Monroe continues great start to the girls’ basketball season

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Monroe High School girls' basketball player Rosie Regan drains a shot over the outstretched hand of East Brunswick High School's Brianna Sliwinski during a game played on Jan. 21. Monroe defeated East Brunswick, 63-33, to improve to 11-1 on the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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East Brunswick High School girls' basketball player Bailey Dressner dribbles the ball at the top of the key during the team's game against Monroe High School on Jan. 21. East Brunswick is 6-6 on the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Monroe High School girls' basketball player Nina Branchizio drives past East Brunswick High School's Bailey Dressner to the basket during a game played on Jan. 21. Branchizio scored 10 points in the contest.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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East Brunswick High School girls' basketball player Brianna Sliwinski leads the fast break during the team's game against Monroe High School on Jan. 21. Sliwinski scored a team-high 16 points in the contest.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Monroe High School girls' basketball player Rosie Regan drains a shot over the outstretched hand of East Brunswick High School's Brianna Sliwinski during a game played on Jan. 21. Monroe defeated East Brunswick, 63-33, to improve to 11-1 on the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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East Brunswick High School girls' basketball player Bailey Dressner dribbles the ball at the top of the key during the team's game against Monroe High School on Jan. 21. East Brunswick is 6-6 on the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Monroe High School girls' basketball player Nina Branchizio drives past East Brunswick High School's Bailey Dressner to the basket during a game played on Jan. 21. Branchizio scored 10 points in the contest.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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East Brunswick High School girls' basketball player Brianna Sliwinski leads the fast break during the team's game against Monroe High School on Jan. 21. Sliwinski scored a team-high 16 points in the contest.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

The Monroe Township High School girls’ basketball team is jelling at the right time.

“I’m really proud of how the girls have been playing,” said Monroe coach Leigh Vogtman. “All very coachable kids. They have really good team chemistry and work well together on the court.”

Monroe made its coach proud when the Falcons flew past East Brunswick High School, 63-33, on Jan 21 in East Brunswick.

Its the second victory in a row for Monroe, which is 11-1 on the season. Monroe’s only setback was to Middlesex High School on Jan. 16.

As for East Brunswick, the loss dropped the Bears to 6-6 on the season.

East Brunswick coach Travis Retzlaff is pleased with where his squad is at going into the second half of the season despite its recent struggles.

“I love where we’re at,” Retzlaff said. “Our younger girls are doing a great job. We have great senior leadership. We just have to keep working hard and hopefully come tournament time be primed for a nice run.”

Senior Madison Carey had a big night for the Falcons, shining bright from three-point range in the victory.

Carey struck down three of her four three-pointers in the first half and finished with a game-high 23 points in the contest.

“I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” Carey said. “All the great passes and screens they set up for me. They ran through the plays that were set up for me and it worked out in this game.”

Monroe hit a total of eight three-pointers in the contest.

A big factor in the game were two huge scoring plays made by Monroe in the final seconds of both the first and second quarter.

Junior Nina Branchizio dashed to the basket with under four seconds to go in the first quarter and knocked in an off-balanced shot while getting fouled. She would then go to the free-throw line to complete the three-point play and give Monroe a 12-5 lead going into the second quarter.

The Falcons ended the first quarter on a 10-2 burst.

Senior Brielle Fitzpatrick stepped up with a huge play in the final seconds of the first half to help Monroe take a 29-15 lead into halftime.

After Carey missed the layup, Fitzpatrick had her teammate’s back by hauling in the offensive rebound and banking home layup as time expired.

Fitzpatrick scored six of her 11 points in the second quarter. Branchizio finished with 10 points in the victory.

“Anything can happen, so I crashed the net, got the rebound and was able to hit the put back before the half ended” Fitzpatrick said. “It really gave us a lot of momentum going into the second half.”

Carey was a three-point play machine in the second half, tallying two and ones in her 12-point second half performance.

Junior Joanna Giustino gave Monroe four players in double figures during the victory by scoring eight of her 10 points in the fourth quarter.

Monroe has won its last two games by 30 points or more, defeating Old Bridge on Jan. 18, 65-30.

A team that has only had one winning season the past three seasons, this Monroe group feels they’re on the verge of putting the program back on the map.

“It’s taken a while for us to get to this point,” Carey said. “We’ve had some tough seasons in the past, but have grown from them, especially with team chemistry. It’s our time to shine this year.”

Senior Brianna Sliwinski led East Brunswick with a team-high 16 points scored in the contest.

Sliwinski is averaging 16 points and 9 rebounds a contest this season, while also being a great leader for the younger girls on the East Brunswick roster, said Retzlaff.

“Brianna is doing a great job leading the team,” Retzlaff said. “Our younger girls are doing a good job catching up and helping us come together as a team. We’ve had some highs and lows this season. Peaks and valleys. We just have to level off the valleys and we’ll be ok.”

Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports