By Jimmy Allinder
This has been an up and down year for Spotswood High School girls’ basketball, and that’s kind of what it’s been like the last five seasons.
Since their 13-13 record in 2011-12, the Chargers were 14-7 in 2012-13, dipped to 10-16 in 2013-14, rebounded with an 18-7 mark in 2014-15 and finished 8-18 last year.
Spotswood is 12-8 overall and 8-4 in the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Blue Division and will conclude the regular season visiting Edison High School (12-6) Feb. 10. The team was scheduled to visit John F. Kennedy Memorial High School (0-16) Feb. 8.
Bouncing back from last season’s performance was one of coach Jill Hetzler’s primary goals — she also wanted her young team to gain some badly needed experience.
“We were not competitive last year, and that needed to change,” she said. “When we beat Metuchen [High School, 55-28, Dec. 23], it helped us see what we are capable of when we play together and establish an offensive and defensive rhythm.”
Hetzler was also buoyed by the Chargers’ 53-42 victory over Middlesex High School Feb. 1, which put rival South River High School in the driver’s seat to capture the Blue Division. Spotswood dropped two games to the Rams — winners of 20-plus games the last three seasons as Gold Division members and haven’t skipped a beat in their Blue Division debut.
The Chargers’ most significant victory was a 38-29 decision against Monroe Township High School — the defending NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV champion.
“That game stands out because it proved if we put everything together, we could beat a team like Monroe,” she said. “The girls played excellent defense even though we suffered a scoring drought, but we eventually got hot and ran with it.”
Hetzler said the non-division schedule purposely included games against larger GMC schools, including Old Bridge High School and John P. Stevens High School from the Red Division, in order for her team to grow from playing better competition. Although the Chargers dropped both contests, 57-40 and 43-19, respectively, she saw positives.
Senior Mary Beth Barnosky is the leader in offensive production, averaging 8.6 points, but she has been the only player to score consistently. It’s little wonder Hetzler has resorted to multiple combinations in the rotation, which has resulted in a different leading scorer in eight games.
Spotswood has since settled on a regular rotation — one that will serve it well in future seasons. Sophomore Savannah Robinson averages 7.2 points, and freshman Maddie Hellerich and junior Erin Malin score 5.7 points per game. Hellerich is the rebounding leader with 5.3 per game, followed by sophomore Paige Dadika with 5.2 a contest.
Others who have seen playing time include seniors Lizie Vignoulo and Julie Raba.
South River (14-4 overall and 11-2 Blue Division) could have clinched the division crown if it knocked off Carteret High School (8-9 overall, 4-9 division) Feb. 6. Meanwhile, Spotswood hopes to continue to build the foundation for a team that can compete for the division title next year.
The GMC Tournament begins Feb. 11 with play-in games, with seeds to be decided two days before. Following the conclusion of the GMCs, Spotswood will participate in the Central Jersey, Group II sectional, where it is currently ranked 11th in power points.
The Chargers will likely play on the road against an opponent to be determined in the first round Feb. 27.
“Our most successful days are when the defensive intensity forces turnovers,” Hetzler said. “Our seniors and juniors remember when we had a great season two years ago, and [they] want this team to experience some of that success.”