A NORTH looks on paper to be a forgone conclusion. MIDDLETOWN SOUTH made a run all the way to the TOC last year. MARLBORO appeared to come out of nowhere and have a Top 10 Shore finish. Freehold TWP still has Harley Kneeler a future D1 guard in their line up. The real race for A NORTH is for 2nd place.
MIDDLETOWN SOUTH returns all 5 starters from its TOC team. But the goals this season are different and the expectations by all are higher. The impact that Stephanie Karcz has had not only on Middletown and the state cannot be understated. Middletown South in her 3 years, has seen the program move into elite status. They have won a State Title and appeared in a TOC, during the Karcz era. But Karcz biggest impact is that she has showed kids that its ok to play for your local school. This has led to Middletown South and other schools keeping their local talent.
Karcz will be a candidate for Player of The Year both in the state and shore. She is a player that can overwhelm opponents in every area of the game. Karcz can score, rebound and is the best defensive player in the shore. But the part of her game that most miss is her ability to pass. No player in the shore throws skip passes and long passes for more easy lay-ups for their teammates than Miss Karcz. This year Karcz will need to step it up if she wants to go out with a bang. Another TOC appearance and SCT run would be the perfect ending.
WHAT THEY LOST– Don’t underestimate the loss of Angela DeBartolome. She was a typical program kid for Middletown. She knew the system and brought in 100% . While Jill Faverly did not play last year, she was a calming force to be around all season.
KARCZ HAS MAJOR BACKUP-
Its seems in the past two years Middletown South has been just a little SHORT on talent. In the past they have over come injuries, like that to Jill Faverly last year. This has more to do with Tom Brennan than anything else. Tom Brennan does more with his talent than any coach possibility in the state. The South kids know every night they have an advantage on the bench. This year is no different than the past 3 years. The underrated Julia Valkos will start the year on the sidelines. Valkos is a tough gritty player. She makes shots and knows the Middletown offense like the back of her hand. She also gives Middletown a tough defender and much needed offense when opponents focus on Karcz. If there is any chance of having a dream season….she must make it back. Alex Balsamo was solid as a rock last season and played her best basketball down the stretch when Middletown defeated RFH in the SCT. She has the ability to knock down shots and get to the rim. Her ability to rebound and defend are things many take for granted. Look for her to have a big season. Haley Dalonzo has D1 offers on the table and for good reason. Dalonzo is the 2nd coming of Stephanie Karcz and when she’s driving to the basket, its like a Mack truck. Dalonzo is fearless and will take over games at times. She is physical and a real threat the moment she has the ball in her hands. This year we just may see her dominate. Here is also a little secret, every one of these players at some point last year took over games for Middletown South.
They may hold the key to the entire thing this year. Middletown has never had much of a bench over the years. Tom Brennan has been a master of creating roles and finding ways to get players rest. Now if his talented babies can grow up quickly he may have the best bench he has ever had. Here is another little secret about Middletown South, they have never had a pure point guard in the Karcz era. But that has all changed as Isla Brennan the coaches daughter is just that a pure point guard. How fast she develops will play a major roles in how far Middletown South goes. Sam Keenan is a 6’0 forward who South can use to rest there starters. She can make shots and is a positive player, as she showed this summer. The question is the strength and how long does it take for her to adjust to the speed of the game. Eve Pirie is another Freshman with size, something Middletown South needs against the top teams. Eve will need to grow up quick. The babies could be a major addition to this team and here is something everyone should remember…They will not need them to be ready until FEBRUARY. Middletown South does not play an opponent that is ranked or are favored against them until the last game of the year…Tom Brennan is going to have plenty of time to live with his babies growing pains without causing them a lost!
They will be ranked in the TOP 10 in the state all season. Karcz will make a run for every award known to high school basketball in the state. Dalonzo will officially become a star. But the goal for this team must be to win another State Title, get back to the TOC and reach a SCT final. This would cap the Karcz era off with a BANG!
MARLBORO shocked everyone last year. They had big wins and more importantly got better as the season moved on. They have two players that can play with anyone on any night. The real question is do they have enough to catch Middletown South napping?
WHAT THEY LOST? Nicole Shatsky was one of the best players in the division and played BIG when the light got brightest. Replacing her is maybe the hardest thing facing this team.
Tatum Evans is the best forward in the division. She is a force 15 feet and in. She has the ability to have a big scoring night against anyone. She also plays defense every night. If she can stay focused and play with energy all season, Marlboro has a chance for another surprise season. Molly Weiss is a pure point guard, she is a gym rat and one of the most improved guards in the shore. How good? D1 good if she continues on this path. Now here is the problem. Marlboro will need her scoring and that means off to the shooting guard spot many nights. Molly Wiess will need to have big nights if Marlboro is going anywhere.
