No. Brunswick topples Mother Seton
The topic isn’t discussed and it really doesn’t have to be because it’s understood.
Durva Bhandare, Jasmime Walker and Taryana Kelly have shared a basketball court together for the last six years. They inherently know where each other is seemingly at all times and what the others are thinking. Their bond is firm beyond the connection on the floor, meaning feelings can be read with having to be verbalized.
Each insists the subject of their time together winding down hasn’t been broached yet it’s been indirectly hinted at from a different angle.
“We don’t want to think about it,” Walker admitted. “We just keep playing, hoping we keep going further and further.”
North Brunswick appeared to be on a relatively smooth course toward advancing to the next round of the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament on Wednesday night. It raced out to a 14-point lead in the second quarter only to find out just how scrappy Mother Seton is.
And, when that sizable cushion was whittled to just five points early in the third, Walker made it clear she’d seen enough. With one defensive rebound and fluid length-of-the-court drive to a layup at the other end, she supplied both the direction and incentive North Brunswick need to finish the job.
Walker dropped in 12 of her 16 points in the second half, Kelly posed a force in the paint at both ends of the court and Bhandare delivered her usual wide range of contributions to spark fourth-seeded North Brunswick to a 59-35 victory over 13th-seeded Mother Seton in the first round of the GMC Tournament in North Brunswick.
With the triumph, North Brunswick (17-6) picked up its 11 win in its last 12 outings and advanced to Saturday’s quarterfinals at Middlesex County College where it will face fifth-seeded Edison, an 87-53 winner over Spotswood.
Getting to this stage didn’t necessarily come easy to the Raiders. Despite shooting 10 for 35 over the first two quarters, North Brunswick led by as much as 24-10 before settling for a 27-19 halftime lead. However, a turnaround jumper from sophomore forward Jante Bracewell, who had 21 points and 15 rebounds, and free throw by Olivia Ortiz got Mother Seton to within 27-22 with 5:33 remaining and provided the incentive for Walker to embark on her coast-to-coast drive.
“When she went up for that rebound, I knew she was going,” North Brunswick coach Shaun Morrell said. “She will take it every once in awhile and blow by four people and finish. That’s when you know we’re ready to go. That moment is when we kind of pulled away.”
Walker touched off a 12-2 tear in which she accounted for half the points in the 2:07 span North Brunswick needed to fashion it en route to building a 37-22 advantage.
While Walker needed some time to get her offensive game in gear, Kelly found her rhythm right from the jump. The 6-2 center, who is heading to Monmouth, scored seven points, grabbed seven boards and rejected two shots in the first quarter to pace North Brunswick (17-6) to a 16-8 lead. Those exploits were a harbinger of things to come as she worked around three first-half fouls to collect 21 points and 15 boards.
“We definitely want to go out with more than what we’ve accomplished so far,” said Kelly, whose helped North Brunswick to a share of the GMC White Division title with Bishop Ahr. “We don’t talk about it but you can tell we are thinking about. It makes us want to push each other more in practice and in games.”
Bhandare is the steady and somewhat overlooked pillar for North Brunswick. Besides clicking for 20 points, the guard also took down five rebounds and made four steals.
And, it was North Brunswick’s quick defensive hands that eventually triggered its second-half performance. The Raiders accumulated a dozen steals, including five from Marylynn Muldowney off the bench.
“We try to be in help a lot,” Bhandare noted of North Brunswick’s defense. “If I get beat, people behind me are waiting to help out.”
Kelly was particularly eager to offer her assistance, rejecting five shots and altering numerous more through the imposing figure she cast in the lane.
The more concerted effort by North Brunswick in the second half offered a glimpse of just what the Raiders are capable of when working harmoniously at both ends of the court.
“I’ve told them since Day 1 I thought we had the talent and the ability and the bench to be competitive against every single team we play,” Morrell said. “I’m always thinking about how we played when we played well. Our defense is usually there, it’s just finishing around the basket we need to improve on.”
The backcourt combination of Ortiz and Noelle Martz combined for 12 points, five rebounds and seven assists for Mother Seton (12-5).
Gregg Lerner covers girls basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner