Monthly Archives: January 2014

East Brunswick rides early lead past South Brunswick

South Brunswick's Taylor Brantley blocks the shot attempt of East Brunswick's Dayna Sclafani in Thursday's game. Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

South Brunswick’s Taylor Brantley blocks the shot attempt of East Brunswick’s Dayna Sclafani in Thursday’s game. Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

EAST BRUNSWICK — With an extra emphasis on boxing out and limiting second chances, the East Brunswick High School girls basketball team scored a big victory Thursday night.

Despite being the smaller of the two teams on the court, East Brunswick outrebounded South Brunswick 28-18 and jumped out to an early lead en route to a 41-24 win.

East Brunswick (11-2) head coach Keith Lane has said all season that his squad is becoming more and more comfortable with one another and that showed Thursday, as defensive rotations were crisp and passes were on the money in transition for easy baskets.

“We are playing very, very well as a team right now,” Lane said. “We have good team chemistry and a lot of girls with varsity experience and we’re really playing together.”

The Bears raced out to a 24-13 halftime advantage, thanks in large part to junior Julia Simoes’ three 3-pointers. Six different players scored in the opening 16 minutes, led by Simoes’ nine.

“We got the lead early so we were more settled and when the shots fall, everybody is in a better mood and has a better outlook,” Simoes said. “Everyone was making shots and this was really a group effort tonight.”

Simoes noted that the focus on the defensive end was to limit South Brunswick’s top scoring threat, Jackie Siva-Harrison. Despite scoring 13 points for the game, Siva-Harrison was pressured throughout and made just a pair of free throws in the fourth quarter.

“We focused on Jackie and played a couple of different coverages on her and that worked pretty well,” Simoes said. “We’ve been focusing on defense at practice a lot and it paid off tonight.”

The two teams played for the All-Brunswick Tournament title on Dec. 28, with South Brunswick (8-4) winning 35-24. In that matchup, East Brunswick’s Dayna Sclafani scored just five points and pulled in just three rebounds. Thursday, Sclafani scored a team-high 13 points and hauled down seven boards.

“Since it was the beginning of the season when we played them the first time, we weren’t quite prepared,” Sclafani said. “I don’t think everyone was really focused, but we came into this one knowing we could win. This game means a lot to us; South Brunswick is a good team, but we were able to come out with a big win.”

Sclafani said that the third quarter has been her team’s achillies heel all season long, but the junior scored seven of her points in the stanza and East Brunswick weathered a more aggressive South Brunswick offense.

“We told each other at halftime that we needed to push it, knowing how good South Brunswick is. Everyone was focused in that third quarter and we were able to pull it out,” Sclafani said.

East Brunswick shot 15-47 (31.9 percent) as a team, but Sclafani made 7-8 free throws – the only ones the Bears shot in the game – and won the rebounding battle by simply being more aggressive when the ball was in the air.

“We work on rebounding and boxing out a lot. We put a heavy precedence on it,” Lane said. “Offensive rebounds are key for what we do and we knew that we needed to limit them to one shot and not allow extra chances.”

The Bears are now a half-game ahead of South Brunswick in the Red Division race.


NOTEBOOK: Sayreville’s Rodriguez has made a habit of rescuing Bombers

As the game clock ticked away Tuesday night, Sayreville High School girls basketball star Jackie Rodriguez took over.

Trailing for the first time all night, Rodriguez calmly knocked down a game-tying 3-pointer and then made 3-4 free throws inside in the final minute, helping Sayreville edge Colonia 44-40.

The rescuing act has become standard for Rodriguez this season, as the senior point guard has averaged 22.6 points per game, helping the Bombers to a 10-3 record.

“We haven’t had a point guard like her in a long time,” Sayreville head coach Tara Currie said. “To have a player like her a huge for our team; she handles the ball so well and it helps us be successful. She’s grown a lot for us this year, dishing to teammates and learning not to do everything by herself. But I’m sure glad to have her on the team.”

Rodriguez, who eclipsed the 1,000-point mark against J.P. Stevens last week, and Sayreville have made the Greater Middlesex Conference’s White Division a four-team race with six games to play, as South Plainfield, Sayreville, Monroe and Bishop Ahr are all mathematically alive to win the division.

For Sayreville, with games left against all three of its division foes, Currie believes that her squad controls its own destiny.

