Brookdale softball begins 2000 season in Maryland

T

he 2000 Brookdale Community College women’s softball team won’t have to deal with the high expectations of the recent Jersey Blue teams.

Last year’s team began the season ranked No. 1 in the country among junior colleges, and advanced to the Junior College World Series where they finished fifth. The Blues had a 38-7 overall record. It was the fourth straight year that Bo Scannapieco’s BCC women had won the Region XIX title and qualified for the World Series, making the Middletown college one of the top programs in the country.

But with many of its heavyweights — including All-American shortstop Maryann Soares — having graduated, the Jersey Blues begin the 2000 season with uncertainty. Will they be reloading or rebuilding?

Becky Barrett, Kristy Szeigis and Janine Leone are the returning starters that Scannapieco will build the 2000 Jersey Blues around. All three were All-Garden State Athletic Conference selections last spring and they are the only sophomores on the team.

Barrett, the centerfielder, batted .397 while scoring and batting in 34 runs. She had 11 doubles, a triple and two home runs. Szeigis, who can play third base or catcher, hit .358 with 44 RBI and 46 runs scored. She also drilled five home runs.

Leone is perhaps the most important returning player because of her position — pitcher. Two-thirds of last year’s rotation, Lauren Larson (13-4 with a 3.06 era) and Carol Hilton (14-3, 1.77 era), has graduated, and it will be up to Leone to step up and be the ace of the staff. She certainly has the credentials. Last year in 60 1/3 innings, she was 11-0 and had a 1.51 era. She also authored four shutouts.

"Janine brings experience," said Scannapieco. "She won a Region XIX game for us and pitched in the World Series. Her strengths are her control and ball movement. She has five pitches that she can throw for strikes."

Joanne DeVito and Lauren Zilinski are slotted to fill the other starting positions in the rotation. Both are first-year players with potential. DeVito will play shortstop when not pitching and Zilinski will play first base.

Other newcomers expected to make big contributions include catcher Nicole Spatz, outfielder Kristen Wardlow, second baseman Meghan Barrett (Becky’s sister), outfielder Sherri Cate and first base/shortstop Edna Coonan. Rounding out the 2000 roster are outfielders Erica Mayer and Kelly Mullins.

Missing from the Brookdale lineup will be the thumpers that have been such a big part of the team’s identity.

Soares has moved onto Monmouth University and taken with her her .521 batting average, 76 RBI, 71 runs scored, 17 doubles, five triples and 14 home runs.

Also gone are Toni Penniman (.430, 61 RBI, 15 doubles and four home runs), Kelly Fairclough (.399 and 71 runs scored) and Stephanie Leonard (.338 and 57 runs scored).

"I know that we won’t have the power that we’ve had, but there are other ways we can score, hit and run, making contact," explained Scannapieco.

Brookdale begins the 2000 campaign today in Maryland against Hartford in a doubleheader. In fact, their first three games of the year are all doubleheaders. They play a twin bill against Dundalk and two more against Catonsville tomorrow and Friday.

Brookdale plays its home opener on March 28 against Bergen in a Region XIX game.

"It’s too early to tell what to expect," said Scannapieco. "We’re young. We hope to improve as the season goes on. The girls are working hard and they have a real great attitude. There’s a lot of enthusiasm."

Scannapieco has three areas of concern.

"There are three things we need to do to be where we’ve been the last five or six years," he explained. "Our pitchers have potential. We’re not solid right now on defense because we’ve had to move kids around to different positions, but I think the defense will take care of itself over time.

"The bottom of the lineup is a concern," he added. "I think one to five we’re fine. But in the past we’ve been strong one through nine. We’ll need the bottom of the lineup to step up."

Caseys bounce Blue Eagles, 60-45, for title

RBC receives first-round bye, will play in TOC semifinal on Saturday

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JACKIE POLLACK
Jessica DePalo of Red Bank Catholic grabs one of her 16 rebounds over Immaculate Heart Academy’s Martina Williams in the NJSIAA Parochial A championship game on Saturday at the Dunn Center in Elizabeth.

 

LINDSEY SIEGLE

The Hub

ELIZABETH — The Red Bank Catholic girls basketball team started their game against Immaculate Heart Academy, Westwood, with shooting woes, but they were certainly ready to rebound at the Dunn Center in Elizabeth.

Read that Jessica DePalo was ready to rebound. The junior center grabbed 16 boards that helped her score 21 points and lead the Caseys to a 60-45 victory and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Parochial A championship.

"Jessie’s the hardest working kid I’ve ever coached," RBC Coach Joe Montano said. "She’s the first kid at practice and the last kid to leave. She just continues to work. She’s going to get offensive boards. She’s a great kid and she deserves everything that she gets. It’s nice that she gets that reward (championship game most valuable player); she deserves it."

