Squad returns plenty of talent from 22-3 team of last year BY WARREN RAPPLEYEA Staff Writer BY WARREN RAPPLEYEAStaff Writer SCOTT PILLING staff Middletown South’s Danielle Pankey shoots over a Ocean Township defender during a scrimmage in Ocean Township on Thursday. The Middletown High School South girls basketball team will once again depend on balanced scoring and tough defense as it seeks to defend its Shore Conference Class A North crown. The Eagles went 22-3 a year ago and made their way to the Shore Con-ference Tourn-ament semifinals before losing to RBC. Middletown South also qualified for the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III tourney, where it was eliminated by West Windsor. Eight of the Eagles’ top players return as only forward Michelle Whalen was lost to graduation. “Most of the girls have been together for four years and they want to make this their year,” coach Tom Brennan said. “They really believe in the concept of team basketball and that’s been the key to our success. Last year, not one player averaged scoring in double-figures; different players stepped up every night.” That should be the case again, particularly with Brittany Hoffman distributing the ball from the point. Hoffman set a team record with 125 assists and also averaged four points a year ago. She’ll be joined in the backcourt by Julie Gannon, who averaged seven points. Middletown South has plenty of strength off the bench with junior Jill Gannon, who averaged six points. Jenna McFarland, a solid defender with a nice touch from three-point range; and hard-working Leeanne Thomas. Shea Taggert (8 ppg) and Courtney Herring (6 ppg) are the forwards with 5-foot-11 junior Shawna Hagen in the middle. All three averaged more than seven rebounds last season. Junior Christina Longo, who averaged 6.3 points, and sophomore Danielle Pankey, who scored 22 points in a loss to Neptune last season, will also see plenty of action up front. Colleen Ford gives the Lions added depth in the forecourt. Brennan noted that in order to move deeper into the postseason his team will have to be more focused defense and more adaptable offensively. “Our defense was solid and consistent throughout the season, but we had occasional lapses that cost us; it happened in all three of our losses,” Brennan said. “A couple of times we let down at the end of a quarter and the other team would go on a 4-0 run or get two points they shouldn’t have gotten. That has to change.” With the ball, the Eagles prefer to run and have the depth to maintain a fast pace, but they will need to be more dimensional this year, the coach added. “We have to be able to adjust our tempo to what other teams are doing,” Brennan continued. “While we want to run, the opportunities aren’t always there. Last year, we’d still try and force a running game instead of taking what the other defense gave us.” The Eagles are set to open the campaign at home on Dec. 15 against rival Middletown North and will visit Manalapan on Dec. 18. Freehold Township comes to town on Dec. 21 and then Brennan’s team will compete in the Trenton Central Holiday Classic beginning on Dec. 27. “The girls are ready to go,” Brennan said. “They’re committed and they spent a lot of time preparing in the offseason. Now it’s time.”
BY GEORGE ALBANO Staff Writer BY GEORGE ALBANOStaff Writer Excuse the pun, but lately the Christian Brothers Academy hockey team has been fit to be tied. The Colts have been involved in six tied games already this season, including two in the last week in games they could have, and probably should have, won. On Saturday night, CBA and undefeated Ridge, ranked No. 1 in the state among public school teams, battled to a 1-1 standoff in a game where the Colts held a decisive 45-14 advantage in shots. In the game before that, on Wednesday night, CBA outplayed Bergen Catholic, but allowed a late goal and had to settle for another 1-1 tie. All of which left the Colts with an 8-3-6 mark entering this week. “A lack of scoring has hurt us,” said veteran head coach Mike Reynolds. “Against Ridge we had 20 shots in the first period, but came away with nothing. Then they got a breakaway to go up 1-0 and we had to scramble to tie them. We didn’t score until there was 3:24 left in the game to tie it. “When you get 45 shots, somebody has to score.” Against Bergen Catholic somebody did, but the Colts eventually let the one-goal lead, and an apparent victory, slip away. “We were leading, but let a goal in with two minutes to go,” Reynolds, in his 15th season at CBA and 30th overall coaching hockey, said. “Again we should have had four or five goals early in the game and it came back to haunt us in the final period. “The same thing happened against St. Peter’s a week or two ago,” he added. “St. Peter’s came back to tie us 2-2 with 20 seconds to go.” That game was a showdown between two of the top teams in New Jersey. CBA was ranked No. 2 in last week’s state poll, while St. Peter’s was No. 3. Delbarton was ranked No. 1. “Two of our three losses came against Delbarton,” Reynolds pointed out. It’s those six ties, however, that bother the CBA coach. Heck, it’s not that much of a stretch to say the Colts could very well be 14-3 right now if those ties were victories. “I don’t even say that anymore,” Reynolds laughed. “Last year we had eight ties, which was the most in the state and set a new school record. But there have been a lot of ties this year. Delbarton was tied the other day by Don