“I’m cautiously optimistic; you just can’t underestimate anybody in this division,” she said. “We have to take care of ourselves and make every possession count. We’re starting to realize how to play an entire game and I think that the girls are understanding that we can’t look too far down the road.”

Starting with a Thursday matchup against South Plainfield, currently the leader of the bunch at 8-1 in the White, Sayreville plays four of its last six regular season games on the road. But having gone away from home and beating Blue Division leader J.F. Kennedy (11-1) on Jan. 18 will help the psyche of the Bombers.

“We didn’t talk about J.F. Kennedy at all before that game,” Currie said. “I scouted them early in the year and they dominated. But I didn’t tell the girls they were unbeaten or anything like that until after the game. That win was a real turning point for our season.”

Franklin rebounds

Franklin, The Home News Tribune’s No. 1 team, bounced back nicely from its second loss of the season, handing Hillsborough a 60-39 defeat Tuesday night. The Warriors were beaten by state-powerhouse Gill St. Bernard’s last week, 65-56. Led by Adreana Miller, who averages 16.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, Franklin has already beaten three out-of-state powers – Caravel Academy (Del.), Damascus (Md.), Staten Island Academy (NY) – this year.

The Warriors will play local rival Rutgers Prep at 5:30 Friday, as the Argonauts look to add a statement win to their resume. Rutgers Prep (5-5), No. 10 in The Home News Tribune’s Top 10, has played much better lately, winning four of its last six games. Even with just one player averaging double-digits in points – Allison Girardi (10.2) – Rutgers Prep has already made more 3-pointers in 10 games this season than they did in all of the 2012-13 campaign. The Argos have hit the glass hard this year, averaging 26.8 rebounds as a squad.

J.F. Kennedy rides Freeman, Tang to win over Woodbridge

John F Kennedy's Jolie Tang (4) drives around Woodbridge's Brielle Bannister on Monday in Woodbridge. Photo by: Ed Pagliarini

John F Kennedy’s Jolie Tang (4) drives around Woodbridge’s Brielle Bannister on Monday in Woodbridge. Photo by: Ed Pagliarini

WOODBRIDGE — For any team to be successful, having senior leadership in key.

For the J.F. Kennedy High School girls basketball team, Taylor Freeman and Jolie Tang stepped up and showed their poise when it mattered most, leading the Mustangs to a 69-54 victory over neighborhood rival Woodbridge Monday night.

Freeman and Tang each scored 26 points, and the latter had 12 rebounds and made all nine of her free throws in a contest that saw 45 fouls called and the teams shoot 60 combined free throws.

“This is absolutely a good win. The past two games against Colonia and tonight against Woodbridge, we haven’t had what I would consider to be the best officials, but I tell the girls that we need to be in control of the things we can control,” J.F. Kennedy head coach Heidi Hodnett said. “We know we need to step to the line and make free throws and that’s what happened tonight.”

Tang knocked down 7-7 free throws in the final eight minutes, with six of those coming in the final 1:37 to stretch a 61-53 lead into 68-54. Tang scored 20 of her 26 points in the second half, teaming with Freeman to nearly outscore the Barrons by themselves. Freeman had 13 in each half.

“As seniors, Jolie and Taylor have the mental toughness and when they get the ball in their hands, they’re going to get fouled,” Hodnett said. “Jolie did a great job of rebounding Woodbridge’s misses and getting fouled there in the fourth quarter. She’s really like ice out there.”

J.F. Kennedy was up 25-20 at halftime, as they shot just 8-30 in the opening 16 minutes. But coming out of the locker room, the Mustangs shot the ball at a much more efficient rate, connecting on 7-13 in the stanza. Tang scored nine and Freeman clicked for seven in the third, but Woodbridge refused to go quietly.

The Barrons actually won the quarter 22-20, with Brielle Bannister scoring eight of her 14 points. Gabby Jones, who led Woodbridge with 21 points on the night, chipped in six in the third. Jones also hauled in nine rebounds and made 10-12 free throws. Bannister recorded a double-double with her 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Barrons.

But in the opening moments of the fourth quarter, leading-scorer Brianna Valdes picked up her fourth foul for Woodbridge and was forced to the bench. Valdes, the Greater Middlesex Conference’s fourth-leading scorer for the season, would foul out with 1:37 to go, and finish with 16 points.