DePalo may have been the most valuable player, but the Caseys’ strength as a team was what gave RBC the win against the Blue Eagles.

Early in the season the Caseys had the habit of getting off to a slow start. They were back at it again on Saturday.

The Caseys didn’t score their first field goal against Immaculate Heart Academy of Westwood until there was just 1:37 remaining in the first quarter.

The Blue Eagles scored the game’s first four points before some trips to the line cut their edge to 4-3.

Alisa Kresge found Brooke Tomovich for the basket that put the Caseys ahead 5-4; it was a lead they would not relinquish.

Tomovich’s basket came in the middle of a 10-0 run the Caseys put together to end the first period.

Kresge, a freshman, found Janine Cappadona for a three with 55 seconds left in the first and Tara McCaig finished the scoring in the period when she took a pass from the freshman in the post and converted the layup.

Cappadona and Kresge came off the bench to help get the RBC offense started.

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JACKIE POLLACK
Brooke Tomovich of Red Bank Catholic gets off a shot despite the best efforts of Immaculate Heart Academy’s Allison Hoerner at the Dunn Center on Saturday.

"She does that," Montano said of Kresge. "Janine does that too. That was a big three by Janine; you know she’s going to miss some, but we want Janine to shoot the ball. Those two come off the bench, they get us going, they give us that boost."

And that boost was all the Caseys needed.

A 10-4 advantage at the end of the first quarter grew to 25-16 margin at the half as DePalo scored nine of her points and grabbed four rebounds to give her double digits for both (11 points 10 rebounds) for the first half.

Lynne Zoltowski scored the first basket of the second half to give RBC a double-digit lead and after Allison Hoerner scored the first basket of the second half for the Blue Eagles, DePalo scored six points in a 12-point run that gave RBC a 39-18 advantage.

Zoltowski (on a feed from Kelli Talbot) and Brooke Tomovich (from Erin Cusmano) hit threes for the other Casey baskets in the run.

The Blue Angels, who did have some success with their press, never got closer than 12 (54-42) in the fourth quarter.

"They had to do something," Montano noted. "They trapped us a little bit. They came in their man and did a little run-and-jump and they were prepared to get back in the ball game. They did a good job, they picked up some steals."

That effort was not enough as DePalo contributed six more points and the Caseys continued their solid work on the boards and on defense.

The final margin was set when Lindsey Woodfield hit a pair of free throws with 33 seconds left.

Notes…

Brooke Tomovich turned her right ankle grabbing a rebound late in the game. It was the same ankle she injured earlier in the year, but she walked off the court and is expected to be ready for the Caseys’ semifinal matchup on Saturday back at the Dunn Center against either Willingboro or Wildwood who played Wednesday in the first round of the Tournament of Champions.

Blues fall a game short of national tournament

Tim Morris

The Hub

I

f the Brookdale Community College men’s basketball team didn’t have an identity before this year, the Jersey Blues do now. They are one of the best teams in the Garden State Athletic Conference and a serious contender in Region 19.

This year, the Blues won the GSAC’s North Division regular season and playoff championships, and played for the Region 19 crown for the first time in school history. When Brookdale (21-11) lost to Gloucester (35-1), the No. 1 ranked team in the country, 74-66, in that final held at Salem Community College on Feb. 27, they were one game away from playing in the junior college national tournament.

"Our program has really elevated itself," said Paul Cisek, head coach. "Now, making the Final Four is what we expect.

"We accomplished a lot this year, but we expected a lot," he added. "Our goals were to win 20 games, which we did, and win the North Division championship."

The Blues opened up the GSAC playoffs at home in Middletown. Brookdale cranked its running game up early, racing out to a 26-9 lead and never looking back on the way to a 100-83 win over Passaic. Billy Gilligan (29) and Earl Agee (21) were the sharpest shooters, combining for 50 points.

That win put them in the Region 19 semifinals for the third straight year which was the North Division championship game against Union, the team the Blues shared the regular season title with. Brookdale again relied on Gilligan (20) and Agee (27) to prevail, 78-73. It was the school’s first North Division playoff title, and it put them in the GSAC final, which also is the Region 19 title game, for the first time in history. The team was one step away from the national tournament.

Their win was costly. Gilligan was whistled for his third technical foul of the season late in the game which meant an automatic one-game suspension. The high-scoring forward would not be eligible for the title game. Gilligan had reacted to a call that gave the ball to Union after it appeared that the ball had gone off a Union player.

Cisek thought the technical call could have gone either way, but did not think it was unwarranted.

