Happy New Year to everyone. The new year may begin with many calling Marlboro the surprise team to date. But those in the know, KNEW Marlboro was Top 10 team and possible Top 20 before the season started. They will enter the state TOP 20 this week. The real surprise this season belongs to a team flying under the radar. …HOWELL HIGH SCHOOL
Last year many believed Howell High School would have a break out season. They had every thing in place. Seniors, a talented seasoned junior led by Jess O’Brien and a talented freshman class. It was only natural to think Howell could make some noise. Everyone was excited, that is until it all went south quickly. Rarely were the Howell players seen in the gym during the fall. Then when the season started, personal goals, lack of leadership and chemistry issues, ruined any chance of Howell making any noise. The season started quietly and ended the same way. …DISAPPOINTING.
This year started with Howell not expected to make much if any noise. They entered into the fall season with many expecting ANOTHER rebuilding season and that’s exactly what Howell gave them, a rebuilding season but a different type of rebuilding than in the past. The rebuilding that took place was one that involved changing a culture. First the Howell players got in the gym, all fall. Then in the fall league they played like a true team. But more than anything else, they found real senior leadership. It has changed Howell into a team banging loudly on the Top 20 door.
THE TEAM APPROACH…
This year Howell is using balanced scoring to help them succeed, putting up 50 + points per game in 5 of the 6 games this year. That’s more 50 point games than all of last year. Each player understands their role and is embracing that role. Just like in the fall, it has led to REAL team chemistry.
Playing well and winning as a team is more important, than the individual accomplishments. However, they all want to perform to the best they possibly can. They figure if they all play well individually, they help the team. Outside of the high scorer for the game, which has been 3 different players in the 6 games, the rest of the group has chipped in with the next four players usually chipping in between 7 and 11 points.
The seniors on the team have been instrumental in helping out, making it fun. But more importantly have embraced everyone and made their younger teammates feel part of the team in every aspect. Nobody is left behind. These seniors more than anything else have been the key to Howell’s surprising start. They are 5-1 and won the Blue Devil Holiday Tournament, this past weekend. Their only loss was a barn burner to TOP 20 Middletown South. A game they believed they let slip away. The seniors have shown their teammates…WHAT REAL SENIOR LEADERSHIP LOOKS LIKE. They have created a culture that Howell can build on for years.
THE SENIORS…CREATE A NEW CULTURE
Senior Captain Jessica O’Brien didn’t have great games in the first 2 games of the season. She could have just packed it in and mailed in the season. She could have said, here we go again, last year revisited. Instead she has come up big in the last four games. She was the BLUE DEVIL Tournament MVP, but more important is she is leading by example. In the No. Burlington game with four starters all in foul trouble, she scored a season high 23 points and refused to let the Rebels die. Her senior leadership has been invaluable. Jessica could have said, I’m a senior and I just want to do it for myself, but that has been anything but. She has included everyone. Her competitive spirit and will to win is shining through. She more than any one player has made this team shine brightly this year.
THE BABIES ARE GROWING UP
Grace Leary a sophomore, is the most improved player in the Shore Conference this season (http://nothingbutskills.com/howells-grace-leary-has-arrived/ ) She Handles the pressure of being a point guard in the Shore Conference. She has scored 9 or more points in 5 of 6 games and averaging about 5 assists per game, while scoring 11+ points a game. As the point guard she is figuring out how to be a leader, even as a sophomore. She is learning from Jessica O’Brien. She has been heaven sent for HOWELL.
Caitlin Gresko is a sophomore and the best keep secert in rhe 2021 class. She is the teams most explosive player. Last year she was not willing to step on her older teamnates toes. This year she is stepping on opponents toes. She has scored a career high 27 points and is averaging more than 13 points and 6 rebounds a game. More importantly, she is finally embracing becoming a dominant player. She had a great games against Mid South and Manalapan. The scary part is she still learning how to use her body. She has developed an outside shot making a number of threes this year. Gresko is a true star in the making.
Mackenzie Bruno is sophomore. She brings a real physicality to Howell. She has been in foul trouble in a lot of games but it has not stopped her from averaging about 7 pts per game. Her engine never quits, she’s feisty, and rebounds. Her toughness is what Howell is all about these days
Cassie Conte, is a sophomore is coming off the bench. She’s has been gaining more confidence in the last few games, as she has seen more playing time. She will battle, a tough nosed kid who will attack the basket. Cassie continues to learn from the sophomores and seniors in front of her. She is another player playing her role in Academy award-winning fashion.
HOWELL is the real story in the Shore Conference these days. This is a group of kids not many know about or for that matter has care much about. Coach Santopietro, is enjoying his group of names. He has instilled a real team approach and a atmosphere of trust. That just may be a good thing, because Howell is sneaking up on everyone, just like there sneaking up the rankings. These kids have shown what real sacrifices and team work can do for a program. They play for each other and share the glory as a group. They don’t care about credit or media hype…right now HOWELL IS LOOKING LIKE A REAL TEAM!!
Starts this Saturday….
grades 7th-12th….10.30- noon