Fouls also affected J.F. Kennedy’s Rachel Andrejcak, who fouled out herself with 1:02 to play. Andrejcak, who leads the conference in rebounding per game, managed just four rebounds to go with seven points — four of which came in the fourth quarter.

“Rachel has struggled in some of our games this year and when she does, Taylor and Jolie step up on the outside,” Hodnett said. “Not too many teams have a girl strong enough to guard Rachel, so that’s the game plan going in: get her the ball and they’ll have to collapse on her and we can get the outside shooting going.”

J.F. Kennedy shot 14-26 from the field in the second half and made 19-30 from the charity stripe for the game. Woodbridge, by comparison, hit 11-25 from the field and 18-30 from the line.

“We always have close games with Colonia and Woodbridge, from the White and the Red divisions, respectively, so we know that these are must-wins for us. To beat a top 10 team in the county, that’s important for us.”

Carlson excited to play for U.S. Olympic team

Like many American hockey fans, Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson watched the NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. But, unlike most Americans, Carlson heard his name called as one of the 25 members of the 2014 United States Olympic Men’s Hockey Team following the contest on NBC. And when he heard it on his TV that afternoon, Carlson’s reaction was priceless.

“They didn’t tell us before the announcement, so I was watching like everybody else and I was really nervous,” Carlson said. “It was an awesome result, but man, was it nerve-racking for me, watching it at home.”

Carlson, who lived with his family in Colonia and played for one season at St. Joseph (Met.), scored 12 goals and 19 points for the Falcons. After the 2004-05 season, Carlson focused solely on junior hockey with the New Jersey Rockets, before heading to the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League in 2007-08. After a strong showing with the Ice – 12 goals, 31 assists – the Capitals selected Carlson with the 27th overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He made his debut on Nov. 21, 2009 and has been a constant force on the Washington blue line since.

“He’s a winner everywhere he went. He stayed one year with us; I wish he could have stayed for four, but you can understand why he moved on,” former St. Joseph head coach Pete Kolodney said. “He had the talent and he was above the norm. He’s clearly made the most of his opportunity since getting to Washington. Sometimes I can’t believe it when I see him in interviews. So to this day, it’s hard to believe and personally, I was only a small part of his development and he was blessed with skills and size. He’s made the most of it.”

Kolodney, who coached at St. Joseph from 1986-87 through the 2006-07 season, said that he knew that Carlson was something special in the 2004-05 campaign, when the Falcons went 10-9-2 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA Tournament.

“Him being named to the Olympic team is just consistent with what John’s experiences have been,” Kolodney said. “He’s a winner; he scored the game-winner at the 2010 World Championships, and when he went to Hershey (in the American Hockey League) with the Capitals’ farm team and they won the Calder Cup. He’ll be a contributor in Sochi for the USA, for sure.”

For Team USA, Carlson, who shoots from the right side, could be paired with Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers or Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik, although he hasn’t been told with whom he’ll skate on the American blue line.

Friday night, Washington made its first of two trips to New Jersey of the season, allowing Carlson to play in front of friends and family in the Garden State. He was on the ice for more than 23 minutes and had five shots on goal in the Capitals’ 2-1 loss to the Devils. For the season, Carlson is on pace to set new career-highs in goals, assists and points, all while playing more minutes than he has at any point in his NHL career.

Making the Olympic team from of New Jersey is something that Carlson is especially proud of, knowing he’s inspired kids from all over the state to keep pushing and to never give up.

“I think it’s great for the state of New Jersey and there are so many players coming out of here now and it’s great to see. I’m happy to be on the Olympic team,” he said. “It’s good to see guys like me and James van Riemsdyk (Christian Brothers Academy) have made the team and we’re supplying a blueprint and everyone wants to be the next kid and it’s inspiring for me to be someone kids look up to like that.”

Belmont sets two meet marks in leading Old Bridge girls to GMC track title

TOMS RIVER — Despite not running a 3,200-meter race in nearly a year, Old Bridge High School’s Rachel Belmont scored a meet-record 11:06.83, then added to the accomplishment with a meet-record run of 5:13.17 in the 1,600 to help the Knights capture the Greater Middlesex Conference team title Saturday at the Bennett Center.

Old Bridge edged Piscataway 46-44 for first place, with South Brunswick just three points behind.

“I was so happy with the 3,200; the goal today was to do enough to win the 1,600, but save enough energy to win the 3,200,” Belmont said. “I knew that would need that extra boost to hold off Rachel Suss (of Metuchen) in the two-mile race. It was such a fun race, having a great runner push me to be my best. I haven’t run a two-mile in almost a year, so I didn’t know where I’d be. But I feel like that was what I needed to get a personal record and both of these meet records.”

Belmont, who set course records during the fall cross country season, said that being part of a championship team during her senior season was even more rewarding than earning a pair of meet records.

“Honestly, it’s amazing to be part of another team champion team,” she said. “We’re all working towards the same goal and as a senior, it’s great. Individual wins are great, but team wins are even better. It’s surreal. Everyone has to come together and that certainly happened today.”

Oksana Sokolova became a three-time GMC champion at the high jump, clearing 5-4, to boost the Knights past Piscataway and South Brunswick.

“For Oksana to win her third in a row is great,” Old Bridge girls coach Steve Gajewski said. “We talked about her being a two-time champion and defending it and it was a pressure event and she did a great job.”

Piscataway made it a close race for the team title in the 4×400 relay, the meet’s final event, winning by three seconds over Woodbridge. The quartet of Nia Dipuche, Jazmine Elleston, Chanel Smith, Brionna Pettus crossed the finish line in 4:04.25. Pettus also took home a gold medal in the 400-meter race, winning in 58.96.

Aspen McMillan won the 55-meter hurdles for the second straight year in 8.47 and Nicole Cavett was one of only four girls to clear the pole vault, winning the event by going over 9-0.

Vikings triumph

On the boys side, South Brunswick ran away from Old Bridge, 74-47, to give first-year head coach Chris Ruskie a GMC title. Elijah Suggs (55 dash), Juan Baxter (55 hurdles), Morgan Murray (800) and Nicholas Neville (1,600) all won events for the Vikings.

“This is great; we’re very excited. This is our third straight major championship victory and we want to keep this momentum going into sectionals,” Ruskie said. “But we knew it would be close with Old Bridge again, but our guys were prepared; they did what we told them. Not too many mistakes today and having Elijah Suggs winning was a nice surprise. We thought he could place, but winning was a huge bonus.”

Old Bridge received a strong performance from Hazem Miawad, who won the 400 in 49.92 and was part of the 4×400 relay team that edged South Brunswick by 2.5 seconds.

Miawad, along with Marcus Hernandez, Alex Leto and Jayson Gilbert ran the relay in 3:27.84.

James Hampsey of Metuchen took home gold in the 1,600 with a come-from-behind victory, edging Trent Brinofski of Bishop Ahr 9:39.67-9:41.90.


TEAM SCORES: 1. South Brunswick 74; 2. Old Bridge 47; 3. Perth Amboy 23; 4. J.P. Stevens 22; 5. Metuchen 21; 6. St. Joseph 20; 7. Bishop Ahr 16; 7. Sayreville 16; 9. J.F. Kennedy 11; 9. East Brunswick 11; 11. Woodbridge 6; 12. Monroe 4; 12. Piscataway 4; 14. Spotswood 2; 14 Colonia 2.

55 DASH: 1. Elijah Suggs (South Brunswick) 6.71; 2. Ivan Gulyeav (Metuchen) 6.72; 3. Shaun Abubakar (Sayreville) 6.77; 4. Brandon Phillip (East Brunswick) 6.80; 5. Gadimi Porielean (Colonia) 6.81; 6. Jorge Vasquez (Perth Amboy) 6.88.

55 HURDLES: 1. Juan Baxter (South Brunswick) 7.82; 2. Jaashir Morris (J.P. Stevens) 7.86; 3. Shaun Abubakar (Sayreville) 7.93; 4. Christopher Wong (Monroe) 8.05; 5. Josh Franklin (Old Bridge) 8.05; 6. Mark Cooke (J.P. Stevens) 8.06.

400: 1. Hazem Miawad (Old Bridge) 49.92; 2. Alex Leto (Old Bridge) 49.94; 3. Mark Cooke (J.P. Stevens) 50.67; 4. Marcus Hernandez (Old Bridge) 51.02; 5. Jaashir Morris (J.P. Stevens) 51.10; 6. Ivan Gulyeav (Metuchen) 51.37.

800: 1. Morgan Murray (South Brunswick) 1:57.97; 2. Matthew Tamasi (South Brunswick) 2:00.03: 3. Luiliam Teixeira (Perth Amboy) 2:02.46; 4. Daniel Torres (Sayreville) 2:02.48; 5. Nick Garifalos (Spotswood) 2:03.13; 6. Christian Garrido (South Brunswick) 2:03.83.