JESSICA BROAD has the potential to be a star. How good is Board? Don’t be surprised if she is the leading scorer for Marlboro. She is long, quick and sneaky talented. Board could be the player that just might get this team over the top. She will knock down jump shots and get opponets in foul trouble with her sneak drives to the rim. She is rapidly improving and dare I say could be all Division this season. Jenn Angelone saw mins last season and is a year older. She will give this team a player who understands winning.
This is an interesting group, why? Because they have real talent and many of their players understand how to win. What I find very interesting about this team is this…Look at their non conference schedule. Marlboro is playing Franklin, Notre Dame and Rutgers Prep. That non conference schedule is better than every team in the shore outside of RFH and of course SJV. There is no question they believe they can surprise folks again and playing a competitive schedule is a stroke of genius.
NO TEAM creates more problems than Manalapan, why? It’s called style of play folks. The run and gun style of Manalapan leads to the unknown. Catch then on a good shooting night and you are in serious trouble. Because they are going to push the pace of play like no other team in the entire state. How fast do they play, many teams decide not to warm up at half time when playing them. They have kids who play soccer, volleyball, field hockey and they are in tip top shape and can run all day. They will use the entire roster and rotate players in the entire game hoping to wear opponents down. If your bench is thin or you have a bad shooting night on their good shooting night….YOUR IN TROUBLE. They will not win the division but they are going to make it interesting on some nights.
WHAT THEY LOST– non issue
THEY HAVE A DIVSION ONE PLAYER
Kerry Tanke is one of the most improved post players in the shore. She my friends could very easily end up as a D1 player before her career comes to a end. Tanke has improved her ball handling in the lane, added a nice 15 foot jumper and most importantly a rebounding machine. This is a kid that will not get a lot of attention this season but rest assured she is one of the better baby post players in the shore…just ask the D1 players she did battle with this fall.
Manalapan again will be one of the most enjoyable teams in all of New Jersey to watch play. They don’t have enough full time basketball players to play with the big dogs. But they have kids who play hard and play as a team. This no question will lead to some great moments…
ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
FREEHOLD TWP– HARLEY KNEELER is one of the best guard in the shore. She will be 1st team ALL DIVISION and in the fall sign with a D1 school but Freehold has simpily lost too much to make another run.
MIDDLETOWN NORTH– They are always competitive and well coached but will need a few players to step up. Hailee Hallard is a legit talent, who at times can carry her team. Kiera William’s was a nice surprise and had big moments as a freshman.
HOWELL– Pay attention folks I like whats going on with this program. Soon we may hear more about the kids turning this program around. Perry Clifton is a kid that will lead the turn around
FREEHOLD BORO- It will be a rebuilding year.
This is easy Middletown South should have a free ride. But Marlboro may make it interesting if a few new faces step up…A NORTH CHAMPS…MIDDLETOWN SOUTH
A NORTH ALL NORTH PRE-SEASON AWARDS
COACH OF THE YEAR- TOM BRENNAN- MIDDLETOWN SOUTH
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR- ISLA BRENNAN
PLAYER OF THE YEAR- STEPHAINE KARCZ
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR- STEPHANINE KARCZ
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER- HALEY DALONZO
PRE-SEASON ALL A NORTH 1st TEAM ALL DIVISION
STEPHAINE KARCZ-(POY)- SENIOR-MIDDLETWON SOUTH
HAYLEY DALONZO-JUNIOR-MIDDLETOWN SOUTH
HARLIE KNEELER-SENIOR-FREEHOLD TWP
TATUM EVANS- SENIOR- MARLBORO HIGH SCHOOL
MOLLY WEISS-JUNIOR- MARLBORO HIGH SCHOOL
A NORTH PRE SEASON ALL DIVISION 2ND TEAM
Julia Valkos,-Jr- Middletown South
Hailee Hallard-Soph- Middletown North
Kamani Williams-Soph- Middletown North
Kerri Tanke- Soph- Manalapan
5 DATES TO REMEMBER
12/18- Marlboro @Manalapan…statement game right off the bat
1/24/16- Middletown South @Rancocas Valley…its a road game against a quality opponent
12/26- Marlboro@Franklin…on the road against a solid team
12/29- Marlboro @Rutgers Prep…on the road vs a TOP 5 team in the state
2/6/16- Marlboro at Home against another Top 10 team in the state Notre Dame