Bears get chance to defend CJ IV title

By lindsey siegle


t may not have seemed likely back in December, but the East Brunswick High School girls basketball team found itself back in the Central Jersey Group IV final last night.

This year’s Bears are very different from last year’s sectional and state group champions, and they have suffered some uncharacteristic lopsided losses, but they had more than enough going for them to defeat Middletown North High School in the semifinal on Friday.

Coach Reggie Carney’s squad posted a 70-46 win in a hard-fought game that saw the Lions stay within striking distance right into the fourth quarter.

"A lot of teams, we come out in our press and they just fall apart," East Brunswick senior Jess Olszewski said. "This team, give them a lot of credit, they broke our press, they knew exactly where to put the ball."

Some timely baskets by Olszewski, who finished with 20 points, helped the Bears stay out of serious trouble. But Middletown North, led by senior Jen Daly who scored 15 points, had a 23-22 lead midway through the second quarter before East Brunswick ended the half with a 13-2 run to go into the break with a 35-25 lead.

Olszewski contributed seven points in the run and added an assist on a basket by Liz Whalen. Melissa Dudra and Erin Kenny also sank baskets in the rally.

The Lions were not ready to go away in the second half, cutting the lead to 37-33 on a Daly basket with about five minutes remaining.

"All the credit in the world goes to Middletown North," Carney said. "They took advantage of every mistake we made."

However, Daly’s third-quarter basket was as close as the Lions would get, as Olszewski completed a traditional three-point play and freshman Heather O’Reilly made a steal at half court and sank a running layup. This pushed the lead back to 42-33 before the teams traded scores, leading to a 48-40 margin for the Bears at the end of three quarters.

The Lions, who were clearly getting fatigued by the East Brunswick press, succumbed two minutes into the fourth quarter. After Daly hit a pair of free throws to keep the Lions within striking distance at 52-44, the Bears closed the game with an 18-2 run.

"A lot of what happens at tournament time is what your seniors do," Carney said. "Jessie certainly played like the premiere player, but Lauren Genovese and Melissa Dudra did a terrific job off the bench with their rebounding and defense and getting some points. We needed that."

Genovese finished with seven rebounds and six points along with three steals, while Dudra contributed four points and five rebounds.

Whalen finished with 14 points, three rebounds, four assists and four steals.

The Bears Central Jersey Group IV final against Trenton Central in Sayreville last night finished too late to be included in this week’s edition of the