Reserve funds aid big win over South Plainfield

By: Rich Fisher
   Facing its biggest game to date — because now, they’re all big — the South Brunswick High School girls basketball team was muddling along in the first half against South Plainfield Saturday.
   The Vikings let an 11-2 lead shrink to 11-10, and a 17-10 edge shrivel to 17-15. At that juncture, point guard Janay Barnett went to the bench with three fouls. Junior Indira Morton entered for the final 2:18 of the half.
   The Vikes not only maintained their lead, but expanded on it. Morton nailed a jumper upon entering. After a three-pointer and a jumper by Jess Mastronardi, Morton drained two free throws to give the Vikes a 26-15 halftime lead.
   That cushion enabled South Brunswick (12-0) to withstand a final run by the Tigers (11-2) early in the third quarter, which cut the deficit to 28-25. South Brunswick then went on a 16-1 charge, holding South Plainfield to no field goals for 10:19.When it ended, the Vikes win streak was at 12, the Tigers streak was over at 11, and East Brunswick was looking forward to trying to knock SBHS from the ranks of the unbeaten tonight (Thursday).
   Janelle Payne had 13 rebounds and 17 points (4-for-6 from the field, 9-for-10 from the line), while Jess Mastronardi added 13 points.
   But teams don’t go 12-0 without help from their reserves, and Morton and Jordan Confessore were proof of that Saturday. Aside from Morton’s second-quarter contributions, Confessore hit a three-pointer and grabbed seven rebounds.
   "I got real excited going in there," Morton said. "It was a big game, I’m just trying to do my best. I get excited watching (the starters) play. I study the way the other team plays defense so I know what I have to do to get open when I’m in there."
   Morton did not return to the game, as coach Jaymee Boehmer felt things were going well and wanted to keep a six-girl rotation intact. But Morton’s impact was not lost on the coach.
   "She really gave us a lift," Boehmer said. "We talked about that, I showed her some film yesterday and told her when she goes in she has to give me everything she has, and she did. She’s a great defensive player, we just need her to be more familiar with the plays."
   Confessore, who Boehmer feels could start on most teams, did her usual blue collar job off the bench.
   "I was definitely fired up," Confessore said. "We knew we had to step up and play well. I have to know my role when I get in there and do what I’m told, do the best that I can."
   "Jordan can drive, she can score, she does everything but (play point guard)" Boehmer said. "I think they were all ready to play today."
   The game started with both team’s pressing, but that played into the Tigers’ hands more than the Vikings. Despite the fact South Brunswick never trailed (the only tie was 2-2), the hosts did not pull away until going to a 3-2 zone.
   "The zone slowed things down and they couldn’t get into their transition game," Boehmer said. "We pressed the first half, then we said we should just slow the whole thing down and be patient because they want to run. As long as we continued to rebound and get position we’d be OK. We were getting the foul calls in the second half."
   And they took advantage of them, draining 21 of 23 from the line to offset 11-for-45 from the field.
   Once the Vikes opened a decent lead, they made South Plainfield chase and foul.
   "One of the main things that we don’t do all the time, but we did today, was keep our composure when we needed to," forward Alicia Langone said. "We didn’t let them run their game, we played our game."
   It was a big victory for the Vikings, as it started a string of four straight tough tests against South Plainfield, EB, Hamilton (at home Saturday) and Piscataway (at home Monday).
   This could be a make-or-break week for the Vikes, considering EB and Piscataway are both one game behind them in the Greater Middlesex Conference’s Red Division.
   "This win showed us we can hang with anybody," Confessore said. "Even though we’ve had some not-so-hard games, we stepped up in a big game and got the win."
   Some folks ballyhooed the Viking-Tiger match-up as a potential GMC final, but Boehmer knows it’s too early for that talk.
   "We have to take it one game at a time," Boehmer said. "I don’t even talk about our record. We just need to focus. This is the first time we’ve ever been ranked in the state (13th in the Star-Ledger, 16th in Gannett). We’re thrilled about that and we want to keep working hard.
   "This is a big week. Everything is big now because we have so many wins. A lot is out there."
   And the Vikes have a lot of people — starters and reserves — going after what’s there.
   OVERTIME: Tonight is just the Vikes third road game. "They like playing on the road, but it’s hard to play at East Brunswick’s gym," Boehmer said . . . another key reserve, who did not play Saturday because the rotation was working, is Suzy Miller, who usually supplies a lot of energy when she enters for Payne. "The bench is a big reason for our success," Langone said. "Even the ones who don’t play are cheering and pumping us up. That makes us strong as a team."