In his first season as head coach for St. Rose, Joe Whalen and the Purple Roses weren’t really sure what to expect heading into the 2012-13 season.
Whalen knew there was talent there, but how much could really be expected from a team with no seniors?
Their youth was evident early in the season, but one important thing Whalen noticed was how much his team continued to improve week in and week out. Any doubters were silenced after St. Rose would meet division rival Point Beach for a second time, with the previous 23-point loss still fresh on the minds of the Purple Roses.
It was a far cry from the first meeting, with the game coming down to the final seconds and Point Beach just edging out a 69-68 win. It took a monster performance from Point Beach’s Marina Mabrey and Katelynn Flaherty in an up and down fourth quarter. Mabrey, who would go on to be named last year’s Asbury Park Press Girls Basketball Player of the Year, finished with a team-high 35 points in the win.
Even if you don’t believe in moral victories one thing was clear after that game — St. Rose could now play with some of the top teams in the Shore Conference.
Now, after an important season of growth, Whalen and the Purples Roses look to solidify their position as one of the elite teams in the both the conference and the state.
“Practices have been going well, they really are much different from last year,” Whalen said.
“We have some freshmen that bring another level every night, the drills are much more competitive then last season.”
Senior captain Sarah Kurtz who averaged 13.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.8 assists will lead the Purple Roses this season. Kurtz will be joined by junior Kat Phipps who averaged 13.9 points a game and junior Jess Luoro who averaged 8.7 points and 7 rebounds a game.
Cindy Napolitano will also be key in spreading the floor for St. Rose after leading the state in 3-point field goals with 91. Senior Payton Smith will be the main defensive specialist this season for the Purple Roses after averaging 3.1 steals a game.
“I think this team really has a chance to be special this season,” Whalen said.
“This team has kids who can score, rebound and defend at a high level.”
As most coaches look to do in a season, Whalen will take the season in three waves. Although expectations are high he insists their immediate focus is on the division, and only when it’s time will they look to the Shore Conference Tournament and states.
The date most likely circled on the Purple Roses’ calender is Jan. 7 at Point Beach, with the winner sure to be in the driver’s seat of Class B Central.
“We like to really just take it just one game at a time, but obviously it’s on all of our minds because it’s our first big game in the division,” Kurtz said.
“I’m really excited for this season, I think we have the potential to do a lot of good things this year.”
The Purple Roses will also be getting their depth from Rose White, Meg Hall, and Amy White, who should provide a needed spark off the bench as well. Whalen, who was spent several years at both St. Patrick’s and St. Anthony’s, believes it’s the intangibles that can really make this team special.
“The girls have really been working hard,” Whalen said.
“One of the reasons I took this job is the tradition at St. Rose, the girls have some of those things that you just can’t coach.