Colts Neck High School and Marlboro High School, the last two NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV girls basketball champions, were again the Freehold Regional High School District’s best teams. They both ranked among the top 10 in the Shore Conference.
Glenn Jansen’s Cougars went 18-8 with a team that had to incorporate freshmen and sophomores with veteran returnees. With Elise Brown stepping up and making a case for herself as one of the most underrated players in the Shore, the team blossomed to win 18 games and capture wins in the Shore Conference and state sectional tournaments. Jansen was named the B North Division Coach of the Year by the Shore Conference’s basketball coaches.
At Marlboro, head coach Brad Hagensen’s challenge was backing up last year’s sectional title with a new lineup. With one true veteran in center Tatum Evans, the Mustangs had to ask last season’s role players to do more this year, and they stepped up to the challenge by finishing second in the A North Division and going 15-11. Like the Cougars, they won games in both postseason tournaments. With a number of their starters returning, Marlboro figures to become a perennial top 10 team.
Freehold Township High School also saw the postseason with a team missing all but one starter from the previous season.
Brown and Tatum head the News Transcript’s 2016 All-Freehold Regional High School District (FRHSD) Girls Basketball Team. Completing the First Team are Freehold High School’s Sierra Strong, Colts Neck’s Lola Mullaney, Freehold Township’s Harlie Kneler and Howell’s Rebecca Hamilton.
Second Team members are Colts Neck’s Cara Volpe, Manalapan High School’s Erin Rotondo and Marlboro’s Jessica Broad, Jessica Iacobellis and Molly Weiss.
Brown emerged as Colts Neck’s all-around, go-to player. She put together a superb season, averaging 14.2 points and eight rebounds. She was equally valuable on defense, where she led the team in steals and blocked shots. She gave a young Cougars team the experienced leadership it needed and was the player the team could count on every time it took the floor.
With Evans being a true post-up player, the Mustangs ran their offense through their senior center. The Mustangs took advantage of her passing and the fact that teams had to double-up on her because of her post moves. The Mustangs played inside-outside very effectively this year. Evans averaged 13.1 points and six rebounds, leading the Mustangs back to the postseason. Her defense and shot blocking were underrated.
Colonials’ junior Strong blossomed into one of the top talents in the FRHSD. A real force in the paint, she averaged 12.1 points, 12.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocked shots. She was among the conference’s leaders in rebounds. She and Evans were named to the Shore Coaches’ A North First Team.
While Brown provided the senior experience, Mullaney represents Colts Neck’s future. The freshman came in and made an impact from the start. She was the perfect complement with her long-range shooting to Brown. The freshman knocked down 56 3-pointers. She averaged 12.6 points.
Hamilton, a standout on the soccer pitch who is headed to Penn State University on an athletic scholarship, is pretty good on the hardwood as well. She was the player Howell looked toward to make plays on both ends of the floor. She led the team in scoring with a 12.1 points-per-game clip and averaged just under two steals a game. She was a four-year starter for the Rebels.
Kneler, a pure point guard, was asked to score more this winter with the graduation of two 1,000-career point scorers from the lineup. The senior did that, averaging 11 points, and was still among the division’s leaders in assists (three per game).
Sophomore Broad did a little bit of everything. She averaged 9.1 points and led the team in rebounds (seven per game) and steals (2.5 per game). Weiss, a junior, was Marlboro’s 3-point threat (56) and averaged seven points.
Iacobellis did the little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet that makes the difference in a game. The senior was a dependable scorer with nine points per game and tied Broad for the most steals.
Sophomore Volpe gave Colts Neck an inside game (8.8 points per game) and another rebounder (seven per game).
Rotondo, a senior, led the up-tempo, mass substitution Braves offense in scoring with 11.1 points per game.