South girls feelin’ green during MCT loss

Hun, Stuart fall in prep basketball semifinals

By: Justin Feil
   Green seemed a fitting color for the West Windsor-Plainsboro High South girls’ basketball team Wednesday.
   Several of the top Pirates were sick or injured for their Mercer County Tournament quarterfinal against Pennington Prep, yet they hung close until it caught up.
   On the bus ride to the game, Jenna Shaughnessy lost her lunch, yet she played in the game. Dana Lachenmayer and Kristina Shemming also played despite having bronchitis. Kelly Kasper did not play, however, due to a severely sprained ankle. That combination was a bit much as the Pirates’ offense also looked far from healthy.
   At halftime, seventh-seeded WW-PS trailed No. 2 seed Pennington by just five points. Of course, that deficit represented half the Pirates’ total of 10 points after 16 minutes, and therein laid one big problem.
   Kasper, the Pirates’ leading scorer, was still unavailable after going down with the injury against Hamilton last week. Without her, WW-P South struggled to score, struggled even more so than they had all season, in a 36-19 loss.
   "We’re trying to play through everything," said South head coach Beth Fitzpatrick, whose squad plays an MCT consolation game at Hopewell Valley 4 p.m. today. "I was hoping we’d score 37 points and they’d score 36. It didn’t quite happen that way. And to boot, Hopewell lost by two to Nottingham, who we’ve beaten, and if we beat Pennington, we could have gone to the finals."
   Instead, Fitzpatrick will search out an early-week game to prepare the Pirates for their state tournament opener March 1 at Freehold. She expects by then that her team will be fully recovered.
   "Just not having Kelly Kasper hurt us," Fitzpatrick said. "That right there was it. They put so much pressure on our guards, and she brings that other side. She would have been there for those weakside rebounds, and she would have gotten layups and they wouldn’t have gotten out on Keri (Denaro, South’s top three-point shooter) so much.
   "Defensively we did an awesome job. Kylee Rossi (the Pennington guard) is so fast, but we did great. At one point, we played defense for almost two minutes, and then she threw in a three and she doesn’t normally make a lot of them."
   In its lowest point total of the season, WW-P South had difficulty throwing in any baskets. Lachenmayer had six points and Denaro had a pair of three-pointers to account for more than a half of the Pirates points, but WW-P South’s offense never got untracked against Pennington. There, however, were chances.
   "We missed so many chip shots," Fitzpatrick said. "We scored five points and they scored six in the third so it was only 21-15 at the end of the third. Then, they scored 13 and we only scored four. Offensively, we couldn’t score. They played man and we beat their press every time. We just missed so many chippies."
   The Pirates, who slipped to 9-9 will try to bounce back against Hopewell Valley, whom they defeated, 51-46, in the regular Colonial Valley Conference season.
   "We had much more offense," noted Fitzpatrick, who formerly coached at Hopewell before moving to WW-P. "Their loss to us is what turned their season around. They turned around and beat Notre Dame after losing to us. It’s going to be a great game."
   West Windsor-Plainsboro North will also be looking for more offense when it hosts Steinert in a consolation tonight. The fifth-seeded Knights managed only three field goals in a 40-17 loss at fourth-seeded Trenton on Wednesday. Regina Potter led WW-PN with seven points.
   "We played a zone defense for first time this year, and I thought it was pretty effective," said North head coach Brett Charleston after his team slipped to 12-8. "We held them to 40 points. They missed shots but we were unable to box them out and they got a lot of rebounds. Their athleticism hurt us there. We did what we wanted, but didn’t box out.
   "On offense, we couldn’t hit a shot. Our outside shooters couldn’t hit a shot. And we missed six or seven shots inside. We only made three shots. Defensively thought we played well."
   The Knights now try to defeat a Steinert team that they beat once before — in the first game of the season. That win was their first in program history against the Spartans.
   "They did have two girls injured and they’re back now," Charleston said. "It’s going to be a tough game for us. Hopefully the kids want to bounce back. Steinert will be a good test for us. They have a good post player and a good point guard. They’re similar to Hopewell Valley, who we play in the states."
   Princeton High, which lost, 55-19, to Hopewell Valley in the MCT opener on Monday, came back to win its third game of the season, 47-31, over Hightstown in an MCT consolation game Wednesday. Erin Cook scored 14 points, Kelly Curtis had 12 points and Eliza Stasi added 11 points for the balanced attack. PHS plays at Hamilton tonight.
   The state runs for both The Hun School and Stuart teams ended Wednesday to end the season for both. Hun stayed with second-seeded Blair for three quarters, but couldn’t pull out the upset in a 52-43 loss in the Prep A semifinals. Shantee Darrian had 15 points and Mary Stinson added 14 points for the Raiders, who finished their season 15-9.
   Stuart’s balanced attack wasn’t enough to stop top-seeded Rutgers Prep in a 74-29 loss. Maya Thompson had a team-high six points for the Tartans, who fell to 7-8.
   A lack of offense seemed a theme in most of the area teams’ losses Wednesday. The Pirates had hoped to remain in the winners’ bracket, but with each miss, that vision was harder to see.
   "How are you going to win when you score 19 points?" Fitzpatrick asked. "Kelly Kasper gives us like 15 points per game. But offensively we have a hard time scoring points. But giving up (only) 36 points is pretty darn good."
   That defense has always been a trademark of Fitzpatrick’s teams. In the one thing they couldn’t defend — free throws — Hopewell visited the line 16 times and made seven. In their Prep B tournament win, they missed all 12 of their free throw attempts.
   It was that sort of change that seemed to go along with giving the Pirates a green day. It started even before the bus ride over with an injured Kasper forced out to the sideline, and by the end of the game Wednesday there was a new shade of green for the Pirates.
   It was green for envy as the Pennington girls’ basketball team advanced to the MCT semifinals with a win over WW-P South.