1600: 1. Nicholas Neville (South Brunswick) 4:34.38; 2. Gerard D’Ambrosio (Old Bridge) 4:34.96; 3. Tyler Sanders (South Brunswick) 4:37.20; 4. Jason Rivera (Perth Amboy) 4:39.73; 5. Joseph Weber (South Brunswick) 4:43.80; 6. Aaron John (J.P. Stevens) 4:43.80.

3200: 1. James Hampsey (Metuchen) 9:39.67; 2. Trent Brinofski (Bishop Ahr) 9:41.90; 3. Brandon D’Souza (St. Joseph) 9:47.55; 4. Panth Patel (J.P. Stevens) 9:47.94; 5. Matthew Zamorski (South Brunswick) 9:48.57; 6. Kyle McCann (South Brunswick) 10:00.51.

HIGH JUMP: 1. Joseph Egri (J.F. Kennedy) 5-10; 2. Chris Minick (Bishop Ahr) 5-8; 3. Percy Martin-Oguike (Woodbridge) 5-8; 4. Tyler Hopman (Old Bridge) 5-8; 5. Trevor Firgau (Metuchen) 5-6; 6. Kevin Thomson (East Brunswick) 5-6.

SHOT PUT: 1. Anibal Hernandez (Perth Amboy) 49-5.50; 2. Alexander Borowick (St. Joseph) 47-7.00; 3. Erich Kaiser (South Brunswick) 47-6.00; 4. Patrick Conlon (St. Joseph) 47-4.00; 5. Nicholas Krute (St. Joseph) 46-5.50; 6. Chris Simone (Old Bridge) 45-3.00.

POLE VAULT: 1. Ayman Saleh (East Brunswick) 13-0; 2. Jeremy Rodriguez (South Brunswick) 13-0; 3. Nick Carbone (South Brunswick) 12-6; 4. Kevin Wainczak (South Brunswick) 12-0; 5. Ryan Koonjan (J.F. Kennedy) 11-6; 6. Joseph Egri (J.F. Kennedy) 11-0.

4×400: 1. Old Bridge (Marcus Hernandez, Alex Leto, Jayson Gilbert, Hazem Miawad) 3:27.84; 2. South Brunswick 3:30.47; 3. East Brunswick 3:34.12; 4. Piscataway 3:34.98; 5. Perth Amboy 3:38.27; 6. J.F. Kennedy 3:39.72.


TEAM SCORES: 1. Old Bridge 46; 2. Piscataway 44; 3. South Brunswick 43; 4. Woodbridge 35; 5. North Brunswick 25; 6. Spotswood 22; 7. East Brunswick 21; 8. Bishop Ahr 18; 9. Metuchen 17; 10. Sayreville 7; 11. South Plainfield 6; 12. Edison 3.

55 DASH: 1. Essence Harris (North Brunswick) 7.25; 2. Aspen McMillan (South Brunswick) 7.28; 3. Brionna Pettus (Piscataway) 7.38; 4. Chanel Smith (Piscataway) 7.47; 5. Ellie Yepez (Woodbridge) 7.56; 6. Desirae Osley (South Brunswick) 7.58.

55 HURDLES: 1. Aspen McMillan (South Brunswick) 8.47; 2. Jazmine Elleston (Piscataway) 8.55; 3. Amber Edwards (Sayreville) 8.92; 4. Gianna Thompson (Piscataway) 8.95; 5. Julia Lekht (South Brunswick) 8.99; 6. Mackenzie Revano (Metuchen) 9.15.

400: 1. Brionna Pettus (Piscataway) 58.96; 2. Brittany Gasser (Woodbridge) 59.87; 3. Ellie Yepez (Woodbridge) 1:00.36; 4. Desirae Osley (South Brunswick) 1:00.89; 5. Amanda Cucarese (Old Bridge) 1:01.37; 6. Rachel Huang (East Brunswick) 1:01.85.

800: 1. Brittany Gasser (Woodbridge) 2:20.26; 2. Jasmine Jerman (East Brunswick) 2:24.58; 3. Alexandria Coghlan (Spotswood) 2:25.34; 4. Chasity Doctuer (North Brunswick) 2:25.45; 5. Katie Wasserman (Spotswood) 2:25.47; 6. Miaomi McGarrell (Edison) 2:26.87.

