The way that Jakelle King-Gilchrist can put up points from anywhere in the halfcourt and the recent emergence of Kayla Gibbs in the post have been two rather prominent features within a Teaneck offense that doesn’t lack for point production.
Each is especially good at what she does. King-Gilchrist, the senior guard bound for Florida State, explodes to the rim and finishes with the same finesse she displays when stroking jumpers from beyond the arc.
And, Gibbs, a rugged 6-0 sophomore center, isn’t bashful when it comes to establishing her inside presence, both as a rebounder and scorer on the blocks.
But, the element of the Teaneck lineup that seems to go unnoticed is Rebecca Sparks. The mercurial senior point guard sets the tone with her speed and a level of hustle that’s not only off the chart but often the origin of a where an eventual bucket begins.
“Rebecca does get overlooked,” King-Gilchrist said. “She’s our spark. When she’s on, we’re on. She keeps us together. Without her, a lot of things wouldn’t happen.”
That’s because Sparks specialty is making things happen. And, it was her signature effort at a critical juncture in the fourth quarter that resulted in a game-breaking basket by Gibbs which ignited Teaneck to a strong finish in a 76-63 victory over Northern Highlands on Tuesday afternoon in Allendale.
In a game that was contested at a feverish rate, Teaneck (10-1) built as much as a 13-point lead in the first half before Northern Highlands (10-2) stormed back.
Junior center Jackie Reyneke was particularly active for Northern Highlands, collecting 15 points, 19 rebounds, eight assists, five steals and three blocks. After scoring on a drive, Reyneke found Tori Balzano for a pull-up jumper that drew Northern Highlands within 54-53 with 6:33 to play.
Northern Highlands regained the ball with a chance to take the lead only to have the 5-5 Sparks, who is heading to St. Francis (Pa.) come up with a clutch steal in the backcourt. The only thing that trumped it was her off-balance pass inside to Gibbs, who laid it in to touch off a 13-3 tear.
“If I don’t play at a 100 percent, the team won’t be as strong,” said the understated Sparks, who had , six assists and five steals. “We all come together to play as one.”
“I always tell Becky how much I appreciate her,” Teaneck coach Shenee Clarke said. “This is her senior year and she can be a part of something special. She has responded.”
While Reyneke exhibited her diversity in the paint for Northern Highlands, so too, did Gibbs, who dropped in 26 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to go with three assists and three steals. She accounted for five points in the decisive fourth-quarter burst while King-Gilchrist, who also netted 26, added four.
“She is a young leader,” Clarke said of Gibbs, who is averaging a team-best 19.7 points per game. “She isn’t afraid to step up when we need her.”
Teaneck owned an 18-15 lead through one quarter before creating a degree of separation in the second period. It fashioned a 13-3 spurt over the first 3:14 in which Sparks contributed three points and a pair of assists while King-Gilchrist and Gibbs scored four apiece to help widen the advantage to 31-18.
Northern Highlands answered by scoring the next nine points, including four from Madison Dunbar, who ended with a team-high 16 points, to get to within 31-27 with 1:53 left before halftime.
A pretty reverse layup from Deja Gabbidon pushed Teaneck to a 46-36 lead midway through the third. Northern Highlands mounted one final surge, using a 17-8 charge that bridged the final two quarters and was powered by seven points from Balzano (12 points).
Gregg Lerner covers girls basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner