Lady Vikings off to strong start to basketball season

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By Warren Rappleyea

South Brunswick High School’s girls’ basketball team is off to a 2-0 start, including an exciting come-from-behind victory over a much-improved Old Bridge High School team in the season opener.

“Coming back to beat Old Bridge was huge,” Lady Vikings coach Jeff Johnson said. “We were down early, and the girls just never gave up. They battled back against a very good team. That’s the kind of win that sets a tone.”

The host Knights started strong and appeared to be on their way to an easy win, taking a 22-6 lead well into the second quarter. South Brunswick outscored its hosts 13-8 in the third quarter and 16-9 in the fourth. Amber Brown’s three-point play broke a tie to give the Lady Vikings a 48-45 lead with just under 20 seconds remaining in regulation time. Brown, who finished with 22 points, drove to the hoop and was fouled while making a layup. The senior then hit a free throw.

Old Bridge, however, came back to equalize things when Amanda Carney sank a 3-pointer with just six seconds left to send the game to overtime. The Lady Vikings scored the first seven points in the overtime and went on to victory. Gillian Chambres scored 17 points, and Alexis Adams had 13 points for the winners.

South Brunswick next defeated Monroe Township High School, 59-39, Dec. 20. Johnson’s team used an 11-1 run in the second quarter to take charge and never looked back. Brown scored 14 points and Chambres added 10 points to the cause. Leeannah Hunter also had a strong game, contributing 14 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.

Johnson said the quick start is important, as his team adjusts to playing without point guard Natalia Louhisdon, who is out with a knee injury. The senior averaged nearly 15 points, five rebounds and 3.5 assists a year ago.

The coach has installed the versatile Brown at the point. Also a senior, Brown played forward last season, where she averaged 16.7 points and 8.1 rebounds.

“We’re still trying to adjust and figure things out with Natalia out of the lineup,” Johnson said. “I think we saw that early in the Old Bridge game. The girls will get more comfortable with each game, and Amber [Brown] will settle in at the point.”

South Brunswick certainly has plenty of talent. Chambres is a 3-point threat who averaged 13.5 points. Johnson will look to work freshman Sydney Coleman into the backcourt.

Up front, the Lady Vikings are formidable. Adams, a 6-foot junior, is a presence underneath, where she averaged five points and six rebounds. Samia Baig, a hard-working 5-foot-7 forward, and the 6-foot-1 Hunter provide additional rebounding and scoring. Sophomore Inayah Jones will also see time on the forward line.

“Our size is really our strength,” the coach said. “Last year, Amber and Natalia would drive to the basket all the time. This year, we’re going to have to move the ball around more because we have more threats inside. The girls are buying in, and they have the willingness to work hard. If they keep that up, there’s no telling what this team is capable of doing.”

Johnson’s team was slated to visit John P. Stevens High School Dec. 22 and will play in the Brunswick Classic Tournament over the holiday break. South Brunswick resumes the regular season Jan. 3 at Piscataway Township High School and will host East Brunswick High School and Bishop George Ahr High School Jan. 5 and 7, respectively.