Eagles heading to tourney

By: John E. Powers
   Head coach Lori Daniel figures if the South Hunterdon High School girls basketball team were to have a difficult week, last week was the time to have it.
   The Eagles, gearing up for both the Hunterdon-Warren and Central Jersey Group I tournaments, dropped a 36-34 decision at North Plainfield (4-15) on Feb. 9. The night before, the team escaped with a 51-45 win against North Warren (5-14). The Eagles had beaten North Warren 65-43 back on Dec. 20.
   "We just weren’t prepared to play last week," Daniel said. "We had a bad week. We didn’t practice well, and we went up to North Warren and scored four points in the first quarter, and then we play North Plainfield and Breanna (Fulper) is held to three points, and that was with just a few seconds left in the game."
   South Hunterdon (12-6) will experience much tougher competition in the next few weeks. If the Eagles are to make some noise in the county or sectional tournaments, they will need to play much better. Last year, the Eagles advanced to the sectional final where they were ousted by Jonathan Dayton of Springfield.
   This year, the Eagles are the No. 2 seed and will open the sectional tournament at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 2, at home against seventh-seeded Point Pleasant Borough. Before that, the Eagles will open the Hunterdon-Warren Tournament on Monday as the No. 5 seed with a visit to No. 4 Voorhees. The Eagles have a regular-season game tonight against Bound Brook, a team that entered the week with a 4-16 record.
   South Hunterdon did recover from a 15-4 first-quarter hole and a 27-25 halftime deficit to beat North Warren as Fulper scored 14 of her 27 points in the second quarter when South began its rally. The game wasn’t sealed until senior Amanda Garefino sank three of four free-throw attempts in the last minute.
   The Eagles wasn’t as fortunate the next night when North Plainfield surprised them. North Plainfield won the game after taking advantage of a South Hunterdon turnover with 30 seconds left in regulation. But that wasn’t the only problem.
   South Hunterdon shot just 5-of-18 from the free-throw line against North Plainfield, 27 percent from the floor in the first half and 30 percent in the second. Still, the Eagles rallied from a 22-12 halftime deficit to trail by just one in the fourth quarter, courtesy of senior forward Casey Slack’s 15 points.
   But it wasn’t enough. Because of it, the Eagles have been working mostly on basics the last few practices.
   "I told the kids that we have been winning, and maybe we needed a little fire under us," Daniel said. "We need to get refocused."