It’s been five long years since the Plainfield High School girls basketball team has finished the season with a winning record, a run that’s including a two-win season, last year’s 5-22 campaign, and an average of just over six wins per campaign.
This year, with many of the same core players that have suffered through the lean years, a couple of key newcomers, including a first-year coach making his first foray into the varsity game, the losing streak appears to be over.
The Cardinals being an 11-6 record into today’s game with New Providence, having already clinched a berth in the state tournament. Led by the program’s all-time leading scorer in Drew Winter, as well as Breana Spencer, who is No. 2 on the all-time list, Plainfield has shown steady improvement as the season’s progressed and could very well be in a position to make some noise when the Union County Tournament gets underway next week.
“It’s definitely a dramatic improvement,” said coach John McNulty, whose team scored just 25 points in a loss to Union on opening day, but had averaged 57.1 points per contest since, entering Tuesday’s match with Roselle Catholic. “The girls have found their roles. They know their limitations and it’s something that works. There’s a lot of confidence.”
While Winter and Spencer have continued to shine, others have made major contributions, McNulty said, especially on the defensive end, including senior Jasmine Griffith, juniors Alexis Coverly and Janaia Simmons, and first-year sophomore Asia Hill.
“Janaia is playing smart, Asia is starting to drive more, Jasmine Griffith is stepping up and taking on the toughest offensive player we’re going up against, and Alexis Coverly is going against centers a foot taller than her,” McNulty said. “That is the x-factor. There are girls stepping up and it’s definitely helped us. It’s making us a much better team. A total package.”
As the number in Plainfield’s win column continues to grow, so does the Cardinals’ evolution from schedule filler to threat. There’s no question the talent has been there, but what’s blossomed is a belief not only in their ability to perform, but to win.
“Deep down there’s a confidence that they’ve never had before,” McNulty said. “I always look at the optimistic side, and these girls, each day and each week and each game, they get just a little bit better, and it’s come together. They know what they have to do going forward. They’re winning now and they have to learn how to keep the game and hold onto the wins. That was never the case before. It’s a good problem to have.”
HWST seeds set
The 2014 Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament seeds were released Monday, with defending champ Phillipsburg the top Hunterdon/Warren seed and Newton the top seed in Sussex County.
Action got underway Tuesday with preliminary round games, with the first full round slated for Saturday, all at the higher seed.
The quarterfinals are scheduled for Feb. 15, the semifinals for Feb. 22 and the championship game 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28 at North Hunterdon High School.
Here are the first-round matchups: No. 8B Voorhees at No. 1A Newton; No. 5A Pope John at No. 4B North Hunterdon; No. 10B Hackettstown or No. 7A Wallkill Valley at No. 2B Delaware Valley; No. 6B Belvidere at No. 3A Sparta; No. 7B North Warren at No. 2A High Point; No. 6A Lenape Valley at No. 3B Hunterdon Central; No. 9B Warren Hills at No. 1B Phillipsburg; No. 5B South Hunterdon at No. 4A Kittatinny.
Other county action
The Somerset County Tournament moves into the second round Saturday with four games: No. 13 Bound Brook at No. 5 Ridge; No. 14 Somerville at No. 6 Watchung Hills; No. 10 Hillsborough at No. 7 Immaculata; No. 9 Bernards at No. 8 Montgomery.
The top four seeds will get their tournaments started in next weekend’s quarterfinals.
The Union County Tournament is slated to tip off Feb. 14, with the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament getting underway the following day.
Westfield junior Lil Scott reached the 1,000-point milestone Tuesday during the Blue Devils’ victory over Rahway.
Scott, who is also a standout soccer player, tallied 19 points Tuesday, giving her 1,001 for her career. She is averaging 18.7 points per game this season for 16-2 Westfield.