Bosco, who we play [today].” That will also be the Colts’ final Gordon Cup League game before heading into the league tournament in a few weeks. “If we win, we’ll be the No. 3 seed,” Reynolds noted. CBA also has several nonleague games remaining before the Feb. 13 state tournament cutoff date. “We’ve been able to hang in every game and usually keep up with all the top teams,” Reynolds said. “I don’t know if we deserve to be No. 2 in the state, but we hope to hang on to that seed. If we win our remaining games, we should be second or third in the state. “But, of course, you can’t tie in the state tournament and I don’t know if we have anyone who can score in a shoot-out. So we have to start getting more than one or two goals a game or else we’re not going very far in the states.” Scoring has certainly been a problem this season for the Colts. In fact, junior forward Mark Rivera leads the team with just 22 points. “So you can see the lack of scoring on our team,” Reynolds said. “We had three or four players a few years ago with over 30 points at this point.” One of them was James Van Riemsdyk, now a member of the USA National Team. “He’s supposed to go very high in the NHL draft,” Reynolds said of his former player. “He could go second or third in the draft, they’re saying.” CBA has won four state championships, the last coming in 2005 when it beat Delbarton in overtime at the Continental Arena. “Some people consider that the most exciting game ever,” Reynolds said. “Everyone there said so.” Reynolds also led the Colts to state titles in 1994, ’95 and ’96, the first time any school won three straight crowns. “And it hasn’t been done since,” Reynolds proudly pointed out. But while the Colts have been struggling on offense this season, they’ve been making up for it in other areas. “We’re getting good goaltending from Gary Kondler,” Reynolds said of his senior goalie. “And we’re also getting good leadership from our two senior co-captains, Eric Sudman and Kevin Kolbenschlag.” Sudman plays up front as a forward with Rivera, while Kolbenschlag is a defenseman. Two more key players on defense are sophomore Trevor Van Riemsdyk, James’ younger brother, and junior Mike Zuppe. “We only play three defensemen for the most part,” Reynolds said, “so those three play over 40 minutes a game. They’ve been holding up, and between them and Gary (Kondler), we’re only giving up two or three goals a game. “Now we just have to get the forwards going.”
BY MATTHEW ROCCO Correspondent The Matawan Regional High School boys basketball team wrapped up its summer schedule, using offseason games as a way to get its young players acclimated to the high school game.Injuries and disciplinary measures left the Huskies with little depth last season, as the team finished with an 11-14 record. This year’s rising starters got plenty of experience in that down season, however.Matawan Regional participated in a team camp at East Brunswick High School and went 4-4, then played at Rider University and finished 6-2 in a weekend camp. The team played in more than 30 games during the summer schedule.“It gave us a chance to gel and work together,” head coach Tom Stead said. “We kind of defined some roles over the summer. We use the summer as a chance to have new kids step up and emerge as leaders.”The Huskies were moved to the Class B North Division of the Shore Conference from Class A Central, a shift that puts Matawan head-to-head with Neptune High School, Long Branch High School, Red Bank Catholic High School and Freehold High School. Stead explained that the game moves at a faster pace in Class B North, but his team is prepared for the challenge.“Those teams [in Class B North] are more athletic and fast-paced. It’s more of an up-and-down game,” he said. “We’re going to run, press and trap on defense.”Stead also indicated that Matawan’s backcourt will be improved this season, noting that the loss of Larry Smith, who scored 21 points per game last season, is a “big void to fill.” Junior guard Kashaun Barnes, who is also the varsity quarterback on the football team, showed a “total turnaround attitude-wise” during summer games, according to Stead. “It’s like he’s been around a while.”Sophomore guards Joe Piscopo and Jason Dunne settled into their roles as starters this summer, one season after getting more playing time than expected. Piscopo, who suffered a concussion in a game against Holmdel High School last season, emerged as a defensive standout in his freshman year. Junior guard Chris Tawiah is slated to be the sixth man for the Huskies.The lone senior starter, Ian Phillip, will be up front with junior power forward Nick Tomkins.“They are big, solid, tough kids,” Stead said of Phillip and Tomkins. “We’re not going to get pushed around up front.”Matawan will continue to host the Huskies Christmas Tournament, now with St. John Vianney High School and Old Bridge High School added to the list of participating teams.The move to Class B North will change the dynamic of Matawan’s regular season. Although the Huskies will be playing a different type of game, Stead knows his team will be prepared for the matchups the new season will provide.“I’m looking forward to playing teams like Neptune, Long Branch and Freehold Borough. Red Bank Catholic and Long Branch are better, and Neptune is Neptune,” the head coach said. “I think we are a little more prepared for the speed of the game. We should be slightly over .500 and ready to compete in the postseason.”