"The technical was deserving, but I thought a warning would have been more deserving," he said. "I thought they should have taken the situation into account. It was a playoff game, and it was a close call that went against us. The whole team reacted to the call, but Billy was closest to the official and he got the T. It was unfortunate that he was in a situation where a call like that could have an impact."

Gilligan’s ineligibility did not cast a dark shadow over the Blues prior to the final. The Blues regrouped and went to Salem determined to bring home the Region title.

"They were ready to play," said Cisek. "They were disappointed, but they didn’t just roll over. They went and played hard.

"I can’t say that his absence cost us the game," he added. "We missed him certainly. We missed his scoring and rebounding. But there are too many variables in a basketball game."

One variable was the way the Blues approached the game. Earlier in the season, without Gilligan, the Blues had taken Gloucester to overtime at their place in a high-scoring game. In the rematch, Cisek wanted his team, which was averaging 86.5 points a game to play a more deliberate game.

"I didn’t want to run with them; they are more athletic than we are," Cisek explained. "They like to play an uptempo game and just come at you. I looked for us to do what we do best. We shoot the ball well so I wanted us to run our offense and look for the open shot. We play strong defense and we needed to come up with a great effort. We mixed our man-to-man with some 3-2 zone to mix things up.

"It came down to a game of spurts," he added. "They went on a late run in the first half to go up by 12 and then pushed it up to 18 in the second half. We turned it around and got to within three late in the game."

Gloucester would take a 38-26 lead at the break behind the play of Wykeen Kelly and William Chaney. With 7:43 remaining, Gloucester had a comfortable 58-40 lead. But the Blues would come roaring back. A 24-9 run would cut the lead to just three at 67-64 with 1:40 left in the game. Agee would hit for 12 and Rory Levine came off the bench to put in seven, including a pair of threes.

However, Gloucester was able to keep Brookdale at arm’s length by making six of eight free throws in the final 1:40 led by Kelly, who was 4-4.

"There’s a reason they’re the No. 1 team in the country," said Cisek. "They are a very solid team. I think it came down to their being a little more athletic than we were."

Agee would lead Brookdale with a game-high 26 and added 10 assists while Kerry Betz backed him up with 23. Brookdale used its outside shooting to offset the inside play of Gloucester’s Jason Dunham (16 points and 13 rebounds). The Blues outshot Gloucester from three-point range 14-7 as Agee hit six and Betz five.

Gloucester had four players in double-figures led by Chaney’s 19.

Brookdale’s success is starting to have a positive impact on recruiting, noted Cisek. More and more of the better players in the Shore are beginning to take notice of the team.

"We’re starting to keep the kids from the area," he added.

Cisek will beat the bush recruiting as he has to replace the likes of Gilligan, Levine, Betz and Matt Raviaioli.

Agee, who blossomed into an exciting point guard, leads the freshman class that will be returning. Tom Tirrell, who made a good contribution down the stretch, also is back.

Now that the bar has been raised by the 1999-2000 Jersey Blues, the goal for future teams is to take that next step and get to the national tournament.

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JACKIE POLLACK
Kerry Planer, Jess Fitzgerald and Chrissy Fisher of Rumson-Fair Haven celebrate after trouncing Shore, 47-15, in the Central Jersey Group I Championships Monday.



Elks to hold ‘One Pitch

Softball Tournament’

The Red Bank Elks Lodge No. 233 will hold its first "One Pitch Softball Tournament" under the direction of Richard Schnieder on March 19 from 9 a.m. until dusk. Rain date will be April 2. The cost is $175 per team-double elimination. Trophies and T-shirts will be awarded to the first-place winners, trophies to the second-and third-place winners.

There will be a party at the lodge for all players which will include hot dogs, burgers, soda and free drafts. Music for dancing will be provided by disc jockey Jimmi Mac. There will be a cost of $5 per guest. Call Brennan Brendan at (732) 747-1884 or Mike McCray at (732) 741-9771. The sign-up deadline is March 12.

RBC boys fall in title game, finish year 22-4

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Joe Cavanaugh of Red Bank Catholic gets tied up with Christian Brothers Academy’s Eric Hazard while fighting for a rebound in the the South Jersey Parochial A final.

LAKEWOOD — Even with Tuesday’s loss to Christian Brothers Academy in the South Jersey Parochial A final, the Red Bank Catholic boys basketball team had a year to remember.

"I’m very proud of my kids," RBC Coach Mike Beerst said. "We tied the school record for wins, we won C South and got here to the finals, beating a good Holy Spirit team."

While the Caseys do have plenty to smile about, Tuesday’s game against the Colts was a hard way to end the season.

