Lions gathering steam as state playoffs approach

first_img Slew of local teams playing for playoff berths this week By warren rappleyea Staff Writer CHRIS KELLY Middletown North’s Jackie Matthew shoots over a Red Bank Regional defender during the Lions’ win in Red Bank on Saturday. An outstanding defense that has held opponents to 31 points or less in eight games has propelled the Middletown High School North girls’ basketball team to an 11-4 mark. The Lions are coming off an uncharacteristic 49-46 victory over Red Bank Regional on Saturday. Down early 12-2, Middletown South scraped its way back into the game led by senior guard Jackie Matthew, who scored 19 points, including 12 of them in the final quarter. Coach Ed Jones said his team is in good shape to qualify for both the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV and Shore Conference tournaments, but noted that Middletown North would like to ensure opening both events on its home court. That means the next six games will be particularly important. The Lions were scheduled to host Howell on Monday and will entertain Ocean tomorrow, before visiting Bayonne on Saturday, the cutoff for the state tourney. Next week Middletown North will face Marlboro, Long Branch and Old Bridge before the Shore’s Feb. 14 cutoff. CHRIS KELLY Middletown North’s Jessie Chalmers pulls down a rebound during the Lions’ win over Red Bank Regional on Saturday. “These are very important games for us,” Jones said. “We can’t just sit back and think that 11 wins is enough to get a couple of home games. We have to keep working hard to make sure.” So far the Lions have worked plenty hard. Middletown North’s defense has been solid throughout, allowing opponents an average of just 35 points. While Jones said his offense “is not where I’d like it to be,” the attack has, nevertheless, produced results. Senior forward Jesse Chalmers leads the team with a 12-point average, followed by Matthew, who averages 9 points. Junior center Michelle Dean has come on after a slow start to average eight points and six rebounds, and senior point guard Kim Campo is averaging six points and 2.5 assists despite playing with a sprained knee. Sophomore guard Laura Depko rounds out the starting lineup and has proved to be an excellent defender who leads the Lions in steals. Senior Kasey Killeen and her sister Jesse, a sophomore, are the first forwards off the bench. Kasey Killeen has been slowed in recent weeks by a sprained ankle but is close to 100 percent, Jones said. Bryanna O’Reilly, a junior, is the top backcourt reserve. “Championship teams are built on defense, and that’s our strength,” Jones said. “That’s what we’ll be counting on for the tourneys.” Only two other local teams entered the week assured of a state playoff berth, while a handful of locals needed big weeks to extend their seasons. Both St. John Vianney, ranked No. 3 in the Shore, and Holmdel, ranked 10th, are in, regardless of this week’s results. The Lady Lancers are 11-2, having lost their second game of the season on Saturday against Elizabeth, 44-40. Head coach Bob Ward’s team may not have the firepower of years past, but they are led by a pair of gutsy seniors in Shannon Coyle and Jaime Komar. Add to the mix sophomore point guard Shantel Brown, a dangerous offensive force despite playing on a bad ankle all year, and a trio of promising freshmen, Courtney Calderon, Jessica Nimbley and Kristine Perez, and Vianney is certainly a contender in both the state and Shore tournaments. Holmdel entered Monday’s game against Raritan at 10-5 and has quietly established itself as a postseason threat. The Hornets are led by the scoring duo of senior Dana Hoffman (13 ppg) and junior Julian Vikse (12 ppg), while senior Ashley Folchetti has shown a knack for spreading the ball around, averaging almost four assists a game. Holmdel looks to gain momentum this week as it looks ahead to the postseason. A win over Raritan on Monday would do quite a bit to boost the team’s confidence. Raritan is among the handful of teams looking to clinch a postseason berth this week. The Rockets entered Monday’s game at 8-7 and in desperate need of a win. After making it to the Central Jersey Group II final last year, the Rockets have struggled with consistency this year despite having one of the Shore’s premier players in senior Kelly Robinson (17 ppg), and solid backcourt of seniors Adriana Velez (three ppg) and Amanda Harmata (11 ppg). Raritan needs a win this week to qualify for the state tournament, where they were expected to be one of the teams to beat when the season began. The Mater Dei Seraphs are another team in need of some wins this week at 6-8 entering Monday’s game with Asbury Park. The Seraphs also need to beat Keansburg tomorrow to get a berth. The Seraphs have played well this year under head coach Darren Ault, and are led by the scoring duo of senior Dana Page (12 ppg) and senior Sarah McCarthy (11 ppg). Keyport’s girls are also on the bubble, and entered Monday’s game at Point Beach at 7-7. The Red Raiders are looking to make the postseason for the first time since 1995, when they won the Group I championship. Senior Jamie Boyce (18 ppg) leads this season’s contingent, which needs just two wins this week to achieve their goal of making the state playoffs. Middletown South’s girls entered Monday’s game against Manalapan at 6-9 and in need of three wins this week to make the playoffs. The Eagles will host Red Bank Regional tomorrow and Ocean on Saturday. Going three-for-three this week is a tough proposition, but the Eagles have performed well this year with their backs to the wall. — Doug McKenzie contributed to this story Slew of local teamsplaying for playoffberths this week By warren rappleyeaStaff Writer last_img

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