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Girls basketball: Seniors shine in South Hunterdon rout


South Hunterdon honored its three seniors last Wednesday night.

Yet the Eagles’ 60-28 trouncing of Stem Civics (4-15) was a complete team effort. Ten different Eagles scored and 11 players grabbed a rebound in South Hunterdon’s biggest offensive output of the season.

“It’s always important to work on your younger players,” noted senior Lauren Baggitt. “We were always a young team and trying to build from there. Now that we have a spread out roster, it’s important that we use everyone.”

“Our goals tonight were to let the kids have fun – which is usually our goal anyway – and as long as everyone works hard and gets in, that’s what we cared about,” added coach Krista Regan. “We worked in different groups tonight so there was always a different group of five than who we normally have out. Getting ready for the postseason, it is nice to work everybody in.”

Two Rebecca Phillips layups and Rylee Bordwick’s three-point play gave the Eagles seven early points in a 40-second stretch; it looked like the rout was on.

Then the Eagle floor offense, though getting points from free throws, stalled for eight minutes. South Hunterdon’s defense carried it through the stretch.

“We played harder than usual because it was Senior Night,” said senior Rachel Panetta. “We’re a defensive team and we try to play inside as best we can.”

Kate Robinson finally hit the first of three straight buckets halfway through the second quarter and South Hunterdon took a 32-14 lead into halftime.

“We got used to the game and less nervous,” Panetta assessed. “We got the nerves out of the way and started playing our game.”

“We seniors thought, ‘It was Senior Night and our last half.’ We needed to get our act together,” echoed senior Nicole Costantini.

The Eagles’ best stretch of basketball were the first five minutes of the third quarter. Two putbacks by Panetta and a Costantini three highlighted a 13-0 run in which South Hunterdon got stops on defense and converted on offense.

Panetta and Costantini each recorded a double-double and a season high in points. Phillips tallied eight points and three assists. Baggitt added five points and two steals.

The Eagles’ three leading scorers are all underclassmen. Robinson and Phillips are nearly tied for the team points lead; Bordwick, who has three double figure games, is a close third. Their emergence helped explain how a four-win Eagle team last season went above .500 last Wednesday night.

“We didn’t graduate anyone so we all knew each other,” Baggitt explained. “Last year was a lot of building the team. This year was following through with that.”

“Lauren said it best,” Regan agreed. “We spent last year, in a sense even sacrificing wins in order to make sure that we were developing people. Being able to be confident in any person that we put in is a really nice feeling.”

The Eagles closed the regular season with an 11-12 record (4-6 Skylands). But they clinched a 10-seed in the Central Jersey Group 1 tournament. South Hunterdon will travel to No. 7 Keyport in the last week of February.

“You can see tonight the difference in the first half and second half when they settled,” Regan pointed out, “what difference it makes and how much better they look.”