MARCOS Baghdatis recorded his eleventh first round exit in twelve tournaments as he suffered 6-3, 6-2 defeat to Frenchman Julien Benneteau in the opening round of the Cincinnati Masters.The 28-year-old Cypriot who is currently ranked 50th in the world, will play next at the Winston-Salem Open, which starts next Monday, before he heads to the final Grand Slam of the season at the US Open.Baghdatis has made two previous appearances in Winston Salem. In 2011 he reached the quarter-finals, while last season he was eliminated in the first round by Thomaz Bellucci after retiring in the second set due to back problems.
By Nick MulvenneyAn inspired Ana Ivanovic blew the race for the Australian Open women’s title wide open with a stunning upset of overwhelming favourite Serena Williams in the fourth round on Sunday.The 14th ranked Serb played the match of her life to come from a set down and secure the biggest shock of the tournament so far with a 4-6 6-3 6-3 victory over the world number one.Fourth seed Li Na and Italy’s Flavia Pennetta, who both won fourth round matches earlier on Sunday, will have considerably more to play for in their quarter-final now the 17-times grand slam champion has been removed from their path.Ivanovic, who will meet teenage sensation Eugenie Bouchard of Canada in her quarter-final, said she held nothing back against the top seeded American.“It’s amazing, when I came onto court I was just hoping to play as well as I could,” she said. “I just went out there swinging at the ball and I did it really well.”Williams admitted to not feeling her best but offered no excuses.That was until she realised coach Patrick Mouratoglou had told reporters about a back injury she sustained before her third round match.“So he’s the one that’s snitching?” she said to laughter.“I don’t want to blame anything. I feel like Ana deserves all the credit. I feel she played unbelievable today. I think she went for her shots.“It’s not like I gave her the match. I tried to fight the best I could today.”Defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic was next up on Rod Laver Arena, and there was no chance of a similar upset at the hands of his friend Fabio Fognini, the Serb blowing the Italian away in straight sets.Williams was riding high on a winning streak of 25 matches going back to the start of last year’s U.S. Open and had never even lost a set to Ivanovic in four previous meetings.When Williams took the first set on Sunday it looked like the 32-year-old, who had lost just once in Melbourne in 52 matches after taking a 1-0 lead, would continue her march towards a sixth Australian Open title.She looked a little lethargic in the opening stanza but has so often been able to count on her physicality and superior mental strength through such encounters without needing to be at her best.Ivanovic won the French Open in 2008 but has done precious little in her sport’s four majors since then and looked destined to become the latest in a string of former world number ones who failed to present a sustained threat to the American’s dominance.In the second set, though, the 26-year-old started to take the game to Williams, attacking her serve with success very few have managed and dictating the back court with her forehand.Her tally of 20 forehand winners to two for Williams told its own tale but, most importantly, once ahead in the deciding set Ivanovic kept her head to keep Williams at bay before serving out to love for the match.“I actually believed,” said Ivanovic, who last reached the quarter-finals of a grand slam in 2012 at Flushing Meadows.“I had some confidence coming into today’s match. I really did certain things extremely well and I kept her under pressure I felt throughout the whole match.“I just stayed in the moment physically. I didn’t think much about the occasion and who I was playing, because it can get overwhelming.”China’s Li earlier gave Ekaterina Makarova not so much as a sniff of an upset as she set up meeting with Pennetta by demolishing the Russian 6-2 6-0 in just under an hour.The former French Open champion, who reached the final here last year and in 2011, briskly saved two break points in the first set, another couple at 3-0 up in the second and sealed the win with a backhand volley at the net to serve out to love.Pennetta’s journey to her first Australian Open quarter-final was a bit more complicated and she took 53 minutes longer than the Chinese to beat ninth seeded German Angelique Kerber 6-1 4-6 7-5.Li had her own particular reason for being delighted to face the Italian.“She’s one day older than me, so for once I don’t have to play a younger player,” beamed the 31-year-old
By Michael HannUsain Bolt’s lack of form combined with his late withdrawal from the Jamaican 100 metres national trials on Thursday have raised more doubts about the future of the world’s fastest man.The towering sprinter had intended to run in the trials as a sharpener but the Jamaican Athletics Administrative Association confirmed he had pulled out, two months before the world championships in Beijing.Six-time Olympic gold medallist, Bolt, who qualifies for world championships as defending champion in both events, has struggled this year with moderate best times of 10.12 seconds for the 100 and 20.13 in the 200.The 28-year-old expressed uncharacteristic concerns after a sluggish 20.29 to win the 200 at the recent New York Diamond League meeting.“I’m not happy about my performance. My turn was horrible, I don’t know what happened,” Bolt said. “My worst turn ever.”