By Warren Rappleyea
The Markham Place Middle School’s girls’ basketball team ended a successful campaign by winning the Coastal Intermediate Basketball League (CIBL) championship with a 33-30 victory against Forrestdale School of Rumson.
The Little Silver-based Warriors sported a 15-2 record and earned the top seed for the CIBL tournament. Coach Ryan Pina’s team hung on, as Forrestdale cut the lead to two points late in the game. The five Warriors starters — forwards Ava Smith and Chase Boyle, along with guards Chloe Teter, Ceci Conte and Amelia Medolla — scored five points apiece. Morgan Cupo, another guard, came off the bench to score eight points.
“This is really a team-first group of girls,” the coach said. “They work well together, and they root for each other and pick each other up. If someone is not having a particularly good game, another player always seems to step up.”
Pina’s team nearly didn’t make it to the championship game. The Warriors were trailing Maple Place Middle School of Oceanport by five points with under two minutes remaining, but they rallied to come back and pull out an unlikely win.
Markham Place tightened its defense and created several turnovers, one of which led to layup by Cupo, as the Warriors battled back.
“Defense is the key to our success,” Pino said. “We feel that an aggressive defense should always help us create offense. Although we can also be aggressive with the ball, we’re a defense-first team, and the girls all do their part.”
The team’s contingent of several eighth-graders led the way this season. Boyle and Smith are defensive stalwarts as well as team leaders. Conte, Medolla and Teter do a lit bit of everything for Warriors, Pina said, noting that Teter is a 3-point threat as well.
Two other eighth-graders were key contributors off the bench. Hard-working forward Holly Scanlon gave the Warriors a rebounding presence under hoop, while guard Molly Sauer’s instant energy and willingness to dive for loose balls often sparked the team. Cupo, a seventh-grader, provided additional offense and had two buzzer-beaters to her credit.
The coach noted that the team’s eighth-graders have been playing together on travel teams and in local leagues for several years, and their experience proved a plus for the middle school team. In addition, all seven were on the team as sixth-graders when it reached the CIBL championship game in 2015.
Other members of this year’s squad included seventh-graders Tess Bateman, Anna Gotterup, Catherine McCallum and Layla Sapirstien, who are all guards. There’s also Avery Davis, Riley Santos and Reilly Weaver, who played up front. Forward Shannon Lynch and guard Kelsey Peduto, who are both sixth-graders, round out the team.
“I’m very proud of our girls,” said Pina, who teaches health and physical education at the school. “We have a very talented group, and I enjoyed coaching them.”