METUCHEN – When the Spotswood High School girls basketball team assembled at the beginning of the year, there was a lot of work to be done. With seven starters without graduation following last year’s 15-win campaign and a host of starters and underclassmen playing key roles, there was definitely room to move.
Coming off a 44-27 win Monday night in Metuchen that gave the Chargers an even tighter grip on the Greater Middlesex Conference Blue Division race, it’s clear Spotswood has found that flow.
The Chargers used a second-half surge on both ends of the floor after trailing by two points at halftime. Spotswood’s suffocating pressure and relentless trapping frustrated the Bulldogs, and an offense that couldn’t quite match any consistency before the break found a groove after the intermission.
Sophomore Lizzie Calandruccio finished with 18 points, while classmate Violet Tarney added nine points and 14 rebounds as the Chargers used a 21-4 run in the third quarter to force Metuchen into 10 turnovers.
“I think the biggest thing is just working together,” said Calandruccio, who scored 10 of her 18 points after halftime. “We found it in ourselves. We talked to each other and just understood how to control the ball and prepare to win. In the first half, obviously, we came out flat. But we were ready to go (after half). It was all about teamwork and teamwork.”
“We were just trying to stay tight, get to the half, make some adjustments and come out of that fast-paced game that we like to play,” Spotswood coach Vin Veasey said. “We were able to put the ball in the hoop, get into our press and create some chaos to get some easy turnover baskets. So I take my hat off to them.”
This chaos paid instant dividends. While the pesky and tenacious Chargers were certainly that way in the first half, chasing every loose ball and playing at a fast tempo, full throttle, things didn’t always come together as Spotswood had 12 first downs. a quarter of a turn and it was 17 at halftime. That changes after the break midway through the game and the frustration was evident on the Bulldogs’ faces.
“We talk about it every day; having a presence and making the quarterback feel your presence on the floor,” Veasey said. “We knew Metuchen was going to be ready — coach (Kathy) Glutz is great with them — so we just wanted them to feel our pressure and see what’s next.”
Sophomore Ellie Costantino chipped in with eight points, while senior Katie Gray’s eight points and senior Aurelie Germain’s six points and eight rebounds paced Metuchen, which was able to hold its own in the fourth quarter, but the game was out of reach.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN
The win, which follows Spotswood’s 45-42 win over Metuchen on Dec. 21, gives the Chargers a 10-0 record in the Blue Division, two full games ahead of the second-place Bulldogs with four division games remaining. Spotswood also holds a tiebreaker with Metuchen, effectively leading by 3 games. The Chargers can win later this week with wins over Somerset Tech and Calvary Christian.
THEY SAID IT
“We have a great group and they have been working since the summer. We have worked with them a lot and they are responding and we are getting better every day. And that’s all you can ask for. They come to work, they come to practice, they come to games and they ask questions because they want to get better every day. And it’s exciting because it’s a young team and the future is definitely bright for us.” – Spotswood coach Vin Veasey is coming off a tough school losing streak and is counting on a group of sophomores to help lead a young team
Spotswood faces Somerset Tech on Tuesday and Calvary Christian on Friday to wrap up the division title. Metuchen takes on Calvary on Wednesday and Highland Park on Friday, looking to stay alive in the race.
SPOTSWOOD (13-3) 6-8-21-9 — 44
METUCHEN (12-4) 8-8-4-7 — 27
COLLECTION OF POINTS: S–L. Calandruccio 18, Tarni 9, Costantino 8, Fama 6, Biscoe 3; M—Gray 8, Germain 6, Connors 5, Breen 2, Palota 2, Pfeiffer 2.
SELECTIONS: S—Tarney 14, Fama 8, Costantino 4, Biscoe 3, Palacios 3, Hellerich 2, L. Calandruccio 1, Jones 1; M—Germain 8, Pfeiffer 4, Gray 2, Palota 1, Zanetsky 1, Palakowski 1, Connors 1.
SImeon Pincus has been covering sports in New Jersey since 1997. He can be reached at CNGirlsHoops@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @SimeonPincus