Freehold Township hoopsters’ goal: Play a complete season in 2021

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Freehold Township High School girls basketball player Hannah Orloff knocks down a shot during a game played against Red Bank Regional High School on Feb. 3 in Little Silver. Orloff scored a team-high 17 points in the contest.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School girls basketball player Tanya Elsbree surveys the court on the left wing during a game played against Red Bank Regional on Feb. 3 in Little Silver.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School girls basketball player Emily Tran drives past Red Bank Regional's Emma Moriarty during a game played on Feb. 3 in Little Silver. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School girls basketball player Hannah Orloff knocks down a shot during a game played against Red Bank Regional High School on Feb. 3 in Little Silver. Orloff scored a team-high 17 points in the contest.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School girls basketball player Tanya Elsbree surveys the court on the left wing during a game played against Red Bank Regional on Feb. 3 in Little Silver.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School girls basketball player Emily Tran drives past Red Bank Regional's Emma Moriarty during a game played on Feb. 3 in Little Silver. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

15 games. That is the number of times Freehold Township High School’s girls basketball players want to be on the court this winter.

During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association announced that basketball teams could play a maximum of 15 games in 2021 and that a state tournament would not be held.

Eighth-year coach Mike Stoia said his team’s goal is to play all 15 games and that this winter is all about giving his student-athletes a chance to play and nothing else.

“Our goal is to play 15 games and give our kids a chance to compete,” Stoia said. “We are not focusing on wins and losses. It’s all about getting a game in. We have a lot of seniors playing their last high school basketball season.”

Freehold Township returns all five starters from last season, led by senior Hannah Orloff, who averaged 14.8 points and 11.5 rebounds per game a year ago. Orloff is expected to dominate in the paint.

“She’s a monster down there,” Stoia said. “She does it every single game. I expect a lot from her this year.”

Orloff scored in double figures in each of the team’s first three games and had two double-doubles in points and rebounds. She scored 20 points in the season opener against Donovan Catholic on Jan. 26 and a team-high 17 points against Red Bank Regional on Feb. 3.

Seniors Emily Tran, Lindsay Lloyd and sisters Kaylie Elsbree and Tanya Elsbree complete the starting lineup.

The Elsbree sisters have continued to be reliable scorers on the wing. Kaylie and Tanya each produced two double-digit scoring performances through the first three games. Kaylie led the team with seven three-point field goals.

Kaylie has been the Patriots’ top three-point shooter for the past two years, hitting 37 triples as a junior after scoring a career-high 53 three-pointers during her sophomore campaign.

Tran continues to lead the Patriots at point guard, while Lloyd is a key defender and facilitator, leading the team in assists through three games (14).

Senior Madison Garze and freshman Faith Kopec are impact role players coming off the bench.

For the 2021 season, the Shore Conference divisions have been replaced by pods. Freehold Township is in a pod with Manalapan, Marlboro, Freehold, Trinity Hall and Middletown South, but the team’s first three games were played outside the pod.

Freehold Township was scheduled to open the season with two games against Manalapan, but the Braves were sidelined with positive COVID-19 cases in the program. Instead, Freehold Township played Donovan Catholic twice and came up short in each contest.

On Feb. 3, the Patriots played Red Bank Regional on the Bucs’ home court in Little Silver. Freehold Township trailed 29-24 at halftime after Orloff scored to end the second quarter.

Freehold Township went on a 14-0 run in the third quarter to take a 40-34 lead. Kaylie Elsbree led the run by scoring seven of her 15 points in the third quarter.

Red Bank Regional battled back to tie the game going into the fourth quarter. An 8-3 run by the Bucs to start the fourth quarter put the Patriots in a hole they could not climb out of and they fell 56-53.

Coming out on the losing end was not what the Patriots wanted, but Stoia was proud of the way his players competed against a good opponent.

“Red Bank is one of the best teams in the conference and we played them all four quarters,” Stoia said. “We competed and kept fighting. We have played Donovan Catholic and Red Bank, two of the top 10 teams in the conference depending on (how the teams are ranked) and we were right there with them.”

Freehold Township is scheduled to host Middletown South on Feb. 5 and Howell on Feb. 6.

Stoia knows his players will be ready to give everything they have in both games.

“Every game we are going to play is going to be a dogfight and we are going to try to do our best,” the coach said. “Tomorrow is not a given. We are taking it one day at a time and trying to get better each day and trying to stay healthy.”