Middletown South girls’ basketball off to fast start

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Middletown High School South has a fun girls’ basketball team this winter.

The Eagles race up the court, pass the ball around and launch three pointer after three pointer. They did all of the above on Dec. 17 at Howell High School, in a victory that lifted Middletown South to 2-0.

Middletown South has beaten Howell, 65-51, and Manalapan High School, 51-32, on Dec. 14. In the Howell victory, Stephanie Mayerhofer (21) and Isla Brennan (17) combined for 38 points, drilling eight three pointers. Kayla Richardson added two three pointers.

“The most important thing we focus on is sharing the ball. We always want to make the extra pass and find the person who’s the most open,” Richardson said. “It creates a good shooting rhythm for us.”

“We keep saying, ‘Give up a good shot to get a great shot.’ We just want to look for each other,” Mayerhofer said. “We do a lot of shooting drills in practice.”

Middletown South’s shooting and driving were so relentless that, even when Howell got close, the Rebels were never able to come all the way back. Mayerhofer and Brennan, who share ball handling duties, just kept attacking, shooting and scoring.

Forwards Eva Pirie and Madison Szabo, who both stand taller than 6-0, added 10 and four points, respectively. They also controlled the glass and started Middletown South’s fast breaks.

The Eagles’ athleticism, height and offensive firepower were hard for the Rebels to overcome.

“This was a very good team that we played,” said Howell coach Joe Santopietro. “I’d like to hit as many threes as they just hit. They have shooters outside and two girls over 6-0 inside. Most teams don’t have that combination.”

Middletown South did not hit nearly as many outside shots versus Manalapan. Instead, it won by forcing turnovers and creating easy baskets.

The Eagles stole the ball 12 times, with Mayerhofer and Richardson leading the team with three steals each. A different forward, Samantha Keenan, led the Eagles with 12 points and six rebounds.

Middletown South also held Manalapan to single digit points in three of four quarters.

Through two games, the Eagles have already proven that they can win in different ways, with different players stepping up.

“We’re all experienced. It helps when you have a lot of chemistry with each other,” Brennan said. “It’s fun.”

Middletown South went just 12-13 last winter, but it returns seven varsity players who averaged at least four points. It’s a strong, experienced rotation.

This is why the Eagles don’t think their fast start is a fluke. Middletown South expects to be a to- four seeded team in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 3 sectional tournament.

“We just have to make sure we play collectively as a team and don’t let little things get to us. That was a key factor in our last two victories,” Richardson said. “As long as we can keep working hard and paying attention, we can continue winning.”

“We all have the same goal, to win a state championship,” Brennan said. “It doesn’t matter who’s scoring the points. We just want to win and progress as we move on.”