Sports

Westfield PAL Academy Girls Win Back-to-Back Basketball Championships

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Players, coaches, parents and grandparents. Credits: Sandeep Talati
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WESTFIELD, NJ — The Westfield PAL fifth grade girls’ Travel A basketball team recently won the Garden State Basketball League’s regular season championship, becoming one of the few teams in North Jersey to win their league championship in consecutive seasons at the A level. The Blue Devils also closed out this season as a top fifth grade girls’ basketball team in Union County following their recent 10-point win against a top team that had been undefeated the entire regular season against Union County’s other A-level travel teams.

Point guard Catie Carayannopoulos’ 14 points were key in the team’s 36-14 win against Bridgewater’s Travel A team, as was her 13-point effort against Ridge’s Travel A team to clinch this year’s championship. Point guard Priscilla Dayon had several double-digit scoring games, including 15 points and 12 points in wins against South Plainfield and Long Valley, respectively. Both Carayannopoulos and Dayon were defensive stoppers against the league’s high scoring guards. Anna Kylish was possibly the league’s best inside defender, and was a consistent high scoring threat driving to the basket or shooting from the outside, including 14 points in the Tewksbury win and a team-leading 10 points in the crucial Randolph win.

Natalie Debowski was a fierce defender on the perimeter and was a consistent scoring threat on the fastbreak, including a high scoring game against Bridgewater. Sophia Gandhi, winner of the Stations Award at a recent college basketball camp, raised her game to a new level this season as the team’s top outside shooter, including a high scoring game against Long Valley. Natalie Horne, the team’s top free throw shooter, sparked the most important quarter of the season, going 2-for-2 from the foul line, driving and dishing to Kylish for a basket and penetrating to create a third score as the team pulled away in the pivotal Randolph victory. 

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Laura Oliveira was a relentless rebounder and a top defender for the Blue Devils, especially in the fourth quarter of close games, and scored two crucial baskets in the team’s win against Tewksbury. Mila Talati was one of the league’s best inside players, having the ability to drive to the basket or shoot the 15-footer, including a 10-point effort against Ridge. Anabel Wheatley’s excellent all-around play was key for the team, including her scoring effort in the win against Mt. Olive. Astrid Wunderle, through her outstanding post defense, shot-blocking and rebounding, was a real difference maker for the Blue Devils this season, as were her two high-scoring games in wins against Randolph and Mendham.

During the team’s championship ceremony, Westfield PAL President John Dugan complimented the girls on their great teamwork, Executive Director Ron Allen noted the decades-long tradition of Westfield PAL basketball and both congratulated the girls on their high level of play and their being back-to-back champions. Said one of the PAL’s coaches: “Todd Kylish, David Oliveira and George Handza are excellent, very dedicated coaches for our team, and the community service of John Dugan, Ron Allen and the other members of the Westfield PAL’s Board have had such a positive impact on our town and our Westfield PAL academy basketball program. We could not be more proud of the girls. These girls are winners on and off the court, and we look forward to what they will accomplish in the future through their continued hard work.”

Pictured: Pictured, left to right, are: kneeling; Priscilla Dayon, Natalie Debowski, Anabel Wheatley, Sophia Gandhi and Natalie Horne; second row, Coach Todd Kylish, Anna Kylish, Catie Carayannopoulos, Mila Talati, Astrid Wunderle, Coach David Oliveira, Laura Oliveira, Westfield PAL President John Dugan and Coach George Handza; back row, parents and grandparents of the Westfield PAL Blue Devils.

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