Cougars, Crudup, Mayrose top All-District Team

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

The 2007-08 girls basketball campaign will be remembered as that championship season.

Led by John Truhan’s Colts Neck Cougars, four area teams captured titles this winter.

The Cougars, led by guards Brooke Hampton and Lauren Clarke, were the Shore’sNo 1 teamand ranked as high asNo. 5 in the state. Starting in January, the Cougars put together an historic winning streak. During what turned out to be a three-month, 26-game streak, the Cougars won theWOBMClassic in Toms River, beating state power Rumson-Fair Haven, beat Howell to gain a share of the Shore Conference A North title (Howell had beaten the Cougars in the firstweek of the season), and capped it all off with the Shore Conference Tournament championship. The Cougars beat Red Bank Catholic, the team that has been the measuring stick for Shore basketball this decade.

The streak ended in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV championship game, where the young Cougars (no seniors in the starting lineup) lost to defending champion Trenton Central.

Trenton went on to win the state Group IV title.

Colts Neck finished the season 28-2 with a lot to look forward to.

Howell was perhaps the least appreciated big-time team in the conference. Bill Gallacher’s Rebels were the only team from the Shore to beat the Cougars this year, and when they held serve against everyone else in the division, they deservedly shared theA North title with Colts Neck.

Denise Crudup and Jacquie Ward sparked the Rebels’ victory in the Bayshore Holiday Tournament.

Howell (20-5) reached the Central Jersey semifinals, where the Rebels gave Trenton Central all it could handle before falling in overtime.

Jen Brzucki’s Freehold Borough Colonials were among the Shore’s elite all year. With Shannon Mayrose and Shemonyeh Allen leading the way, the Colonials lost just one game in B North and easily captured the division crown. Their season ended in a heartbreaking loss to Neptune on a buzzer-beater in the Central Jersey Group III final. The Colonials (22- 5) had beaten the Fliers three times during the season, making the loss even that much more difficult.

One of the nice stories of the yearwas the return of John Sciarappa’s Freehold Township Patriots. They achievedmore than their goal of qualifying for the post-season in 2007-08: they became one of the Shore’s best teams, winning 17 games despite playing in the ruggedANorth. The Pats won the Kuhnert Holiday Tournament for the first time since 1998 and made it to the quarterfinals in the state tournament.

Christina Barthel and Kayla Borden, both underclassmen, helped lead the Pats to a 17-win season and promise for the future.

Hampton and Clarke, who were both Shore Basketball Coaches First TeamAll- Shore picks, head up the News Transcript’s 2008 All-Freehold Regional District Girls Basketball Team. Joining them on the First Team are Mayrose, Crudup and Marlboro’s Megan O’Reilly.

Second Team honors go to Ward and Michelle Blum of Howell; Allen and Quasonna Moore of Freehold Borough; Barthel and Cardamone; and Colts Neck’s Tiffany DeTulio.

Hampton and Clarke are a lethal combination in the backcourt. They do so many things well and are winners.

Hampton, the point guard, is the catalyst with her ball handling and ability to drive and dish. She was the top playmaker in the Shore, averaging 5.7 assists a game. She had a school record 13 in one game, and her 171 on the season is also a Cougar record. The sophomore is pretty good on the shooting end, averaging 14.8 points a game and connecting on 42 treys.

Although just a sophomore, she has put the recruiting circus behind her with a verbal commitment to West Virginia.

Clarke is among the best long-range shooters in the Shore, with 60 threes that helped her average 15.7 points a game. The sophomore is more than just a shooter, however. She is as fearless as anyone going to the basket, and with an 80-plus free-throw percentage, it was as good as two if she got fouled. She was the MVP in theWOBMClassic. Clarke scored 20 points in the state sectional final. She set school records for points in a season (472) and three-pointers.

Along with her offense, Clarke guarded the opposition’s top scoring guard.

Crudup, a three-year starter, was the player who made Howell tick. Defensively, the Rebels had her play the opposition’s top player, and her ability to keep them in check was a reason Howell won a pair of titles this year. She ranked among the steal leaders in the Shore, snatching just under four a game.

A pass-first point guard, she made the Howell offense balanced. She averaged 4.7 assists a game and could scorewhen needed (she average eight a game for the Rebels).

Mayrose has awell-earned reputation for being one of the best soccer players in the state (she scored the golden goal in overtime for Freehold Borough in the state championship game); however, her basketball reputation also speaks for itself. She was the latest player to join the 1,000-point circle this year and had another solid season on both ends of the floor, leading the Colonials to their first division title in more than a quarter century. She averaged 17 points and 7.1 rebounds game.

With another season to play, she has the chance to be one of the all-time leading scorers in Freehold District history.

Reilly is quietly putting together an outstanding career at Marlboro. The junior is the area’s top post player and despite being the object of defensive attention, averaged 15.2 points and 8.4 rebounds a game for the Mustangs. One thing that helped her offense this year was her ability to step outside and hit the mid-range jumper. She shot better than 75 percent from the foul line.

With most of her teammates returning, Reilly will look to bring the Mustangs back into the postseason.

Blum (11.9) andWard (11.7) were Howell’s leading scorers. Blum, a senior and three-year starter like Crudup, and a fouryear letter-winner, was a steadying force for the Rebels. She was second to Crudup in assists (3.6) and the leading three-point shooter on the team (28).

During her four years, the Rebels won the Kuhnert Holiday Tournament and two A North titles, and made two trips to the state sectional final.

Ward, a sophomore, is the future of Howell basketball. A fine all-around player, she was the MVP of the Bayshore Tournament.

Allen, a sophomore, took the scoring pressure off Mayrose. A smooth shooter with three-point range (26 threes), she averaged 12.6 points a game this year. She is as good a finisher on the fast break as you’ll find and has proved she can make the clutch shot.

Moore, the only senior in the Colonials’ starting lineup became a bigger factor as the season progressed. She gave the team an inside scoring and rebounding presence, averaging nine points and six rebounds. She played her best basketball in the state playoffs.

Barthel and Borden are two reasons why Freehold Township has a bright future. Barthel led the Pats in scoring (11.7), but her contributions were across the board. She was second in assists (3.2), led the team in steals (2.8) and was third in three-pointers (18).

Borden was the MVP of the Kuhnert Tournament, leading the Pats past Freehold Borough in the final. She averaged 10 points a game and was the team’s top three-point shooter (26). Borden was second in rebounds (4.4).

Colts Neck was lights out from beyond the arc with DeTulio right up there with Clarke, nailing 51 during the season. She was an all-important third option for Colts Neck (7.7 points per game) who really made it difficult for teams to defend the Cougars.

The Cougars wouldn’t have won what they did without playing defense, and De- Tulio spearheaded a pressure defense that created turnovers and exciting transition basketball.

Those earning Honorable Mention for their play in ’08 are: Brittany Howes, Crystal Butler, Emily Laurence, Leeanne Lanza and Nicole Vaccarella, Colts Neck; Alexandra Eagle and Ashley Lewis, Freehold Borough; Adj Tepedino and Stephanie Cardamone, Freehold Township; and Margaux Pickell, Lauren Lucey and Sarah Olsen, Howell.