MIDDLETOWN β€” There is a changing of the guard for the Middletown South High School basketball program for the 2022-23 season.

Middletown South graduate Megan Cranwell, who played for the Eagles, led the team as head coach. Former coach Tom Brennan is now an assistant coach with the team.

Being the head coach at her alma mater has been an interesting experience so far for Cranwell, who is still getting used to being the head coach and having Brennan as an assistant coach.

β€œI played for Tom Brennan, so being the boss and him sitting on the bench is definitely an interesting dynamic. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Cranwell said.

Cranwell, a 2011 graduate of Middletown South, served as an assistant coach at Brennan for four years, including the 2018-19 season when the Eagles won their last state sectional title.

In 26 seasons at the helm, Brennan made the program a powerhouse. He led the Eagles to four state sectional crowns and the program’s only state sectional title in 2015-16.

Brennan made the decision to step down as head coach after leading the Eagles to a state sectional tournament championship in 2021-22.

Cranwell said Brennan told her when she got the job that he wanted to stay on as an assistant coach to help and ease her transition when she took the reins of the team.

Having her former coach and predecessor on staff has been a help, said Cranwell, who hopes to continue the success Brennan created at Middletown South.

“Orlov” has four players returns from a team that went 19-8 and reached the title game in the state sectional tournament a year ago.

Juniors Cassidy Brown and Erin Meierhofer are expected to be the top scoring threats after breakout sophomore seasons.

Brown averaged just under seven points per game in 2021-22 and provided a huge defensive presence on the wing with 33 steals.

Meyerhofer showed impressive shooting skills from distance, hitting 27 3-pointers a year ago.

Sophomore Amanda McGregor spent time off the bench in the backcourt a year ago and will be the starting point guard. Senior Amanda Paterno also returns with experience from last season.

Sophomores Elizabeth Tardy and Kaitlyn White and sisters Anna Kanapka and Kate Kanapka are newcomers to the varsity level who are expected to work in the rotation.

Middletown South (0-2) opened the 2022-23 season with tough games against Marlboro High School and Red Bank Catholic High School. The Eagles played both games without Brown and Paterno, each out with injuries.

The Eagles will take part in the 38th annual WOBM Christmas Classic over the holiday break.

While her team deals with some early season obstacles, Cranwell preaches to her players the importance of staying positive and understanding that there is still a lot of basketball to be played.

β€œIt’s not something that happens at the beginning of the season. This is what happens at the end of the season. It’s a constant reminder to stay positive and energized every day. We try to preserve such a perspective for them,” she said.

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