“After I came off the turn, I knew it wasn’t going to be fast… so I pretty much just wanted to get home.”Bolt’s 2014 season was limited by injuries but he was the star attraction at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, winning gold in the 4×100 relay.With 2015 continuing in a similar vein, Bolt, the only man to win the 100 and 200 in back-to-back Olympics, would surely have wanted to lay down a marker at the Jamaican trials following the resurgence of Justin Gatlin.Controversial United States sprinter Gatlin, who has served two doping bans, has become the man to beat after setting or equalling lifetime bests in both the 100 and 200 this year.Gatlin has not raced Bolt since 2013, but the 33-year-old 2004 Olympic gold medallist is hoping his rival returns to his best at the world championships so he can dethrone the Jamaican in Beijing.“What is it really going to amount to if I go out there and run against Usain when he is not at his best?” Gatlin told Reuters.“That is not a great storyline. It is not a race I would like to go out and win. I want Usain at his best, and I think he wants me at my best. That’s what people want to see.”
By Iacovos ConstantinouThere has been a lot of talk in recent months about the wisdom of privatising the semi-government organisations.Two separate recent experiences I have had with the Electricity Authority (EAC) have made me no wiser on the subject.First, the Dr Jekyll experience. Last month I decided to spend a weekend at my holiday house in the mountains with a few friends.We arrived there around lunchtime only to find there was no electricity. We checked the fuse box and then the EAC meter but everything was set at ‘On’. I was (almost) certain that my not so reliable brother had forgotten to pay the electricity bill!We called the EAC to see if this was the case and were told that there was no outstanding bill and no other reason on their system to justify the power cut. The EAC operator then told us that she would be directing our call to their Kakopetria crew who cover the area.Demetris, the EAC man in Kakopetria, asked a couple of questions and then asked for directions.‘I should be there in the next 30-40 minutes,’ he said. One of my friends, a Doubting Thomas type, remarked ’30-40 minutes…did he say which day?’But true to his word Demetris arrived on time and needed just a minute to tell us what the problem was. Somebody had stolen the cables connecting our house to EAC’s electricity grid.‘When can it be fixed?’ I asked, dreading the answer.‘As this is a theft you will have to report this to the police. Once they give me the green light then I can fix it. I will have to go back to Kakopetria and get my tools and the aerial lift.’I called the Troodos police station and explained to the officer in charge what had happened. He then asked to talk to Demetris and told him to go and get his tools and that he would be around shortly to take a statement.Within an hour Demetris was back with the aerial lift. By 16.30 the electricity was back.We were all impressed by EAC’s professionalism (from the telephone operator to the crew) and were left wondering whether if our supplier was a private company we would have had the same – free – service.Highly unlikely we thought.And now the Mr Hyde experience.About two months ago I managed to rent a piece of property that was vacant for a number of years to two different companies, one taking the office space and the other the warehouse area.On signing the rental agreements, I promised them that I would add another electricity meter so that each tenant had a separate electricity bill.I called the company responsible for the electrical installation of the building and was told I had to apply to the EAC but that it was a straight forward procedure and in less than a month everything would be finished.I applied for the extra meter at the beginning of June and was told by my electrical company that I should forward them the instructions set by EAC so that he could proceed.Every few days he was calling to ask if I had received anything from the EAC. My tenants were also complaining as I had promised them different electricity bills.When I called the EAC to enquire I was told was that their technicians had to visit the site first but they were very busy.In my desperation I felt I had no other option but to call someone I knew in the EAC management on July 13. I gave him the details of my application and he got back to me a couple of days later saying technicians would visit the site within days.Four days letter I called the EAC again and was transferred to a lady in the applications’ department who told me that she had received the technicians’ report that very day and by the following week everything would be ready.The next Tuesday I called again and was told it would now be Thursday. I called on Thursday and on Friday. Still not ready.The following Monday my phone call got tetchy, but at least there was a positive result. She told me that the report was ready but it still had to be signed by her superiors. I finally received the report later that day.Thinking that my worries were over, I forwarded the report it to my electrician with a note saying ‘At last we’re finished.’His reply was not encouraging. ‘It might take another 2-3 weeks because they will now have to find the time to come and check before approving.’Would any private company, fighting for customers in a competitive market, ever treat their customers in this way?
