she led the team in scoring with 13 points per game, and steals with five per game.
The 144 steals Hughes came up with this season gave her the 11th most steals in the state, and made her the owner of South Plainfield’s single season steals record. In her last game for the team, Hughes surpassed the school record for career steals (now 277). Junior Syleen Reyes led the team in assists by recording 73 on the season.
Boys basketball: The South Plainfield boys basketball team persevered through a rough opening to their season to finish a 12-14 record, their most season wins in a decade.
After kicking off the year with a 69-60 home win over conference rival Middlesex, the Tigers hit a major rough patch and dropped nine straight losses in a row. A 14-point performance from senior Dylan O’Connor and seven assists from junior Jalil Palms helped the Tigers edge out a 56-53 win over Metuchen to end their cold streak. South Plainfield traded wins and losses for most of the season after that, and eventually ended up enjoying a four game winning streak that was ended in the first round of the GMC tournament in a loss to Woodbridge.
The Tigers made an appearance in the North 2 Group 3 sectional tournament, where they were ousted by second-seeded Chatham in the first round.
Senior Will McLaughlin led the team in scoring with 12.5 points per game. Senior Deshai Smith controlled the boards averaging over five rebounds a game.
Girls bowling: Another standout season from junior Lanasia Neal helped lead the South Plainfield girls bowling team to a 14-2-2 team record and a division title.
Neal bowled a combined 623 to lead the Lady Tigers to a season-opening 4-0 win over South River. South Plainfield would go on to win six straight before dropping one to Edison. The Lady Tigers’ only other loss of the regular season came at the hands of Carteret. An 11-1 record against Blue division competition gave South Plainfield their second straight division title.
The Lady Tigers made a run in the GMC tournament, but was eliminated by the eventual winner, Monroe, in the semifinals.
In the individual conference tournament, Neal rolled a 212 to take home her first GMC crown. The junior standout rolled a 1,356 series to take home a fifth place finish in the state tournament after taking first place last year, and also finished second in the Central Jersey Winter Classic, and second in the North Jersey Singles Classic. Neal, who earned all first team state, conference, and division honors, had a high score of 279. Senior Chelsea Alers rolled a season high of 212 to earn Blue division honors.
Boys bowling: South Plainfield’s boys bowling team rolled their way to a 10-6 season record to earn a spot in a three way tie for the Blue division title. The title win was the first time the Tigers had taken home a division crown since the 1990-1991 season.
The Tigers were led throughout the season by junior roller Angelo Salici. Salici bowled a six game series 1350 in the tournament qualifier before falling to the eventual tournament winner Cameron Laplant in a stepladder match. Salici ended his season with first team all-conference and division honors and bowled a season high game of 279. Michael Menkin earned all Blue division honors.
Indoor track and field: There were plenty of standout performances this year for both the girls and boys indoor track and field programs. Junior shotputter Brianna Atkinson posted another stellar season for the Tigers. The junior thrower took home a fourth place finish in the GMC Championships by tossing a season best 34 feet and 11 inches. Atkinson also placed second in the Junior Class section of the Howell Shot Put Series, and took second at the Merli Invitational.
Sophomore Samantha Pullen posted a personal record and took home a first place finish in the Merli Invitationals’ 55 Meter Dash with a 7.92. Sophomore high jumper Tiffany Parajon took a first place finish in the Merli Invitational and went on to take a third place finish in the NJSIAA Central Group 2 Sectionals with a personal best jump of 4’10.
Senior Martese Jones led the way for the boys team, and his season culminated with an impressive third place finish in the Meet of Champions’ 55 meter dash with a season best 6.51 finish. Along the way, Jones took second place in the Group 2 championships and the Central Group 2 sectional championships, fifth in the GMC Championships and first in the Ed Grant Last Chance Meet. The senior sprinter made NJ.com’s third All-State team.
Jones, Raeon Cohen, Michael DeAngelis, and Caleb Kuberiet took fourth place in the GMC Championship’s 4x200 relay and seventh place in the Group 2 state relays.
Senior pole vaulter Josh Ward posted a season best 14’00 to take fourth place in the Meet of Champions, and took second in the Group 2 championships and fourth in the Central Group 2 sectionals.
Senior Nam Le took home a bronze in the GMC Championships’ shot put competition with a 43’ 5.25 throw. DeAngelis took second in the GMC Championship’s High Jump with a 6’2, and went on to take a silver medal in the sectionals, and earned a fifth place finish in the Group 2 championships.
The boys team won the Blue Division Relay and Blue Division Individual Championships.
Swimming: Sophomore swimmer Alyza Zigga broke South Plainfield’s 200 yard individual medley school record with a time of 2:23.34. Junior Grace Sesta took the fastest 500-yard freestyle time with a 6:52.69. Junior Michael Stanczak owns the school record for the boy’s 50-yard freestyle with a 26.65.