1600: 1. Rachel Belmont (Old Bridge) 5:13.57; 2. Katie Wasserman (Spotswood) 5:25.90; 3. Alexandria Coghlan (Spotswood) 5:28.10; 4. Sarah Frost (East Brunswick) 5:28.40; 5. Dianne Ferraro (South Plainfield) 5:29.17; 6. Alyssa Kramer (Old Bridge) 5:33.67.

3200: 1 Rachel Belmont (Old Bridge) 11:06.83; 2. Rachel Suss (Metuchen) 11:07.53; 3. Cassidy Flynn-Rozanski (Old Bridge) 12:00.40; 4. Dianne Ferraro (South Plainfield) 12:04.22; 5. Alyssa Kramer (Old Bridge) 12:11.19; 6. Sarah Frost (East Brunswick) 12:18.98.

HIGH JUMP: 1. Oksana Sokolova (Old Bridge) 5-4; 2. Nnenna Ibe (North Brunswick) 5-2; 3. Jada-Rae Poku (South Brunswick) 4-10; 4. Leyna Abrahams (East Brunswick) 4-8; 4. Bonayza Lunn (North Brunswick) 4-8; 6. Sydney Contrino (East Brunswick) 4-8.

SHOT PUT: 1. Amanda Julve (Bishop Ahr) 34-8.75; 2. Bernadette Maligranda (Bishop Ahr) 34-6.75; 3. Denise Porter (South Brunswick) 33-6.75; 4. Rachel Michalski (Metuchen) 32-9.75; 5. Karllanar Weekes (Piscataway) 32-6.75; 6. Brianna Baldassano (Woodbridge) 32-6.50.

POLE VAULT: 1. Nicole Cavett (South Brunswick) 9-0; 2. Danielle Hecht (South Brunswick) 8-6; 3. Claudia Reyes (J.F. Kennedy) 7-6; 4. Alexa Novoczynski (J.F. Kennedy) 7-0.

4×400: 1. Piscataway (Nia Dipuche, Jazmine Elleston, Chanel Smith, Brionna Pettus) 4:04.25; 2. Woodbridge 4:07.76; 3. South Brunswick 4:10.01; 4. Old Bridge 4:11.28; 5. Metuchen 4:15.06; 6. East Brunswick 4:17.25.

Jagr sets up Devils for win over Caps

NEWARK — After not scoring in more than a month, Stephen Gionta gave the New Jersey Devils a big lift at 4:57 of the opening period Friday night.

The ageless Jaromir Jagr sent Gionta in on a mini-breakaway and the winger did the rest, burying a big goal to boost the Devils (22-19-11) to a 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals in a key Metropolitan Division clash.

“It’s nice to be able to chip in offensively,” Gionta said. “Ryan Carter did a nice job of driving the net and drawing the defenders to him and giving me a shooting lane.”

Adam Henrique scored what proved to be the game-winning goal, taking a Jagr pass on the doorstep to beat Michal Neuvirth 1:45 into the second period and Cory Schneider made 30 saves for his second straight victory.

“Cory has been unbelievable for us all season long, and he keeps giving us a chance to win every night and that’s all we can ask for,” Gionta said.

With Dmitry Orlov in the box for holding just 41 seconds into the second period, the Devils went to work on the power play. Jagr dangled through the Washington defense, eventually feeding a pass to Henrique, who was all by himself in front of the net and Henrique buried it for his 14th goal of the season to double the Devils lead. It marked the second straight game Henrique found the back of the net, after scoring in the Devils’ 7-1 victory over St. Louis Tuesday.

New Jersey managed just seven shots in the third period and Washington was able to get on the board when Jason Chimera re-directed a shot from the point home 10:10 into the final stanza. But as captain Bryce Salvador said, two points is two points, especially when the Devils need as many as possible.

“At the end of the day, we got the two points and it wasn’t pretty,” Salvador said. “The effort wasn’t what we wanted tonight, but it shows the character of this team to get these two points on a night where it wasn’t our best outing.”

New Jersey is now in fifth place in the Metropolitan Division, three points ahead of Washington.

Gionta’s goal came just 26 seconds after the Devils failed to convert a power play chance, but Jagr found the puck on his stick in the neutral zone and led Gionta in. Neuvirth, who made 28 saves on the night, appeared to have it in between his left arm and his pads, but the puck squirted through and gave New Jersey the lead.

