Top-seeded Middletown South took control early in its NJSIAA Central Group III second-round game, defeating No. 9 Red Bank 74-42 on Wednesday night. Stephanie Karcz scored 8 points and had 5 steals in the crucial first quarter, when the Eagles (20-3) outscored the Bucs 26-3.
Middletown South coach Tom Brennan said he liked what he saw early from his team.
“I thought our energy was really good to start, and we made our shots early, which was key,” Brennan said
On the defensive side, the goal was to limit the open looks from Red Bank senior Jazz Van Loon. Van Loon along with her two sisters has had a stand out year for the Bucs, and it was a main priority for Brennan and his team heading into the game. For South, Christiana Rutkowski and the fullcourt press held Van Loon to just two first-quarter points.
“We didn’t want to let Jazz get the ball into open space,” Brennan said. “I thought she did a really good job of face guarding her the full 75 feet away from the rim.”
Stephanie Karcz is emerging as one of the top players in the Shore Conference, and did not disappoint against the Bucs. She finished with a team-high 18 points, but was also a big part of that first-quarter run with five steals.
“Her ability to anticipate is uncanny,” Brennan said. “It’s almost like she is in your head telling you where to throw the ball at times.”
Not only has Karcz improved on the defensive side of the ball, but according to Brennan one of her main focuses early in the season was the ability to get to the rim.
“She still likes to get to the rim, but also now she has been working on her jump shot,” Brennan said. “Every one of her shots is the right one to take, she is not afraid to get rid of the ball when she needs to.”
Olivia Liskowitz and Jill Falvey both finished with 12 points and Haley Dalonzo added 16 for the Eagles, who will host No. 12 Middletown North Friday night in a sectional semifinal.
“Usually we are more of a second-half team, but today we had the mind-set to get it done early,” Karcz said. “We pushed the ball up and were able to score a lot of transition points, so that really helped a lot tonight.”
After falling in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals, Karcz and the Eagles want to make a run in the state tournament.
“We have improved a lot since then and have gotten a lot better in these past few games in states,” Karcz said.