North girls top South for first time

Knights basketball uses fourth-quarter run

By: Bob Nuse
   The West Windsor-Plainsboro North girls’ basketball team had a plan going into Saturday’s showdown with rival WW-P South. And even after a shaky first quarter, the Knights didn’t deviate from that plan.
   "I thought our pressure started to wear them down a little," said North coach Brett Charleston, whose team overcame a 12-3 deficit after the first quarter to record a 55-43 win. "We had a tough first quarter, but there was no yelling or screaming in the huddle between quarters. We just wanted to keep doing what we were doing and eventually it started to work for us."
   The Knights slowly crept back into the game during a second quarter that saw them score 24 points. North took its first lead at 19-18 when Claire Dysart scored off a turnover, then after the Pirates built a 26-23 lead, scored the final four points of the first half for a 27-26 lead at halftime.
   "We weren’t going to take off the press, even after we got down 12-3 in the first quarter," said Charleston, whose team beat South for the first time in school history. "We were down and then we started creating some turnovers and we were right back in the game. Our offense is geared off our pressure defense that creates turnovers and gets us some layups.
   "Our half-court offense is fine, but we really do our best when we’re causing turnovers and playing more aggressive. That’s how we score."
   The Knights caused 28 turnovers in the game, which was the biggest reason they were able to earn their first win over their sister school.
   "We had 28 turnovers," lamented South coach Beth Fitzpatrick, whose team fell to 4-4 with the loss. "You can’t turn the ball over that much and expect to win. You have to give North credit because they executed and did their stuff. We knew they were going to mix it up between the 1-2-2 and 2-2-1 press and trap. We just didn’t do a good job against it."
   Even so, the game was tied at 38-38 heading into the fourth quarter. But the Knights opened the quarter with a 10-0 run to take command with a 48-38 lead. Regina Potter started the run with a basket, then Dysart and Sam Yang added hoops to make it a six-point lead. Dysart added two more baskets to close out the run and give the Knights a 10-point lead.
   "It feels really good to finally beat South," said Dysart, who shared team-high scoring honors with Brooke Wiener with 12 points. "We played them close the last two years and we felt like last year we could have won the game. This year we came in ready to play."
   The win was the third straight for the Knights, who improved to 7-4 on the season. After losing three starters to graduation, the young team has come on and played very well in the early part of this season.
   "As a team, we’re coming together faster than we have other years," Dysart said. "We’re pretty young compared to other teams, but we just work hard and try to get better all the time."
   "They’re coming together quickly," Charleston added. "I have high expectations, but we are a young team. We have three sophomores and two juniors who see a lot of playing time. And we’re getting great leadership from our four seniors. So the combination has really come together.
   "This is just a different group of kids than we’ve had in the past. They’re very loose and energetic. They have a killer instinct and they really want to go after it."
   Even after a first quarter in which the Knights didn’t make a shot, they never lost confidence and were able to eventually grab control of the game.
   In addition to the 12 points apiece from Dysart and Wiener, the Knights received 10 points from Yang and eight from Potter. The Pirates were led by Kelly Kasper, who scored all 11 of her points in the second half. Jenna Shaugnessy chipped in with 10 points and Keri Denaro had seven.
   In the end, it was just too many turnovers by the Pirates and opportunistic play by the Knights that made the difference, giving North its first win in the rivalry.