The result was all too familiar for the Capitals, who have now lost seven games in a row.

Mighty pushes South Plainfield past Bishop Ahr

SOUTH PLAINFIELD — With Bishop Ahr breathing down its neck and mounting a late rally, the South Plainfield High School girls basketball team looked to one Yasmeen Mighty to make the game’s biggest play.

As the clock ticked down to 30 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and a 10-point lead having been dwindled down to four, Mighty came up with a steal in the backcourt and a driving layup, pushing the lead back to six.

“Yasmeen made the play of the game, with the steal and basket at the end,” South Plainfield head coach Kevin Hughes said. “She has the ability and I just give her a little more freedom than everybody else because she makes plays like that.”

Despite getting just three points — all in the fourth quarter — from leading scorer Kate McLaughlin, South Plainfield held on for a 44-39 victory over Bishop Ahr Thursday night in a key Greater Middlesex Conference White Division showdown. The win coupled with a 57-52 defeat of the Trojans on opening night — gave South Plainfield a two-game cushion in the divisional race over Bishop Ahr, the two-time defending White Division champions.

“This is a great win; going in, having beaten them in the first game of the year, if things didn’t go well tonight and you told me at the beginning of the year that we’d go 1-1 against Bishop Ahr, I’d would have signed up for that,” Hughes said. “So to get two quality wins against them is great.”

The teams got off to an even start, with South Plainfield leading 17-13 at halftime, but Hughes knew his squad was capable of going on a game-defining run.

“I told the girls that I thought we were going to go on a run in the third quarter and we just had to keep playing defense the way we did,” he said.

And Hughes was right. In the decisive third quarter, South Plainfield out-scored Bishop Ahr 15-11, with Sarah Cargill and Amanda Harper each scoring five in the stanza. Cargill finished with a game-high 18 points, picking up the slack on a night where McLaughlin — who averages 11.8 points per game — made just three free throws.

“Sarah’s been getting there each game; becoming a little more aggressive and we’ve been talking about it long enough and tonight it clicked,” Hughes said. “She went to the basket and made things happen. We haven’t traditionally won games where Kate hasn’t been our leading scorer, so it was nice to see Sarah step up tonight.”

Mighty finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, to go with her game-deciding steal and South Plainfield made 4-6 free throws in the fourth quarter to keep its edge.

Bishop Ahr battled in the fourth quarter, with Lauren Barlow scoring seven of her team-best 15 points. The sophomore guard made three 3-pointers for the game and was the Trojans’ lone scorer to reach double-digits on a night where they shot 14-42 (33 percent) from the field. Jenna Harsh scored seven points and added seven rebounds and Brianna Foster, playing through foul trouble all night, chipped in five points and six boards for Bishop Ahr.

South Plainfield now sits in a first place tie with Monroe — each team is 6-1 in White Division play — as the season reaches its second month.

“Going into tonight, there were five of us within a game of each other in the White Division, so I think that’s the way it’s going to be for the rest of the year,” Hughes said. “The more quality wins you can get prepares us for the next night and there is no easy game in the White this year. Anybody can beat anybody. It’s going to be a wild end of the season.”

NOTEBOOK: Woodbridge looking forward to getting off road

Not often does a team play nine of its first 10 games on the road to begin a season, but the Woodbridge High School girls basketball team has done just that this year.

Under the guidance of first-year head coach Bob Timinski, the Barrons have battled through a bevy of away games and several injuries to a 5-5 record through Wednesday.

With the Greater Middlesex Conference’s fourth-leading scorer — Brianna Valdes — pouring in the buckets, Woodbridge has bounced back from a 1-4 start to win four of its last five, scoring more than 70 points twice in that run.

Valdes averages 17.4 points per game to lead the offense and Gabby Jones (15.8 PPG) has provided a big boost as the Barrons play without three key members of their offense.

“We have three girls (Brielle Bannister, Corrine Kist and Maura Walsh) out with knee injuries, so Brianna and Gabby have had to step up for us,” Timinski said. “They’re leaders on our squad and Brianna has been the leader of our offense from day one. As she goes, so does the offense.”

