SWEDESBORO – It’s been a challenging season for the youthful Washington Township girls basketball team.
“There’s been some bumps in the road,” said sophomore Gabrielle Turco. “But we never stopped working hard. We’ve battle through it.”
As time passes and the state tournament approaches, it’s also increasingly evident that this is becoming successful season for the Minutemaids.
The sophomore driven squad prepped for the post season Friday with a 36-14 win over short-handed Kingsway as Turco led the way with 13 points and Emily Johns added 10 in a non-league game.
The win raised the Washington Township record to 13-7, but their losses are to a virtual who’s who of Top Ten teams.
The setbacks have come to such current Top Ten teams as Cherokee (twice), Gloucester Catholic, Camden Catholic, Paul VI and Kingsway – when the two met in a Christmas Tournament.
But since that Dec. 28 loss, the Minutemaids are 11-5, their only loss outside the Top Ten coming to Olympic Conference American Division rival Lenape.
“After we lost to Kingsway in the Christmas Tournament, I think we really came together as a team,” said Turco. “We came back after that and really worked hard in practice and it’s been an all-around effort from the coaches all the way down to the players.”
Fellow sophomore Katie McCusker admits that the team has had “some ups and downs,” but she says the key to the Minutemaids’ recovery has been sticking together as a team.
“We work hard in practice,” she said. “We really came out strong tonight. I think having a win like this will take us more into the future with the playoffs coming up. I think we’re back to ourselves.”
If Township is gaining some momentum going into the post season, No. 4 Kingsway has lost some.
The Dragons have played their last couple of games without injured players Morgan Robinson, who averages 17.5 points a game, and Michiya Davis, a nice complementary player.
After getting off to a 15-1 start, the Dragons have now lost two in a row, and coach Felecia Jenkins is awaiting word of when she might be able to get her team back together.
“We knew the game was going to be tough coming in,” Jenkins said. “There is no team in America from pros to high school to colleges that can lose their top point guard and one of their top scorers and still be the same team.
“But just like I was telling our young ladies – our season is not defined by one or two losses.
Despite missing some key components, Washington Township coach Jenn Natale said Kingsway remained a formidable opponent. She said her team fought for the win and earned the victory.
“They still came out and played hard,” Natale said of the Dragons. “They’re a bigger team, they’re physical, but our kids fought. To hold them to 14 points . . . they still had threats on the floor, and I think our kids did their job.”
Both teams struggled offensively though the first half with the Minutemaids’ leading only 11-10 at intermission. But they turned the game into a rout in the second half.
“Obviously we were very confident defensively going into the locker room,” said Natale. “Our shots weren’t falling in the first half but I kept telling the girls, we’re getting the looks – their going to fall.”
Once the Washington Township girls found their offensive rhythm, it didn’t take long for them to pull away.
They opened the second half with a 13-0 run as Madison Delude scored four of her six points, while Johns and Kyle Gelston added three each.
Kingsway scored only two points in the quarter and then added only two more in the fourth quarter, both on baskets by Rebecca Blazycek .
“We were having trouble scoring and when you can’t score you play defense,” said McCusker. “We locked it down.”
Kaiya Jenkins led the Dragons with seven of the team’s 14 points, but she was shut out in the second half.
Washington Twp. 7 4 13 12-36
Kingsway 3 7 4 4 -14
WT: Madison Delude 6, Kyle Gelston 3, Emily John 10, Julie Marino 2, Gabrielle Turco 13, Rachell Roda 2 .
K: Kelei Jenkins 1, Rebbeca Blazycek 6, Kayla 7.