By Justin Feil, Packet Media Group
The Hillsborough High School girls’ basketball team did not get the win it wanted in its season opener, but it saw encouraging signs that it can be a good team this year.
The Raiders hung close with Roxbury on Saturday, and had the game tied going into the fourth quarter before succumbing, 46-41.
“They were a solid team,” said Raiders head coach Barrie Foley. “I was impressed by my girls. They were able to stick with them the whole time. We were within two or three points the entire game. The fourth quarter, we fell behind by six and we weren’t able to catch up from there.”
Natasha Anglin and Kelly Lenkey had 11 points apiece to lead the Raiders scoring. Samantha Boyer nearly hit double figures as well in the balanced attack. She had eight points. Bridget Bergen and Cameron Howell had four points apiece. Becca Barglowski had two points and Louise Borja had a foul shot in her return from a pre-season ankle injury. Lenken, Barglowski and Borja are captains this year.
“They’re good leaders,” Foley said. “Especially in the off-season, they were good about getting the girls together for everything. They all like to play basketball. Louise wants to play in college. She’s coming off an ankle injury. She didn’t get in any scrimmages so that’s why she didn’t start and play as much.”
Foley likes the make-up of this year’s team. They aren’t big, but the Raiders are hoping to use their quickness to their advantage.
“I like that we have some good speed,” Foley said. “We’re working really hard on defense. We’re looking to get up and down the floor. I think that’s where we’re going to come into many of our points this year. As long as we do that, we’ll be OK.”
The Raiders got two 3-pointers from Lenkey and one from Anglin, but mostly they will be a team that looks to drive to the goal.
“We’d rather get to the basket,” Foley said. “Obviously it’s easier. We’re a decent outside shooting team. We knocked down some 3s in the opening game. We can knock those down. We’re trying to get to the basket.”
For now, the focus has been on improving their man-to-man defense. Hillsborough hasn’t looked at much zone defense and is hoping it can pressure teams with its man play. It mixes in some pressing defenses with stifling man-to-man.
“I think we’re definitely developing the fast pace of our game, our aggressive defense,” Foley said. “Those are things we’re constantly working on to improve and keep up with. We’re not a huge team. We have to be quick. We have to be able to get a few points here and there. We don’t have huge power forwards to work with and just say, here you go.”
There is strong balance, and Foley feels comfortable with putting anyone on the varsity into games. She was able to get most of the team in Saturday.
“I have 11 girls, and 10 of them saw the floor,” Foley said. “We’re trying to play aggressive and fast so people are going to need a break. They had some big girls. Bridget is our only tall girl out there. Depending on what other teams have will change your lineup a little bit.”
The Raiders have been building since the preseason. They have been finding roles for everyone on the team, and discovering what will make the squad most effective.
“I thought we played well during scrimmages,” Foley said. “We started with East Brunswick. They’re a tough one for your first scrimmage. It was tough to start with, but it showed what we had to work on. Then we had West Morris, Hamilton West and Hopewell Valley. As we went along, we got better.
“(Roxbury) was a good challenge and jumping off point for them. Watchung, we play them on Monday, and they opened up with Gill. That would be a tough opener.”
Hillsborough still has this season in the big school division of the Skyland Conference before they move down. The Raiders lost some key seniors from last year and a couple of other potential returning players did not come back.
“We’re a young team,” Foley noted. “This could be a good learning year for them and next year we’ll be able to really get in it. We’re dropping a division next year, so we won’t play Rutgers Prep and Gill (St. Bernards).”
Foley is looking for steady improvement from her team. They had a promising opener that could have gone either way.
“I gave them three things to focus on,” Foley said “We weren’t able to finish at the foul line, a couple easy layups we weren’t able to finish. But I told them, we were right there. We correct a few things we weren’t able to finish on, and we’re right there. It’s Game 1, take this with us and let’s move on to the next game so looking back, we can say, we got better from that game.
“It was nice it was non-conference. It was someone I didn’t get to see before. I didn’t even know where the school was. It was nice to play someone no one knew who they were too.”
Foley sees plenty to build on after the first game. Even with an unknown opponent, the Raiders could rely on their strengths and made things tough on Roxbury.
“I think we rebounded well,” Foley said. “We made them really have to work for the shots they took. They were able to stay in the game because of free throws. We fouled a bit. Our defense in general really helped us stay in that game.”
The key for Hillsborough going forward will be continuing to make things tough on teams. It will keep the scoring down and enable the Raiders to compete better without scoring a lot of points themselves.
“We’re definitely trying to get more aggressive and not just let teams do whatever they want,” Foley said. “That’s going to be our big push. I think that’s going to help us. We’re very quick. One girl will get a tip and the other will get it and we’ll go down the floor.”
On offense, their strength is some of their versatility. Their attack isn’t dictated by one player.
“We have a few different guards,” Foley said. “Even our one forward is more of a 3-4 type guard. We have a few different ball-handlers on the floor at any time. We have a few on the floor and they can handle it well, so if you grab a rebound, they can take it down. They don’t have to get it to one person.”
Anglin, Lenkey, Boyer, Bergen and Howell earned starts for the season opener, and the Raiders have contributors deep on their team.
“We have a lot of girls able to do a lot of things for us,” Foley said. “Natasha Anglin is a rebounding machine. It’s going to be a fight to get on the floor.
“The girls are coming together to work for the team. They are pushing each other in practice and that competitive approach every day will help them improve.
“I think they’re doing really well,” Foley said. “They’re getting along really well and reading off each other. We have a couple girls injured now. Having them back will help, getting them back in the mix. Everyone is playing well together.”
After taking on Watchung on Monday, the Raiders were to play a rescheduled game against Montgomery on Wednesday. Hillsborough will participate in Monroe’s holiday tournament next Monday and Wednesday. After showing some promise in their season opener, there is plenty to look forward to.
“Everything I asked them do, we were able to do,” Foley said. “I couldn’t ask for more than that.”
By Justin Feil, Packet Media Group