CBA led 29-12 at the half and 48-23 after three quarters. The final score was 65-49.

"I think they’re just awesome because they have everything," Beerst said. "If you take their inside game away they go outside and hit a three. Go outside and defend and they come inside and hurt you there."

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Santo Siciliano of Red Bank Catholic drives to the basket Tuesday against Christian Brothers Academy in the the South Jersey Parochial A final.

For their part, the Caseys had some trouble getting things going early, as shots simply would not fall.

By the time the Caseys got on track the game was out of hand.

Still, there was one bright spot as senior Justin Tardio scored 21 points and finished with more than 1,000 for his career.

Tardio’s classmate Santo Siciliano added 14 points and eight rebounds.

"I’ve got a lot of young guys," Beerst noted, "but I also wanted Tardio and Cavanaugh and Siciliano — who worked so hard to get to this level — to be out there too."

The Caseys’ season featured the longest winning streak in team history, 18 games. That stretch, which included some tight games against Freehold Borough, gave RBC the C South title.

"We were very fortunate to win a lot of the games that we did, but my kids had a lot of heart all year long," Beerst said.

He noted that while his seniors provided a foundation for this year’s team, he will be able to build on three quality underclassmen who developed this year.

Sophomore Mark McGraw and juniors Jeff Hemschoot and Jared Gaudet undoubtedly learned some important lessons this season, including how to bounce back from a disappointing loss.

The Caseys’ 18-game winning streak came to an end when they were upset in the first round of the Shore Conference Tournament by Brick Memorial.

Rather than be put into the tailspin by that loss, the Caseys came right back and beat a quality Middletown South team and then beat Notre Dame and Holy Spirit to reach the final against CBA.

Caseys take South Parochial A title

RBC tops Bishop Eustace

59-47 in title game, plays

tomorrow in Elizabeth

LAKEWOOD — It may not have been their typical game, but it was a typical result.

The Red Bank Catholic girls basketball team beat Bishop Eustace of Pennsauken 59-47 to win the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association South Parochial A Tournament title on Tuesday in a game that was closer in the fourth quarter than the final score indicates.

The Crusaders battled back from a 35-21 first-halftime deficit to cut the Caseys’ lead to 40-37, when Ann Shovlin completed a traditional three-point play with 6:25 remaining.

"I knew they would come back at us," Red Bank Catholic Coach Joe Montano said of the team that eliminated his squad from the state tournament last year. "They got a couple of seniors out there; they’ve got a lot of pride; they’ve got 23 wins and she (Bishop Eustace Coach Doreen Lacatena) does a great job."

The Caseys pushed the lead back to five when Lynne Zoltowski finished on a pass from Alisa Kresge just 11 seconds later. Just 28 seconds after that, Kresge released an outlet pass that Brooke Tomovich converted for a 44-37 margin.

Jessica Depalo, who finished with a game high 16 points, completed a traditional three-point play to push the lead back to double digits at 47-37. She, too, was the beneficiary of a Kresge pass.

"Alisa’s been very aggressive and we did a great job of breaking the press," Montano said of the freshman point guard and total team effort. "The play’s designed to get the ball to the outside to hit our guard cutting though, and that gets her to the open floor where she’s a very good player."

The Crusaders did not fold their tent after RBC’s 7-0 run.

A put back by Shovlin, with about 2:30 remaining, cut the lead back to 49-45 and the Caseys were in a very unfamiliar place, needing to make foul shots to ice the game.

RBC’s lack of close-game experience did seem to show a bit as they went 6-of-11 from the free-throw line in the game’s final 2:21.

Kelli Talbot, who finished with 14 points along with eight rebounds and eight steals, was 4-of-7 from the line and she acknowledged that not being in that situation all year made it a little tougher.

"I guess I made the ones that were important, that we needed," Talbot said. "But we work hard on that and I’m still going to continue to work hard on my foul shots. I don’t care if I’m making 90 percent, I’m going to keep working on my foul shots."

One thing that did work the entire game for RBC was its defense.

Whether it was a rebound, Depalo grabbed 18, a blocked shot, Tomovich had three, or a steal, Kresge added three, Zoltowski two and Lindsey Woodfield also had one, the Caseys got what they needed.

"We definitely fell back on our defense," Talbot said. "If one of us has an off game offensively, we just pick that (defense) up even more."

That defense resulted in the final margin as the Caseys were able to hold the Crusaders to just a pair of free throws in the final 2:30.

With the victory the Caseys remained undefeated and matched the highest number of wins, 28, in school history. RBC’s girls hit that mark when they won the state Tournament of Champions in 1996.

