Lady Redbirds girls off to a flying start


Staff Writer

The Allentown High School girls basketball team almost hated to see 2006 end.

The Redbirds raced out to an impressive 5-1 start before the year was over, culminating 2006 by capturing the championship of its own holiday tournament.

Allentown defeated Monroe, 59-36, in the opening round Dec. 27, and then posted a thrilling 59-54 comeback victory over Delran in Friday’s championship game.

The Lady Redbirds hoped to continue their winning ways in 2007, beginning with Wednesday night’s home game against Bordentown. On Friday they travel to West Windsor-South, before returning home Saturday to face Sayreville.

“One of our goals was to win the Christmas tournament, so I’m very happy for our girls,” said head coach Linda Weise, now in her second season at AHS. “It was a nice accomplishment for our kids. They worked hard in the off-season on getting better.

“They also worked on developing very good chemistry,” she added. “We have very unselfish players our team, which I think just helps with the chemistry on the floor.”

MIGUEL JUAREZ staff Erica Hernandez and her Allentown teammates are off to a 5-1 start this winter and have already captured a team title, winning their own holiday tournament last week. MIGUEL JUAREZ staff Erica Hernandez and her Allentown teammates are off to a 5-1 start this winter and have already captured a team title, winning their own holiday tournament last week. The Redbirds could easily have been unbeaten going into Wednesday’s game.

Their only loss was by three points in the season opener to Steinert, which was 5-0 before losing on Tuesday. Since that loss, Allentown has won five straight since.

“Hopefully we can continue to do good and keep it going,” Weise said.

If they do, Allentown should be well on its way to making the state tournament for the first time since 2000. Last season the Redbirds didn’t miss qualifying by much, finishing 10-13 in Weise’s first season at Allentown.

“We want to qualify for the state tournament this season,” said Weise, who previously coached Hamilton West for 11 years, the last nine as head coach. “We also want to try to win our division (the CVC Patriot Division).

“But we just want to take one game at a time. Like I told the girls today (Tuesday) at practice, ‘OK, we accomplished our first goal, winning the Christmas Tournament, but now it’s time to get back to basics, work hard, and get ready for our next game against Bordentown.’

“I’ve tried to set a mentality with them that you can’t be satisfied.”

What makes this season’s early success even more exciting, however, is the Redbirds are doing it with a relatively young team, starting three sophomores, while three more underclassmen come off the bench.

In the win against Monroe, Bea Pesciotta, a 5-10 sophomore forward, scored a career-high 33 points while grabbing eight rebounds. She then followed that up with a 12-point, 10-rebound effort in the win over Delran on her way to being named the tournament MVP.

Pesciotta, who started as a freshman, keyed the comeback win with eight of her 12 points coming in the fourth quarter as Allentown, down by two after three, outscored Delran by seven points. The Redbirds also sank six clutch free throws in the decisive period.

“It was back-and-forth throughout most of the game,” Weise said. “But we made some big foul shots down the stretch and we took care of the basketball.”

Meanwhile, guard Angela Scibilia, another sophomore, came off the bench to score a team-high 14 points and make the all-tournament team.

“She’s been our secret weapon off the bench,” Weise said.

Two more sophomores, Amanda Turowski and Haley Wilhelm, also scored in double figures in the balanced attack. Turowski, a guard, finished with 13 points, including three 3-pointers, while Wilhelm, a forward, added 10 points.

“That’s what’s so exciting about being 5-1, having so many sophomores contribute together,” Weise said.

Joining Pesciotta, Turowski and Wilhelm in the starting lineup are senior guards Jenna Winston, who had seven points against Delran, and Jen Richard.

A pair of juniors, forward Brittany O’Brien and guard Izzy Taglieri, follow Scibilia off the bench to complete a solid eight-player rotation.

Now if 2007 can only start off like 2006 ended, the Redbirds should be flying high this season.