By Ken Weingartner
When it comes to winning, the Bordentown High girls’ basketball team gets defensive.
The Scotties, who won six of their first nine games this season and allowed more than 35 points only twice during that span, stress “defensive intensity” first, said head coach Bill Lloyd.
“We mix it up,” he said. “We like to press if we think we can take advantage of it. We’ll play man, we’ll play different zones; we try to keep teams on their toes. We’re athletic. When you have five girls that can run, you can press. That helps when you can get easy layups as opposed to having to work for everything and run sets offensively.”
Bordentown allowed fewer than 20 points in its first three games—all victories—and yielded an average of 28.9 points per game through its first nine contests. In the season opener against Maple Shade, the team had its largest margin of victory in a 61-6 win over Maple Shade.
“Defense wins games,” sophomore point guard Morgan Papp said. “We work on defense every practice. In games, we just have to get on them. As a point guard, it’s not comfortable to have someone close on me. It’s the same for the other team. If we’re on them, we’re going to force them into mistakes and get turnovers.”
Danielle Schenck, a junior forward, reiterated the commitment to defense—even if the action at the other end of the court is more enticing.
“Of course, I think anyone is going to want to score; I think that’s everyone’s part of the game that they like,” Schenck said. “But defense wins games. If we get a really good steal, we’re like, ‘We’ve got this.’ It’s like a feel-good moment and gets the adrenaline going.”
The 6-3 Scotties had high hopes heading into the season.
“We expected to do well this season and next year we’ll do even better,” Papp said. “We’re a young team. Every year we’re just going to take that and build on it.”
In addition to playing solid defense, Papp and Schenck have lead the Scotties offensively. Papp is in her first season with the basketball team after spending her freshman year bowling, though she is no stranger to the sport. She has Bordentown Area Basketball Association, AAU and CYO experience.
“She’s been our leading scorer in a lot of the games,” Lloyd said. “People told me she was a good player, but that’s all I knew. So it’s been a pleasant surprise, and the fact she’s only a sophomore is even more exciting for us as coaches. She stepped in and is doing a terrific job for us.”
And Schenck, he added, is a warrior on the court.
“Danielle is playing a big spot, but she’s not really a tall girl, so every night she battles for us,” Lloyd said.
Papp and Schenck are joined in the starting lineup by guard Cait Nitschmann—the only senior in the starting five—and forwards Brianna Pagnani and Brielle Hudik. Of that group, only Nitschmann saw significant time as a starter last season.
Morgan Irons, Hannah Gavin and Anna Price all have provided sparks off the bench.
“We have a pretty young team,” Lloyd said. “I think we’re growing together as a team and learning how to play together and compete. We play in such a tough division, and when you have young players they have to learn what the league is like and how to compete consistently at that level.”
Although the focus is on defense first, Bordentown is capable at the offensive end, too.
“We have pretty good shooters on our team and we’re really good with moving the ball,” Schenck said. “We’re seeing the openings and passing when it’s necessary and getting the easy layups. We have a lot of quick girls on our team. If we pass it, we’re going. We drive a lot to the basket.”
Many of the girls on the basketball team played sports in the fall, primarily soccer or field hockey, so they are already conditioned. That helped the Scotties hit the court running.
“We’re all athletes, we don’t just play basketball. That’s an advantage,” said Papp, who played soccer. “It’s definitely different, but I like to think if you’re in soccer shape, you’re in basketball shape.”
If the team continues to be successful, it is likely that its defense and camaraderie will be the keys.
“I think in total our team is really close, so we know how each other plays,” Schenck said. “We play really well together. I think that’s our key to success. I didn’t know what to expect this year. I heard a lot of other teams lost some key players, but we did too. I think we’re doing really well.”