Premier League leaders Leicester City have the character and spirit to put Saturday’s loss to Liverpool behind them in their next game against Manchester City, defender Danny Simpson has said.The Foxes were beaten 1-0 at Anfield to record only their second loss of this season that snapped their unbeaten 10-game run in the league.“It was tough, but it has been a tough few weeks,” Simpson told the club website (www.lcfc.com). “We know we will pick ourselves up. We are an honest bunch, we will look at it and we will react in the right way against Manchester City.“It is a setback but we will bounce back. We have got a great team with great characters and great spirit. We have got (Manchester) City at home now and with our fans, we will get straight at them.”Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri has also asked his players to “clear their minds” after the Liverpool loss and take the positives from the game.“It was a good lesson,” he told the club website. “We showed good shape, we defended well and closed the space well, but we need to improve when we want to go straight away and score the goal.”Leicester still head the table after 18 games and face third placed Manchester City, who are just three points behind, on Tuesday.
It will be virgin territory for Wales when they face Portugal in the Euro 2016 semi-finals yet their opponents could be forgiven a sense of deja vu as they step on to the pitch in Lyon on Wednesday.This will be Portugal’s fourth semi-final in the last five editions of the competition stretching back to 2000, but for all their success in reaching the latter stages of the tournament, there has been little glory along the way.Only once have they overcome the last-four hurdle and then they were beaten in the final by Greece as hosts at Euro 2004.If you include their defeat in the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup and a loss at the Euros in 1984, they are becoming all too familiar with the pitfalls of this stage of major tournaments.Portugal’s conquerors in their recent last-four clashes have included football powerhouses France, at Euro 2000 and the World Cup in 2006, and Spain at Euro 2012.Should they lose to Wales, playing their first major tournament in 58 years and their first ever semi-final, it would be a devastating blow.Yet Wales are arguably the form team coming into the match.Chris Coleman’s side have revelled in their underdog status to win their group, which also included England, Russia and Slovakia, ease out British rivals Northern Ireland in the last 16 and sweep past heavy favourites Belgium in the quarters.Portugal are yet to win a match at the tournament inside 90 minutes, having drawn all three group games, beaten Croatia in extra time and squeezed past Poland on penalties.Things are yet to click for Portugal, and by extension for captain Cristiano Ronaldo, who has at times looked exasperated by his team mates’ attacking shortcomings.Yet Portugal are unbeaten in 12 competitive internationals since Fernando Santos took over as coach at the start of the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.With Ronaldo’s Real Madrid team-mate Pepe marshalling an increasingly assured defence, they will be tough to break down.Especially for a Wales side deprived of one of their most talented creative influences in midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who will be suspended after picking up a booking in the win over Belgium.While Gareth Bale has been Wales’s attacking talisman, scoring three times to lift them out of their group, Ramsey has been arguably their most influential player, scoring one and producing four assists in the run to the last four.The match is likely to be billed as a contest between the two most expensive players in the world — Ronaldo, who will play a record third European Championship semi-final, and his Real Madrid team mate Bale.Perhaps ominously for Wales, Ronaldo has netted twice in each of his last two games in Lyon for club and country.
Tottenham Hotspur can put pressure on Chelsea by winning their Saturday’s game against Bournemouth and cutting the lead at the top of the Premier League table to four points before the leaders play the next day, midfielder Eric Dier has said.Tottenham, who trail by seven points and are on a six-game winning streak in the league, can reduce the deficit ahead of Chelsea’s game against Manchester United on Sunday.Chelsea travel to United with no league wins at Old Trafford since 2013 and Dier is hopeful that the extra pressure of Tottenham’s result can cause their London rivals to falter.“It is always nice to play first… Hopefully we can narrow the gap to four points and then hope for them to slip up,” Dier told NBC Sports.Antonio Conte’s side ended 2016 on a league record equalling 13-game winning run stretching back to the start of October, but were beaten 2-0 at Spurs in their first game of the new year.Dier praised Tottenham’s consistency but admitted that Chelsea deserve to be on top.“It isn’t a case of ‘we’ve lost it’ but it’s a case of Chelsea have done extremely well themselves and went on that amazing unbeaten run,” Dier said.“As a season, we’ve been consistent and going into the last period now we’ve been impressive and want to try and keep that up.”