FT keeps winning thanks to defense

Patriot girls are 7-3 at midway point of season

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

As much as John Sciarappa may like an up-tempo basketball, defense has always come first.

It’s the reason Freehold Township’s veteran head coach has been one of the most consistent winning coaches in the Shore.

It’s also the reason his Patriots are among the top 10 teams in the Shore again with a 7-3 overall record as the season reaches the halfway point.

The Pats haven’t been the offensive team he expected thus far, but that hasn’t prevented them from continuing their winning ways.

“The offense just isn’t coming around,” he said. “We’ve struggled to shoot the ball.

“I’m looking for consistency,” he added. “Every game we’ve got to gut it out.”

So, why are the Patriots well on their way to another winning season and a playoff berth?

“I use our bench and we press the heck out of people,” he pointed out. “We’ve been able to wear teams down.”

The Pats are athletic and they get after it on defense. By having fresh legs on the court, teams eventually wear down and the Pats have been able to pull away in the fourth quarter.

One more reason for their success is experience. Sciarappa is quick to remind everyone that the team, after all, is coming off a 17-10 season in 2007-08.

“They have experience in winning games,” he said.

Senior Christina Barthel has been the Pats one constant on the offensive end.

“She’s a workhorse and leads by example,” he said. “She’s a fierce competitor. She gets to the foul line, which is important.”

Stephanie Cardamone is a streaky shooter who can carry a team when she is hot.

In the Pats recent 46-31 victory over Monmouth Regional, Barthel (15) and Cardamone (11) paced the Pats to a second-half triumph. Leading just 18-15 at the half, the Pats wore the Eagles down in the second half, outscoring them 18-5 in the third quarter.

Freshman Annette Snow has had a big impact because of her ability to play any position on the floor.

“She’s been the most consistent kid we’ve had,” said Sciarappa. “She does everything. I can put her in any spot and she just goes.”

One thing that might jump-start the Patriot offense would be converting more often on their transition opportunities. The defense is creating fast-break opportunities with steals and turnovers; the team just isn’t cashing in on as many as they could. Easy baskets can often get an offense going, and Sciarappa believes that could make a difference in the second half of the season for Township.