With stiff defense, enough offense and a cohesiveness not always seen this early in the season, the Middletown South girls basketball team has played the part of a top 5 team in the Shore Conference through five games.
With arguably its toughest test to date coming on Saturday in the form of a quality Holmdel team in the Bayshore Holiday Tournament final, the Eagles, ranked No. 5 in the Asbury Park Press Top 10, passed with flying colors and will enter the new year with a full head of steam.
Tournament MVP and senior guard Carissa Gray scored 14 points, promising freshman forward Stephanie Karcz added a team-high 17 off the bench and Middletown South downed the Hornets, 61-48, for its first Bayshore title since 1993.
High-scoring senior guard Tara Inman led all scorers with 24 points to pace Holmdel, but was never allowed to get fully comfortable thanks to the defensive-minded Eagles. They threw Gannon at Inman early, holding her to four points in the first quarter.
“I thought, let’s just disrupt her flow,” Middletown South coach Tom Brennan said. “She’s fantastic, I can’t say enough about her, but I thought she earned every one. Nothing was clean, we did a good job. I thought even if she got a look, it was under duress.”
Middletown South (6-0) gained some breathing room in the second quarter as it opened the period on a 12-4 run to take a 25-17 lead, capped by Gray scoring in transition and then on a layup off a nice cut to the basket on consecutive possessions.
The Eagles took a 28-23 lead into the third quarter, where junior forward Christiana Rutkowski scored seven of her 12 points to help extend to a 44-35 lead going to the fourth.
IN THE LADY WAVE HOLIDAY TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP GAME:
RED BANK 47, LONG BRANCH 22: Junior forward Paris Van Loon scored seven of her game-high 14 points in the first half as the Bucs (4-3) built an 18-7 lead and went on to defeat the host Green Wave and win their first tournament championship in at least 10 years.
Senior forward Zoe Curtis had eight of her nine points in the second half. She also had 12 rebounds.
AT THE BOARDWALK BASKETBALL CLASSIC:
RB CATHOLIC 65, PREP CHARTER (Pa.) 57: In the final of the George Betz Memorial Girls Bracket at the Wildwood Convention Center, Alex Barazotti led four players in double figures with a team-high 16 points as the No. 6 Caseys held off the 2012 Pennsylvania Class AAA semifinalist.
Alex Alfano and Caroline Corcoran each added 12 points, while Mary Kate Caverly finished with 10 for RBC, which moved to 6-1 at the Boardwalk Basketball Classic since 2006.
AT THE KSA HOLIDAY TOURNAMENT:
MONS. DONOVAN 64, URSULINE 56: At the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee, Fla., senior forward Kelly Milana scored 10 of her 21 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Griffins (4-1) past the Koalas in a semifinal.
Monsignor Donovan, which coincidentally draws 2012 NJSIAA Group I champion Cedar Creek in this morning’s final, went 10-for-13 from the foul line in the final three minutes to seal the win.
IN BOYS BASKETBALL:
IN THE BULLDAWG HOLIDAY CLASSIC:
OCEAN 50, RUMSON-FAIR HAVEN 41: Tournament MVP Eric Musto had eight of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, Harry Matarazzo went 6-for-8 from the foul line and Ryan Cirlincione had five points in the fourth as the Spartans (4-1) outscored the Bulldogs (2-4), 18-6, in the final eight minutes in the championship game at Rumson-Fair Haven.
IN THE MADISON DODGERS HOLIDAY TOURNAMENT:
MARLBORO 46, GOV. LIVINGSTON 27: Sophomore point guard George Elghoul had a career-high 18 points and added seven assists as the Mustangs (2-3) defeated the Highlanders in the championship game at Madison High School.
IN THE METUCHEN BULLDOGS TOURNAMENT:
KEYPORT 68, BERNARDS 51: Alex Thomson scored 16 of his 25 points in the second half as the Red Raiders (5-0) outscored the Mountaineers, 46-24, to rally and win in the championship game at Metuchen High School. Thomson, who was also named the tournament’s MVP, had 12 rebounds and six assists.
Southern ran away with the team championship of the 23-team Governor Mifflin Holiday Tournament in Reading, Pa., this weekend. The Rams finished with 232 points, 78 more than runner-up Governor Mifflin (Pa.).
Twelve of the 13 wrestlers in the Southern lineup finished in the top seven in their respective weight classes.
Junior Zach Wilhelm (132), senior Chris Serpico (152; and senior Cody Smead (heavyweight) all finished second.