Improved Lady Knights piling up wins on hardwood

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By Warren Rappleyea

Having won four of its past five games, Old Bridge High School’s girls’ basketball team stands at 7-5 and, at the halfway point of the season, is just two victories away from equaling last year’s win total.

After falling to Barnegat High School in the finals at the Lady Wave Tournament in Long Branch, the Lady Knights resumed play with a tough 51-48 loss to East Brunswick High School. Playing without Amanda Carney, Old Bridge battled the Bears to the final buzzer, as senior point guard Meaghan Dowdell and freshman Rachel Kuhl scored 15 points each.

With Kuhl and Carney leading the way, coach Jon Bill’s squad then downed John P. Stevens High School, Spotswood High School and North Brunswick Township High School in succession, before losing to Monroe Township High School Jan. 12.

Down, 28-22, to Spotswood at halftime, Old Bridge parlayed a strong second half into a 57-40 win. Kuhl scored a season-high 28 points, including eight 3-pointers, while Carney posted 16 points.

The Lady Knights are coming off a 45-40 win against Edison High School Jan. 14. It was a close game throughout, but fundamentals helped Old Bridge turn the tide, as 10 of Carney’s 26 points came from the free-throw line.

“We have a fairly young team, and I think it just took some time to develop consistency,” said Bill, who is in his first year as Old Bridge’s head coach. “We have the talent and work ethic.”

Carney, who netted her 1,000th career point in a victory over Point Pleasant Beach High School, has been outstanding for the Lady Knights. The senior sharp-shooter is averaging 19.3 points and has 25 3-pointers to her credit.

Entering the campaign, Bill was anticipating a strong showing from Kuhl. The freshman has, however, exceeded all expectations. Kuhl leads the team with 31 3-pointers and is averaging 15.6 points. She also scored 24 points against Barnegat in the Lady Wave Tournament.

With less pressure for her to score, Dowdell has been quietly effective at the point. The four-year starter still manages to score about eight points per game while also distributing the ball efficiently and playing solid defensively.

Sophomore guard Abigail Zimmerlink is a defensive presence as well who averages five points. Junior forward Jessica Ahearn averages three points, and senior guard Haley Donoghue has provided help off the bench. Jordan Totten has gradually earned more playing time. The freshman has played in 10 games and is averaging three points.

“In the past, we have had goals of finishing at .500,” Bill said. “This year, we are looking at a winning record and a fantastic run at the[Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC)] championship.”

Old Bridge was set to visit South Brunswick High School Jan. 17, when the Lady Knights were hoping to avenge an early-season loss. Bill’s team looks to sweep the season series at Perth Amboy High School Jan. 19.

After that, Old Bridge is off until Jan. 24, when Piscataway Township High School comes to town. The Chiefs won the first meeting between the two teams Dec. 22.