Lady Buccaneers happy with start to basketball season

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By Matthew Rocco

A veteran Red Bank Regional High School girls’ basketball team is off to a quick start. The Lady Buccaneers officially put their rivals on notice at the WOBM Christmas Classic, where they took down a Shore Conference powerhouse.

Red Bank Regional came into the season with high hopes. The team welcomed back seven returning seniors, giving the Lady Buccaneers plenty of experience. The next step was to expose the team to new competition, so Red Bank Regional jumped into the high-profile WOBM Christmas Classic.

The Lady Buccaneers didn’t disappoint, defeating Colts Neck High School in the first round, followed by a big win over Neptune High School in the quarterfinals. Red Bank Regional handed the Scarlet Fliers their only loss this season in a 50-35 final, fueled by a game-high 16 points from sophomore forward Meghan Murray.

With a large group of veteran players back on the court, Red Bank Regional is looking for more upset victories this season.

“As a coach, when you have seven seniors, it makes your job a little easier,” Red Bank Regional head coach James Young said. “We really didn’t change anything from last season. The team knew what was expected of them.”

One of Red Bank Regional’s seniors, Grace Dengler, has led the charge on offense. The returning guard posted seven points against Neptune. Noelle Halpin, a senior forward, also had seven points. Senior guard Emma Keegan added 13 points.

The Lady Buccaneers are getting contributions up and down the roster. Murray, junior Bridget Tobin and seniors Mary Vilardi, Meme Paterno, Emily Fitzgerald and Brenna Bonner all have roles in Red Bank Regional’s game plan.

“We have a collective responsibility on offense. We don’t rely on one or two people to score. We try to feed the hot hand,” said Young, who is coaching his 10th season.

Red Bank Regional has shown great strides on defense, too.

“We’ve always defended well in the half-court,” Young said.

The Lady Buccaneers are encouraged by their play during the first two weeks of the season. They defeated Matawan Regional High School and Henry Hudson Regional High School, while the team’s losses came against powerhouse St. John Vianney High School and Point Pleasant Borough High School. The Lady Buccaneers lost to Point Pleasant Borough in a 61-57 nail-biter in the WOBM tournament at Pine Belt Arena.

Despite their exit in the semifinals, the Lady Buccaneers gained valuable experience at the WOBM Christmas Classic. They hope to put that big-game experience to good use in the stretch run.

“We went to the WOBM to try to play some different teams that we may not see during the season. We wanted to go to another tournament to play in front of a lot of fans, and we know Neptune is going to be there in the end in [NJSIAA] Central Jersey, Group III,” Young said.

“It’s a good start, we’re happy where we are, but we have a long way to go. It’s a long season.”

Red Bank Regional (4-2) was back on the court Jan. 3 at Red Bank Catholic High School and plays at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, a Class A Central division rival, Jan. 5.