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Mustangs surge past Middletown South, 43-27, in season opener

Marlboro High School girls basketball player Lia Villa dribbles through two Middletown South defenders and is fouled on her way to the basket during a game played on Dec. 15 in Marlboro. Marlboro won 43-27.

MARLBORO — The 2022-23 New Jersey high school basketball season tipped off on Dec. 15 and the Marlboro High School girls began their campaign on a strong note against Middletown South High School at home.

A first half offensive explosion eventually led the Mustangs to a 43-27 victory over the Eagles and impressed Coach Brad Hagensen.

“I am proud of our effort, especially in the first half,” the coach said. “We played well in the first half, but not as much in the second half. We have to learn to maintain (that type of intensity) throughout the game.”

At halftime, Marlboro led Middletown South, 29-8, on the strength of a 19-1 run leading to the break. Clutch three-point shooting to end the first quarter and the second quarter was a key factor for the Mustangs.

Senior Varsha Simha dialed up her first three-pointer in the final seconds of the first quarter as Marlboro ended the frame with a 15-7 lead.

Sophomore Emily Borgen concluded Marlboro’s 19-1 run to end the first half as she hit her second three-pointer with :12 to play in the second quarter.

The Mustangs connected on six three-point field goals in the contest, with Borgen, Simha and junior Lia Villa each hitting twice from long range.

Hagensen credited the strong shooting performance to his players doing a good job running the offense.

“It’s us coming together and learning our offense. It’s all about learning and trying to get better each day,” he said.

Simha led the Mustangs with 12 points against the Eagles.

As a junior, Simha saw limited time in varsity action. Her teammate Amanda Castro said Simha told her that her goal as a senior was to become a “key scorer.”

Against Middletown South, Simha showed she can fill the role of a scorer and hopes to continue her strong play throughout the season. She said, “It feels great. We just have to keep it up and keep working hard.”

Villa contributed nine points, while Borgen and senior Erica DiSimone each scored eight points in the win over the Eagles.

Castro, DiSimone and Villa are returning starters from a team that went 15-11 and reached the quarterfinals of the 2021-22 state sectional tournament.

Over the last four years, Marlboro has won two Shore Conference A North Division titles and has been a strong contender in the Central Jersey Group IV state sectional tournament.

Hagensen and the Mustangs believe they can continue that trend this winter, especially after seeing newcomers Simha, Borgen, Kammi Haeusser and Ka’Torah Rush deliver strong performances against Middletown South.

“We made it a goal of ours at the beginning of the season to work harder than anyone on our schedule. As long as we play together and play smart, we can accomplish anything,” Castro said.

Marlboro will host Hightstown High School on Dec. 17 and travel to play Trinity Hall of Tinton Falls on Dec. 20.

Marlboro High School girls basketball player Amanda Castro steals the ball and then races up the court to knock in a layup during a game against Middletown South on Dec. 15 in Marlboro. Castro scored six points in Marlboro's 43-27 victory over Middletown South.
Marlboro High School point guard Erica DiSimone dribbles the ball into the paint during a game against Middletown South on Dec. 15 in Marlboro. DiSimone scored eight points in the contest.
Marlboro High School girls basketball player Varsha Simha knocks the ball out of the hands of Middletown South's Erin Mayerhofer during a game played on Dec. 15 in Marlboro. Simha scored a team-high 12 points to help Marlboro defeat Middletown South 43-27.
Marlboro High School girls basketball player Ka'Torah Rush drives to the basket during a game against Middletown South on Dec. 15 in Marlboro. 
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