J.P. Stevens girls’ basketball trying to mesh for postseason run

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J.P. Stevens High School girls' basketball player Karly Wittenbauer pump fakes and drives to the lane to knock down a mid-range jumper during the team's game against Old Bridge High School on Jan. 14. J.P. Stevens is 3-6 to start the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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J.P. Stevens High School girls' basketball player Megan Duffy dribbles the ball up the court while being guarded by Old Bridge High School's Jordan Totten during a game played on Jan. 14. Duffy is averaging a double-double this season for the Hawks. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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J.P. Stevens High School girls' basketball player Karly Wittenbauer pump fakes and drives to the lane to knock down a mid-range jumper during the team's game against Old Bridge High School on Jan. 14. J.P. Stevens is 3-6 to start the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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J.P. Stevens High School girls' basketball player Megan Duffy dribbles the ball up the court while being guarded by Old Bridge High School's Jordan Totten during a game played on Jan. 14. Duffy is averaging a double-double this season for the Hawks. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

It’s been a tale of two different stretches to describe the start of the 2019-2020 season for the John P. Stevens High School girls’ basketball team.

After losing its first three games of the season, J.P. Stevens rallied back with a three-game winning streak to climb back to .500, only to have another three-game losing streak fall upon them that has the Hawks at a mark of 3-6 on the year.

“This was the first chapter of the season. The second chapter is coming up and that’s how we look at it,” said J.P. Stevens coach Amy Field. It’s ok that we took our losses now. If we keep working hard, anything is possible.”

The Hawks were handed its second three-game skid this season by Old Bridge High School on Jan. 14, losing to the Knights, 57-54.

J.P. Stevens started off the game on fire, getting out on a 13-3 surge, only to see the Knights comeback with an 11-0 run to take the lead. Senior Megan Duffy scored a basket in the final 20 seconds of the first quarter to grab a one-point lead going into the second quarter.

Duffy found herself in the right place at the right time in the final seconds of the first half, corralling the loose and knocking in a layup before the buzzer to give the Hawks a 24-22 lead going into halftime.

The senior scored 14 points in the first half. She finished with a game-high 29 points in the contest.

Duffy has taken her game to the next level this season, said Field. The senior is averaging a double-double this season, scoring over 19 points and racking up over 11 rebounds per game.

“My team needed me to score and I used my skills to get to the basket,” Duffy said. “It feels good to be playing great this season. I just have to keep working and improving throughout the season.”

Field said Duffy has been doing a good job trying to lead the team this season and helping the younger players gain more confidence on the court.

J.P. Stevens couldn’t contain Old Bridge from downtown in the third quarter as the Knights rattled home five three-pointers to take a 41-34 lead into the fourth quarter, ending the quarter on a 9-2 effort.

Duffy and sophomore Karly Wittenbauer tried to mount a fourth quarter comeback for the Hawks, combining for 17 of the team’s 20 points in the quarter, but it was not enough as J.P. Stevens dropped its second Red Division game this season.

The Hawks lost only one division contest last season, going 11-2 and finishing with an overall record of 18-7.

Wittenbauer finished with 13 points in the contest. Junior teammate McKayla Duffy scored six points (two three-pointers).

“It’s hard when you three really good players and a couple younger girls and you’re trying to get them to all mesh on the court,” Field said. “We’re working on it. I think we’re getting there.”

The tough start to the season hasn’t shaken the Hawks as the team knows there’s a lot of basketball still left to be played this winter.

For her squad to get back on track in the second half of the season, Field believes hard work in practice will help improve the team’s play on the court.

“They have to put the time in practice and work hard in every drill,” Field said. “There’s a lot of work to be put in.”

J.P. Stevens got back on the winning track against Perth Amboy on Jan. 16, defeating the Panthers, 52-32. Wittenbauer had a game-high 26 points and 15 rebounds in the victory. Megan Duffy recorded another double-double in the victory, scoring 16 points and hauling in 11 rebounds.

Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports