By Warren Rappleyea
Heading into the final weeks of the regular season, Old Bridge High School’s girls basketball team sits at 6-6 and coach Dan Damino believes the best is yet to come.
It’s been a season of streaks for the Lady Knights. Old Bridge opened the season by winning one of its first four games and then won four of its next five contests before dropping three of its last four games.
“We’ve switched things around this year to play a much more up-tempo game,” Damino said. “That really helped us in the first part of the season, and the girls are betting better and better at it. I’m very excited about our prospects.”
The Lady Knights have shown they can score points. Amanda Carney, a junior forward, leads the team in scoring and has drawn considerable attention from opposing defenses. Carney averages a little over 14 points, and she tallied a season-high 21 points in a Jan. 19 victory against Perth Amboy High School.
Guard Meaghan Dowdell is nearly as dangerous. The junior sharpshooter has 27 three-pointers to her credit, including six in a loss against Edison High School. Dowdell’s quick release makes her difficult to defend.
The Lady Knights have benefited from the return of point guard Tara Durstewitz, who missed the 2014-2015 season with a knee injury. The co-captain has been a steadying influence up top, helping key an overtime win against Woodbridge High School with 11 points. She pitched in with nine points in a hard-fought, 34-32 success against North Brunswick Township High School as well.
Senior guard Sheridan Casserly, sophomore center Jessica Ahearn and freshman Abigail Zimmerlink can also put the ball in the hoop for the Lady Knights.
Defensively, co-captain Madison Kellermueller is a key player, along with fellow senior Jess McRae. Kellermueller also spends time on the point. Laura Bozzi, Yona Downes and Carrie Durning all provide depth off the bench. Sophomore Morgan Gracia is gaining confidence as she sees more playing time in the backcourt.
“Earlier in the season, we were playing much better defense and we have to get back to that,” Damino said. “Our goal is to keep the opposition to under 40 points. When we do that, it puts us in a better position to win. We don’t mind low-scoring games, and that can frustrate opponents.”
Old Bridge was impressive during the holiday break, going 2-1 in the Long Branch Lady Wave Tournament, downing both Ocean Township High School and Lakewood High School.
“We’re very close to doing some big things as a team, and I think we can beat any team in the [Greater Middlesex Conference],” Damino said. “It’s an incredibly tough conference — every team is so good — but I think our girls are ready to do something special.”
Old Bridge is scheduled to visit Woodbridge for rematch Jan. 28 and will return home to meet Monroe Township High School Jan. 30. Piscataway Township High School, which downed the Lady Knights earlier in the season, comes to the township Feb. 2.