Sometimes a game is almost over before it starts. When the High School South girls basketball team traveled North to Plainsboro to face its archrival on January 11, the team was hoping to use the game as a steppingstone toward the state playoffs. ##M:[more]## North, with a few more wins under its belt, was hoping to provide more consistency with an offense that shows spurts of domination.
In front of a huge crowd as the first game of a North-South doubleheader (the boys started immediately afterwards), the Lady Knights dominated the game early, ahead 18-1 at the end of the first quarter. The Pirates played tough the rest of the game, matching the Knight’s 12 points in the second quarter, and being outscored by three points in the third and just one in the fourth quarter.
In the end, North came away with a 54-33 win. Junior forward Flynn Eisenman led the way with 14 points including four free throws. Junior forward Regina Potter scored 11 points, with five free throws. Senior guard Samantha Yang had nine points, followed by junior forward Brooke Wiener’s eight. For the Pirates, senior forward Kelly Kasper led with 10 points, followed by junior forward Kristina Shemming’s nine and Keely Farren, a senior, four.
South will have an opportunity to even the score when it hosts its final regular season game against North on Tuesday, February 22, at 5:30 p.m. (Followed by a rematch of the boys’s teams at 7:30 p.m.)
High School South
Despite being a co-captain on a team with a 2-9 record, High School South senior forward Kelly Kasper understands that success on the court must be taken in the right perspective.
Growing up with an older sister, Erin, who is mentally retarded, Kasper has a unique perspective on the joys and challenges of working with children with special needs. She already has worked extensively with Special Olympics and the LARKS special education program in West Windsor-Plainsboro and will attend Wagner University on Staten Island in the fall to study special education.
“I enjoy it a lot and I relate to them really well,” she says. “Growing up with my sister, I really understand some of what they go through. It is very rewarding work. They remember me and greet me each time I come.” Kasper also sees the beneficial part that sports can play in everyone’s life experience and uses it in her work. “My father played football at Villanova, Katie (her other sister) played soccer and basketball, and Erin plays soccer, softball, goes swimming, runs track and field, and enjoys bowling in Special Olympics.”
Apart from teaching, Kasper says that coaching could one day be in her future. “I have no idea what I might wind up coaching, but if I get the opportunity I would have to do it,” she says. Kasper’s father works as a marketing executive and her mother is the school nurse at High School North.
An full-fledged star on the Pirates’ volleyball team, Kasper played center and right-side hitter while leading the Pirates to the second round of the state tournament last fall. She signed a letter-of-intent last fall to play at Wagner. In addition to playing volleyball all four years at North, Kasper has also played softball each spring and basketball every winter. “I think volleyball is a greatly overlooked sport,” she says. “Not much gets written or said about us, but it is a lot of fun to play.”
Kasper also currently plays for a travel volleyball team, the Atlantic Adrenalins. “It’s time consuming because we play about three times a week and the practices are an hour’s drive away,” she says. “But I love it. It is my favorite sport.”
Heading into this basketball season, Kasper (along with co-captains Kristina Shemming and Keely Farren) expected to compete for the top of the Colonial Division of the CVC. But despite their best efforts, things have not worked out that way. “We play teams tough, but we haven’t been able to make that final push in order to get the win,” she says. “Against Trenton we played extra hard and were all pumped up for the game, but other times we just have these off days. It’s kind of frustrating.”
The Pirates had been without the services of Kasper, their top inside player, until January with an injured foot. After notching a 12-11 season last year under fifth-year coach Beth Fitzpatrick, the Pirates have struggled under first-year coach Bryon Conover. South’s only win in its first nine games came against a winless out-of-conference team; Life Center Academy in Burlington on December 20.
“Some girls had some issues with Coach Conover early in the season, but I never have,” says Kasper. “They thought that Beth was gone, but she’s still teaching here. We can still talk with her. She’s just not our coach. They just needed to get over that.”
Kasper also refuses to blame the coaching transition for the team’s troubles this season. “Coach Conover has worked really hard for us all season,” she says. “Maybe some players have not coped with him that well, but despite our record, we are getting better.”
There are indications that Kasper is right. In their first game after the North showdown on January 14, the Pirates took their frustrations out on Allentown, 48-29. Kasper had 10 points while junior Khara Lewin added 14 points. Freshman Becky Peters, clearly a force for the future, had 10 points. The Pirates’ top scorer this season, Peters is 13th leading scorer in the CVC with 106 points for a 10.6 points-per-game average. But that victory was followed by a loss to Union, 51-37, on January 18.
Kasper is still hopeful that the team’s low point of the season against North can be used in a positive way for the remainder of the season. While she says she doesn’t wish to make excuses, Kasper believes that the one hour delay in starting time for the North game (because of the late arrival of the referees) may have contributed to the team’s poor showing. “We were very pumped up for that game and the delay did throw us off a bit,” she says. “We ran out there and did our warmup and then had to do the whole thing over again. When you are that focused as we were before, it was a bit of a shock.”
South will play Friday, January 21, at Steinert at 7 p.m. South then will play at Notre Dame on Tuesday, January 25, at 4 p.m. and then at home again against Lawrence at 7 p.m. on Friday, January 28. South then will play at Hightstown, Tuesday, February 1, at 7 p.m.
High School North
Consistency has not come easily for the High School North girls basketball team this season. Starting out against two of the top teams in the CVC — Steinert and Trenton — resulted in two quick losses. But sometimes being in the hole early helps a team play desperately and the Knights are hoping that results in a state playoff bid.
After finishing 14-11 overall last year (and second place in the Patriot Division of the CVC), the team started out with limited expectations. Heading into their fifth season under coach Brett Charleston, the Lady Knights were already in a rebuilding mode with only three seniors. While point guard Samantha Yang and forwards Jesse Rockoff and Claire Dysart have contributed, some of the younger Knights have managed to sparkle in some key games.
Charleston realized that he didn’t have an explosive offense that can put 50 points on the board each game and he usually wins or loses by the turnover ratio. Defense was going to be the key and rather than win games, the Knights would focus on not losing them.
After the early season slump, North notched some big wins over North Brunswick (66-21) on December 23, DelVal (43-40) on December 27, and Lawrence (48-24) on January 4. In the War of the World holiday tournament — initiated by Coach Charleston two years ago — the host Knights battled in the opener against DelVal right to the end, narrowly winning, 43-40.
Despite an equally heroic effort two nights later against Bishop Ahr, North fell, 55-46. Sophomore Liz Tang scored eight points in the second quarter (and 10 in the game) as the Knights fought back from a 17-12 deficit to take a 23-18 lead with two minutes left in the first half. This was shortly after Tang registered back-to-back steals, scoring on a foul shot and then earning a three-point play. But North’s defense faltered in the second half and Bishop Ahr opened a six-point lead in the fourth quarter. In the end, Yang led the Knights in scoring with 12 points while junior Flynn Eisenman also scored 10 points.
In fact, North’s ability to play defense has been the most consistent part of the arsenal this season. Third in the CVC in team defense (allowing just 37.7 points-per-game) North has played steady in-your-face style that is short on finesse but long on fundamentals.
Juniors Lauren Lentine, Regina Potter, Brooke Wiener, as well as Rockoff, Dysart, and Yang have been the bulwarks, blocking shots, rebounding, and stealing the ball in key situations.
Offensively, the Knights have managed to win games by limiting their opponents’ scoring opportunities, rather than outshooting them. They are in the middle of the pack of CVC scoring. Eisenman is the team’s top scorer with 89 total points (8.1 points per game), followed by Wiener (88 points), Potter (76 points), Yang (75), and Dysart (47 points).
The Knights have shown some fire-power while still looking to become more consistent in the big-pressure situations. Against South, North was able to swarm the Pirates early. Another bright spot was knocking Nottingham from the ranks of the undefeated with a win, 37-28, on January 6. Junior forward Brooke Wiener led the way for WW-P North with nine points, while junior Flynn Eisenman added eight points, and fellow junior Lauren Lentine had seven points.
Then on January 9, the Knights faced Phillipsburg and won, 51-24. This time it was junior Regina Potter’s 12 points and nine rebounds along with two steals that led the Knights while Wiener basketed 11 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
Apart from win over South, the high point of the season was the overtime victory over Hamilton, 49-46, on January 18. It was a welcome measure of revenge for Charleston. Five years ago — in the first year of the program and his first as a head coach — Hamilton humiliated the Knights, 71-11. This year, North trailed after the first quarter, 17-8, but fought back in the second half. With 16-seconds left in regulation, Hamilton had a three point lead and the ball. But the Knights got the ball back on a turnover with 11 seconds left and Lentine hit a 3-pointer to tie things up with eight seconds to play. Potter put North ahead with less than two minutes in overtime, 43-41, and Tang added a basket and four free throws to cement the win.
North will play a home game on Friday, January 21, at 7 p.m. against Hightstown. North then plays at South Brunswick, Saturday, January 22, at 2:30 p.m. and at Ewing on Tuesday, January 25, at 7 p.m. The next two games are at home, against Princeton on Thursday, January 27, at 7 p.m. and Hopewell Valley, Tuesday, February 1, at 7 p.m.
Boys Basketball: Another Squeaker
by Jack Florek
Despite lukewarm records both North and South boys basketball teams were the toast of the town in the dramatic battle of January 11. South squeaked out a win by a single basket, 55-53.
Down by six points late in the game, South’s Erik JaJalla scored on three key free throws to propel the Pirates to the victory in front of a standing-room only crowd. In the last four meetings, each team has won two, with the all four games being decided by a total of nine points.
Following the win over the Knights, the Pirates dropped their next two games, to Allentown and Rancocas Valley, by an average of 19 points. With a 4-7 record, South still is hoping to make the state playoffs. Matt Howell is the team’s top point scorer with 194 points for an average of nearly 20 points per game.
North, with a 3-10 record, followed the South game with three quick losses: to Notre Dame, Delaware Valley and Hamilton. Juniors Conor Hayes (174 points) and John Byrnes (154) have been impressive.
People in Sports
Rashanna Edwards, a 2004 graduate of High School South, scored 12 points and three assists for the University of the Sciences women’s basketball team in a 68-49 victory over Dominican College on January 9. She leads the team this season with 4.0 assists.
and is among the team leaders in rebounds (3.5), steals (2.0), and points per game (7.2).
J.T. Hutchinson, a 2004 graduate of High School South and son of baseball coach Don Hutchinson, finished his sophomore season on the University of Pennsylvania sprint football team. He was the league leader in rushing with 741 yards on 120 carries to go along with his team leading 11 rushing touchdowns. A Collegiate Sprint Football League first-team all-star, Hutchinson averaged 20.6 yards per pass reception, had 10 kick returns for 181 yards, and also had 1,"089 all-purpose yards. In addition he had a team high 69-yard touchdown reception. He was also second on the team in total offense, with 123.5 yards per game, and third in receiving yards, with 165.
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