Metuchen posts victory over Middlesex
Metuchen may be thin in terms of depth but it’s thriving on how each piece of its small ensemble embraces a role and executes at both ends of the floor. Whether spreading the offensive wealth amongst a collection of quality shooters or denying shots through exclusive man-to-man defense, the Bulldogs operate with the cohesion of a group that’s unified in every necessary facet of the game.
That bond played rather well in a game-breaking first quarter that sparked Metuchen to a 51-42 victory over Middlesex on Monday night in Middlesex.
“We like to come out fast and strong,” noted 5-11 sophomore Cassie Smith, who has warmed to her conversion from a guard last season into a go-to forward inside. “It’s great that we have so many shooters who can hit from anywhere.”
That scoring balance was epitomized in the first seven minutes when Metuchen (10-3) jumped out to a 21-4 advantage. Smith accounted for eight points in the opening tear while junior guard Ashley Palmieri, a transfer from J.P. Stevens, connected on 3 of 4 from the field, including a 3-pointer, en route to scoring seven. Senior guard Jenna Oyler, added five points and handed out two assists, as did sophomore Emily Corson.
Palmieri, who is still getting acclimated to the new system, also had a big hand on defense, where she came up with four steals, including three in the opening eight minutes when Middlesex (5-6) was induced to five turnovers.
“Ashley played very well,” Metuchen coach Val Gazda said. “She has been a great addition. She busts up so many possessions on defense and gets us going the other way.”
Smith, who finished with a game-high 17 points and seven rebounds, drove in for a layup off a dish from Oyler (11 points, four rebounds, five assists) with 2:28 left in the second quarter to give Metuchen a 28-11 advantage. She converted 5 of 6 from the line and 3 of 5 from the field in the first half and teamed with junior forward Jamie Wooding (eight rebounds) to help the Bulldogs to a 35-21 edge on the glass.
One point of emphasis for Metuchen is encouraging Palmieri to seek her shot more often. The 5-7 junior shot 60 percent from the field (6 of 10) and netted 15 points.
“Whenever we get her the ball, she knocks it down,” Smith said. “We have a lot of confidence in her.”
“I need to shoot and have confidence. I just have to be consistent with my shot,” noted Palmieri, who wasn’t lacking in either department, whether attacking off the dribble or stroking jumpers from the mid-range
Metuchen showed particular care with the basketball, with just five turnovers through three quarters as it took a 39-25 lead into the fourth.
Senior guard Mikala Connery topped Middlesex with 12 points, nine of which came over the final eight minutes when the Blue Jays displayed their grit by refusing to bow quietly. Junior Salina Pellios buried three 3-pointers and had 11 points and freshman Tori Schweyher contributed eight points, four rebounds and three assists for Middlesex.
University 66, West Morris 48: Senior guard Brittney Sykes pumped in 20 points, including the 1,000th of her career. The Syracuse-bound Sykes also had nine rebounds, six steals and four assists. Taylor Trotman contributed 13 points in the victory.
Neptune 71, Long Branch 18: Sophomore center Iyonna Crenshaw led four players in double figures with 16 points to go with seven boards for Neptune (12-1). Nahja Carter collected 12 points, seven assists and seven steals, Cydney Mooney netted 15 points and Ivy Harrington scored 12 and grabbed a dozen rebounds.
Edison 54, East Brunswick 37: Senior guard Tierra Johnson flipped in 14 points and became the all-time leading scorer at Edison (12-2) with 1,304. Rachel Groom and Cassie Lubonski each added 11 points for Edison. East Brunswick (2-12) got 14 points from Dayna Sclafani.
St. John Vianney 48, Matawan 31: Kat Egan had 12 points, four rebounds and four steals to pace No. 12 St. John Vianney (10-4). Montana Bertoli led Matawan (5-9) with 14 points.
Gregg Lerner covers girls basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner