Northern Burlington High girls’ basketball guided by new coach

Northern Burlington County Regional High School girls' basketball coach Molly Napolitano speaks with her squad before a Jan. 3 matchup against Bordentown Regional High School in Bordentown. Photo by Thomas Wiedmann

The Northern Burlington County Regional High School girls’ basketball team will look to continue its winning ways this season after a strong finish last year.

But what will be different is who is in command of the team this winter.

After Northern Burlington closed out a successful 2018-19 season with a 15-11 record and earned an appearance in first round of the Central Jersey, Group 3 state sectional tournament, the team has now intended to build off of that success with its new coach, Molly Napolitano.

Now in her first season at the helm of the Northern Burlington squad, Napolitano earned the first victory of her tenure against Pemberton High School with a 52-41 decision on Dec. 28, at home in Columbus.

Following the victory over Pemberton, Napolitano led her squad to a pair of victories in the next four games, which included a 48-31 triumph on the road against local rival Bordentown Regional High School on Jan. 3, and a close 48-47 decision over Pemberton again on Jan. 8, in Pemberton.

As Northern Burlington prepares to enter the heart of the 2019-20 season under its new coach, Napolitano said she aims to build from last year’s triumphs with her squad.

“We want to move off of the momentum last year and keep up with the tempo,” said Napolitano, who replaced Colin Hewko.

Although the Northern Burlington coach intends to carry last year’s success into the new season, she pointed out that this year’s squad will take a new approach in tactics.

“We are kind of rebuilding our program,” Napolitano said. “We are going to work a bit different. We are not going to be much a shooting team with our outside shooters, but we are going to have to work more overall. We are more of a team this year.”

While Northern Burlington takes on a new style of play this year, Napolitano noted that she will still be calling on multiple players to lead the way.

The coach particularly pointed towards three of her top players and captains: Haylei Archer, Julia Mayernik and Rachel Quigley. In just the first eight games of this season, the trio have already racked a combined 110 points.

Regardless of points scored though, Napolitano said she expects to see her senior players serve in more guiding roles this season and hopes it will even influence the younger teammates to fill those roles someday.

“We have great leadership,” she said. “We have a bunch of amazing seniors, so what I’m looking for this year is that we have that senior leadership, but I also want some of my underclassmen to step up and take a leadership role as well to look for the future.”

One key quality in the squad that Napolitano believes she has, is the experience her upperclassmen have in the squad’s ability play as a unit too.

“Our advantage is definitely going to be the camaraderie on our team,” she said. “We are working well together, and that’s where I see us moving forward.

While Northern Burlington still has strides to make this year against upcoming Burlington County Scholastic League opponents, Napolitano said that she is excited to take on the opportunity as coach of the team, and discussed her experiences with the players in previous years on the bench.

“I was an assistant coach the past two years, so I have watched the upperclassmen really mature into the basketball players they are now,” said Napolitano, who worked under Hewko. “I want to see them strive and enjoy their last year of basketball. I have coached a lot of these girls, so watching them grow up and push into these senior leadership roles is amazing.”

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