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Middletown South graduate Cranwell takes reins as Eagles’ coach

Middletown High School South girls basketball coach Meghan Cranwell yells out instructions to her players during a game against Marlboro on Dec. 15 in Marlboro. Cranwell is in her first season as head coach of the Eagles.

MIDDLETOWN — There has been a changing of the guard for the Middletown South High School girls basketball program for the 2022-23 season.

Middletown South graduate Meghan Cranwell, who played for the Eagles, has taken the reins as the team’s head coach. Former coach Tom Brennan is now an assistant coach with the squad.

Being the head coach at her alma mater has been a fun experience so far for Cranwell, who is still getting used to being in charge and having Brennan as her assistant coach.

“I played for Tom Brennan, so me being the boss and him sitting on the bench is definitely an interesting dynamic. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Cranwell said.

Cranwell, who is a 2011 graduate of Middletown South, served as an assistant coach for Brennan for four years, including the 2018-19 season when the Eagles won their most recent state sectional tournament title.

Brennan turned the program into a powerhouse during 26 seasons at the helm. He guided the Eagles to four state sectional tournament crowns and to the program’s only state group title during the 2015-16 season.

Brennan made the decision to step down as head coach after leading the Eagles to the state sectional tournament championship game in 2021-22.

Cranwell said Brennan told her when she got the job that he wanted to stay on as an assistant coach to help out and to make it an easier transition for her as she took the reins of the team.

Having her former coach and predecessor on staff has been a help, said Cranwell, who is hoping to continue the success Brennan created at Middletown South.

The Eagles have four players back from a team that went 19-8 and reached the title game of the state sectional tournament a year ago.

Juniors Cassidy Brown and Erin Mayerhofer are expected to be the top scoring threats after breakout sophomore seasons.

Brown averaged just under seven points per game in 2021-22 and provided a huge defensive presence on the wing with 33 steals.

Mayerhofer showed impressive skill when shooting from distance with 27 three-point field goals a year ago.

Sophomore Amanda MacGregor saw time off the bench in the backcourt a year ago and will be the starting point guard. Senior Amanda Paterno also returns with experience from last season.

Sophomores Elizabeth Tardy and Caitlin Whyte and sisters Anna Kanapka and Kate Kanapka are newcomers to the varsity level who are expected to work their way into the rotation.

Middletown South (0-2) opened the 2022-23 season with tough games against Marlboro High School and Red Bank Catholic High School. The Eagles played both games without Brown and Paterno, who have each been sidelined with injuries.

The Eagles will participate in the 38th annual WOBM Christmas Classic during the holiday break.

While her team deals with some early season hurdles, Cranwell is preaching to her players the importance of staying positive and understanding there is a lot of basketball still to be played.

“It’s not what happens at the beginning of a season. It’s what happens at the end of the season. It’s a constant reminder to have a positive outlook and to bring energy every day. We are trying to keep that perspective for them,” she said.

Middletown High School South girls basketball player Caitlin Whyte grabs hold of the loose ball during a game against Marlboro on Dec. 15 in Marlboro.
Middletown High School South girls basketball player Amanda MacGregor tries to drive past Marlboro's Erica DiSimone to the basket during a game played on Dec. 15 in Marlboro. Marlboro defeated Middletown South 43-27.
Middletown High School South girls basketball player Kate Kanapka surveys the court from the wing during a game against Marlboro on Dec. 15 in Marlboro.
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