Howell girls maintain program’s winning ways

Rebel girls back in state playoffs

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

Staff Writer

To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of Howell’s demise were greatly exaggerated.

After graduating its finest senior class in team history, the Howell High School girls basketball program stood at a crossroads. Were the Rebels headed toward the ranks of the also-rans, or had they established something, a continuity, that would carry on past its remarkable class of 2006?

The resounding answer has been that continuity has won out. The Rebels were 11-6 at the end of play last week and headed back to the NJSIAA tournament.

“The kids are doing well,” said head coach Julie Hoebee. “They’ve really stepped up to the plate.”

Howell made a big statement on Jan. 30 when the Rebels handed Manchester (16-2), ranked in the Top 10 in the Shore, only its second loss of the year, and it was decisive, 72-57.

Denise Crudup (21) and Michelle Blum (19) combined for 40 points to lead the Rebels to their biggest win of the season. Marguax Pickell was the team’s inside force, pounding the Hawks with 12 points and 15 rebounds.

Blum and Erin Donahue, who were key figures for the Rebels the past two years, have added leadership to their overall play, which has been outstanding. Blum is averaging a team-high 11.5 points a game with Donahue at 10.2. A freshman, Jackie Ward, is third at 9.0. Blum has become the leading three-point shooter.

Pickell has been a big presence under the glass, averaging 12.5 caroms a game, putting her among the leading rebounders in the Shore.

Crudup has been playing a solid all-around game on both ends of the floor and is the team’s best free throw shooter. The Rebels want her on the line in late-game situations.

Howell has been playing an up-tempo style this winter, getting after teams with a full-court, man-to-man press.

“We’re quick,” noted Hoebee. “We’re looking to run people and force turnovers.”

The Rebels are in Central Jersey Group IV, as are the Jackson Jaguars, who improved to 14-6 with a 47-25 win over Manalapn on Saturday.