Despite tipping off at an earlier time than they’re used to, the J.F. Kennedy High School girls basketball team came out on the offensive Friday morning. Taylor Freeman got the Mustangs going with a pair of 3-pointers and Rachel Andrejcak took over in the third quarter, leading J.F. Kennedy to a 55-26 victory over Carteret in the first round of the Gene Haley Memorial Tournament.
The Mustangs will play the winner of Edison/Elizabeth in Saturday’s final at 12:30 p.m.
Andrejcak dominated the paint, especially coming out of the locker room after hafltime, when she racked up 13 of her game-high 21 points and eight of her game-high 16 rebounds in the third quarter.
“In the beginning of the game I was a little tired and at halftime I just woke up and told myself I had to get it going,” Andrejcak said. “We passed really well today to get the open layups and I just made the right moves.”
After opening up a 14-4 lead after the first quarter, J.F. Kennedy never looked back, using an up-tempo style of offense to put Carteret away. Freeman had all 14 of her points in the first half, scoring seven in each of the first two quarters, and Sofia Tahzib teamed with Andrejcak on the glass, collecting 13 rebounds.
Head coach Heidi Hodnett was pleased with her squad’s offensive performance, but spoke highly about the Mustangs’ ability to win the rebounding battle. J.F. Kennedy out-rebounded Carteret 47-31 in the game.
“The girls played really well offensively; they pushed the ball and did a better job of working the ball around and getting some looks inside,” Hodnett said. “One of the things we have been focusing on is crashing the boards. We have some taller players so getting offensive rebounds to allow us some second-chances when necessary is key.”
J.F. Kennedy led 29-8 at halftime, taking advantage of 10 first half turnovers by the Ramblers. Carteret couldn’t get its offense on track, consistently having shots rim out and clang off the backboard. Courtney Hansen finally got into some offensive rhythm for the Ramblers in the fourth quarter, with the game no longer in doubt, scoring 10 of her 12 points. She also added eight rebounds in the contest.
But neither Hansen or her teammates had an answer for Andrejcak, who muscled her way to loose balls around the rim and protected it on the defensive end. Hodnett was impressed with the junior’s ability to stay out of foul trouble and stay on the floor for as long as she did.
“Her key is not getting frustrated when she’s getting fouled and it’s not being called. She’s got a huge size advantage and she’s extremely athletic, but she just needs to stay focused and we need to keep her out of foul trouble defensively,” Hodnett said. “I don’t think she’s picked up a single foul yet this season, so her hard work on defense is paying off on offense.”
With a sizeable lead entering the fourth quarter, Freeman and Andrejcak didn’t play in the final eight minutes, allowing reserve Brianna Hindy to come in and score six points in the fourth.
“We’re still using every moment as time to get better, and this was a game we were able to do so,” Hodnett said.