The Red Bank Catholic High School girls’ basketball team is back in the state sectional semifinals for the first time in two years.
And Red Bank Catholic feels prepared to make a run as the No. 1 seed at a sectional championship in a very competitive NJSIAA South Jersey, Non-Public A bracket.
“The opportunity to play in our home gym means that we won a bunch of games during the year and that’s a good advantage for us,” said Red Bank Catholic coach Joseph Montano. “And it’s the fact that our girls are starting to grow up that gives us this opportunity.”
The Caseys will be the host to its Shore Conference A-Central Division foe, Saint Rose High School, in the semifinals, which will be played on March 9.
After hitting a little hiccup when they fell to Manchester Township High School, 64-43, in the semifinals of the Shore Conference Tournament, the Caseys have gotten back on track in its past two games heading into the state semifinals.
Red Bank Catholic rolled to a 56-42 victory over Middle Township High School in its tune up for the sectional tournament on Feb. 28.
The Caseys took care of business in the quarterfinals of the sectional tournament on March 6 against the No. 9 seed, Notre Dame High School, picking up an impressive 67-31 victory over the Irish to advance to the state semifinals.
The second quarter was where Red Bank Catholic took things into high gear and showed the type of team it can be.
Led by junior Sophia Sabino, the Caseys outscored Notre Dame, 22-6, to take a commanding 33-14 lead into the half.
Sabino dropped in 13 of her 15 first half points in the second period. The junior went on to finish with a game-high 17 points, while also showing off her full repertoire with dishing out assists left and right and playing great defense.
Sabino recorded an assists on three-pointers made by Grace Wilson and Casey Prior to put the Caseys up 55-26 with just under six minutes left to play
“I just had to do my role for Coach Montano and for the team,” Sabino said. “If everyone does their job and we all play with a lot of energy and leave our hearts on the floor, I think we can win a sectional title.”
Sophomore Ally Carman also recorded a game-high 17 points in the victory for the Caseys.
Carman has been a great force down in the paint all season for Red Bank Catholic, averaging just under 14 points a game this season, which is a team-high.
The sophomore showed off her great post moves on the block by knocking home a bucket over Notre Dame’s Erika Porter to extend the Red Bank Catholic lead to 62-27.
“The guards were passing the ball so well and everyone was communicating. It was a big team effort,” Carman said of the victory over Notre Dame. “It really shows what we can do when we work together. It’s motivating.”
Sophomore Justine Pissott was money from down in the victory over Notre Dame, knocking down four three-pointers and finishing with 16 points for the Caseys.
Pissott leads the team with 65 three-pointers made this season.
Defense, as it has been all season, was a big factor in helping Red Bank Catholic dominate the contest against Notre Dame.
The Caseys are now 14-0 this season when they hold their opponent to 40 points or less. Red Bank Catholic has lost only one game this season when holding its opponent to under 50 points, falling 47-41 to Rutgers Prep on Jan. 26.
“We have to play defense and rebound the ball,” Montano said. “We just have to go back to being focused on those things. I thought we were much more focused and more competitive against (Notre Dame).”
Montano also believes that his squad’s depth is another huge factor for them in the sectional tournament.
Junior Antonia Panayides and seniors Fabienne Eggenschwiler, Shaelyn Sabino and Nicole Stanford have all contributed well to the team’s success this season and allow the Caseys to be more versatile against different teams.
“When we were playing our best basketball during the year, we were playing eight to nine girls’ and they were all contributing,” Montano said. “We need everyone to come in and do their part.”
Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports