South Eagles in the finals

By: John Powers
   After making it to the Central Jersey Group I final last year, then seeing six seniors graduate in June, the South Hunterdon Regional High School girls basketball team had a daunting task ahead.
   It had to replace a solid group of players, then take on the rugged competition in the Skyland Conference Raritan Division.
   It turns out head coach Lori Daniel and senior leaders Breanna Fulper, Casey Slack and Amanda Garefino have done well enough to compile a 9-5 record so far and qualify for the Central Jersey Group I tournament.
   The Eagles clinched a spot Friday night with a 67-44 win over Delaware Valley. The cutoff date for the state tournament is this Saturday. The state pairings should be released a week from Thursday. One statewide Group I poll had the Eagles ranked eighth in the state last week.
   "Before the season, we ask them what goals do they have, and the team goal is always to make the states," Daniel said. "It’s absolutely a big accomplishment for our team."
   Fulper, a forward, scored 14 of her career-high 35 points during the second quarter when South took a 42-27 halftime lead. Fulper was 10-for-12 from the free throw line during that period. Garefino had 12 points, and Slack had 11.
   "Garefino has really picked up her game," Daniel said. "And (junior guard) Nicole (Sturick) and (junior forward) Chelsea (Fulper) have done well. All five starters are starting to gel. We lost six starters last year so this is something new to these kids."
   The Eagles have lost twice to Raritan Division champion Belvidere, which is 14-1, and to Somerville, which is 12-4. The team’s other loss has been to 12-3 Pennington.
   South Hunterdon will have the week off until Saturday when it plays host to Science High School of Newark at 12:30 p.m.
   "We really don’t know who we’re going to play (in the state tournament)," Daniel said.
   Last year, the Eagles were the fourth seed, beating No. 5 Manville and top-seeded New Providence before falling to Dayton 45-35 in the sectional final. Dayton lost to South Jersey champion Salem in the state semifinal.