"My biggest fear tonight, driving here, was that we hadn’t lost a game," RBC Coach Joe Montano said. "I remembered it would be our 28th win which would tie the ’96 team which won the State Championship, and as I was driving in I remembered how much we learned by losing to St. John Vianney (Holmdel) and Christ the King (Queens, N.Y.) that year, and how much it helped us in the state tournament."

The Caseys will face either Immaculate Heart Academy of Westwood or the Academy of the Angels of Demarest on Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Dunn Center in Elizabeth. Those teams faced each other yesterday in the North Parochial A final.

Bulldogs ride defense to CJ Group I crown

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Chrissy Fisher of Rumson-Fair Haven beats Shore Regional’s Carissa Zambrano to a rebound in the Central Jersey Group I final on Monday.

FRENCHTOWN — There was very little Shore Regional could do. The Blue Devils were bedeviled and befuddled by a Rumson-Fair Haven defense that takes no prisoners. At least the Blue Devils were not alone. They were just the final victim in Rumson’s impressive run to the Central Jersey Group I championship.

In the sectional final played Monday night at Delaware Valley Regional High School, George Sourlis’ Bulldogs put on an awesome display of pressure — team defense.

"Defense is our key and that’s what we stand for," said point guard Kerry Planer, who spearheaded the Bulldog effort with her ferocious on-the-ball defense. "It’s incredible. We’ve just been playing such good defense and it shows on the scoreboard."

The scoreboard was not lying when the numbers read 47-15. The Bulldogs (23-4) were that dominant.

Sourlis remarked that Rumson’s tenacious defense is the byproduct of preparation.

"We work at defense every single day," said Sourlis. "We like to think it’s the difference between us and everyone else.

"Our defense starts our offense," he added. "We get a consistent effort from our defense every game. That’s our staple."

Shore (15-12) saw that consistency first-hand and were never in the game, trailing 19-2 after one quarter and by 25 points (31-6) at halftime. Leading scorer Carissa Zambrano, the Blue Devils’ 5-11 center, never had the chance to get her team in the ball game.

Every time she got the ball in the paint, the Bulldog defense collapsed around her preventing her from getting a good look at the basket. She would be held to just a single point.

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Jeannie Danowitz heads to the basket after a steal against Shore Regional in the Central Jersey Group I final on Monday at Delaware Valley Regional High School.

Planer and Jeannie Danowitz put great pressure outside on the ball and play the passing lanes well, while Jessie Geltzeiler’s versatility enables her to defend a number of positions.

Center Chrissy Fisher and forward Jody Robbins are rock solid underneath and control the boards.

"We’ve been holding teams well under their scoring average," Planer noted.

As awesome as the Bulldogs were on defense, it was the offense that began the game on all cylinders with everyone taking and hitting the open shot. That made Shore’s task impossible.

"Everyone contributed tonight," said Planer. "The last couple of games everyone has been shooting well. It hasn’t been just a couple of players. It’s been a team effort and that’s what we need."

Fisher, who did a fine job controlling Zambrano in the paint, also flashed some post-up moves of her own and led the team with 13 points, including eight in the first quarter.

Planer knocked down 12 and played her usual, steady floor game.

Geltzeiler scored five of her six points in the first quarter, including a three, as time expired.

For the Bulldogs, the title was a long time coming. They are ranked as one of the top teams in the state but had no titles to show for it.

They lost three times to Red Bank Catholic, the No. 1 team in the state, and once to defending state champion St. John Vianney.

The losses to RBC were in the finals of the Casey Tournament and in two regular season games in the Shore Conference Class C South Division. The Caseys were responsible for costing the Bulldogs two championships.

They were not about to let a third chance slip away.

"All year we’ve been looking to fill the wall with a championship and now we’ve done it," said Planer. "But it’s not over yet. We still want to keep on playing."

Rumson’s next quest is the Group I state title (the final is Sunday at the Dunn Center in Elizabeth) and if victorious there, on to the Tournament of Champions which begins on Wednesday.

Rumson’s march to the state sectional title got easier with each step. The Bulldogs opened with a 41-31 decision over Spotswood. Next came Colts Neck on Saturday, and the Bulldogs romped 51-18, followed by the 47-15 final over Shore. In three games, Rumson has given up just 64 points.

Sourlis attributed the impressive march to the title to the team’s schedule. Rumson has gone out of its way to play quality competition.

"We played a tough out-of-conference schedule to prepare us for now," said Sourlis.

The Bulldogs have been prepared for all challenges to date and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Rumson playing in the TOC next week.

The Bulldogs’ Group I semifinal game on Wednesday against Wildwood ended too late to be included in this week’s

Hub.