Woodbridge is going to need Valdes to continue her hot scoring, as it faces a gauntlet over the next six games. The Barrons are scheduled to play South Brunswick (6-2), Bishop Ahr (6-4), J.F. Kennedy (8-1), Piscataway (8-2), Old Bridge (4-7) and East Brunswick (7-1) in what Timinski calls a “season-defining stretch.” All of those games except for one will be at home.

“We’ve struggled to be consistent this year,” he said. “Hopefully we can be consistent and play like we’re capable of playing and win some of these games and make it interesting in the division.”

Starting Thursday — weather permitting — Woodbridge will need to be focused from the opening tip to the final buzzer, according to Timinski, who said his squad has struggled to put together 32 minutes this year.

“We have to be focused for a whole game; we have gone through stretches where we’ve played outstanding basketball for a quarter or a half, but not always for a whole game,” he said. “We have to play the whole game and that’s our main focus right now.”

Games to watch

Thursday: Bishop Ahr at South Plainfield, 7 p.m. In a key GMC White Division matchup between two Top 10 teams, Bishop Ahr will look to build on its impressive victory over Sayreville (43-39) last week and continue to put pressure on Monroe at the top of the division. South Plainfield, who won the first meeting, 57-52, on Dec. 21 between the two teams, will try and win four of its last five.

Saturday: Union at Piscataway, 1 p.m. The Chiefs will have their hands full with a non-conference foe with the ability to score at will. Union (10-2) has lost twice to powerhouse Roselle Catholic and has averaged 50.4 points per game this year.

Stat leaders

Points: 1. Cassie Smith (Metuchen) 30.3; 2. Jackie Rodriguez (Sayreville) 21.5; 3. Taylor Freeman (J.F. Kennedy) 18.3; 4. Brianna Valdes (Woodbridge) 17.4; 5. Amanda LaVigne (South Amboy) 16.3.

Rebounds: 1. Rachel Andrejcak (J.F. Kennedy) 13.6; 2. Simran Sangu (Colonia) 12.2; 3. Lena Buccigrossi (Mother Seton) 11.4; 4. Nikki Melie (Mother Seton) 11.2; 5. Erin Seppi (Monroe) 10.2.

Assists: 1. Alyssa Barry (South River) 6.0; 2. Amanda LaVigne (South Amboy) 5.1; 3. Erica Junquet (Monroe) 4.2; 4. Alyssa Andrejic (South River) 4.0; 5. Taylor Nelson (Piscataway) 3.7.

Old Bridge builds big lead, holds on to beat J.P. Stevens

EDISON — After jumping out to a 20-point lead at halftime, the Old Bridge High School girls basketball team seemed to relax a little too much for head coach Dan DiMino’s liking.

“We were just too relaxed in the second half and fourth quarter,” DiMino said. “The first half is what set the tone for us for the rest of the game, but the girls got too comfortable at the end.”

Despite scoring just one point in the fourth quarter, Old Bridge (4-7) hung on for a 38-30 victory over J.P. Stevens Saturday afternoon.

Taylor Torre knocked down three 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 16 points and freshman Amanda Carney scored 12 points to lead the Knights.

Old Bridge held a 29-9 lead at intermission, but J.P. Stevens found life in the third quarter, going on a 6-0 run to cut into the lead and as time expired in the stanza, Kathleen Tong knocked down a 3-pointer to cut it to 37-21.

In the fourth, J.P. Stevens (1-8) scored the first nine points, as Laya Paladugu hit a 3-pointer and raced down the court for a layup and Molly Yelencsics made a pair of free throws and a coast-to-coast layup.

But Torre knocked down a free throw with 28.2 seconds remaining for the lone Knights point of the quarter to end any hopes of a dramatic comeback victory for the Hawks.

“They really came back strong and that’s all you can ask,” J.P. Stevens head coach Amy Bonk said. “I’m trying to get them to put a whole game together, four quarters, not just two, but this was a nice comeback for us.”

Yelencsics finished with nine points, eight of which came in the second half, to lead J.P. Stevens and Laya Paladugu chipped in seven points. Rebecca DiSerio and Tong each had five points and seven rebounds for the Hawks.

“J.P. Stevens is a good team, even though their record doesn’t show it,” DiMino said. “You play against anybody, they’re going to play to the end and I think it’s good to have a close game in the end, where we had to bring the starters back in and get some stops on defense.”

J.P. Stevens made 6 of 24 shots in the second half after shooting just 4 of 17 in the first half. But the Hawks got themselves back into it by limiting their turnovers. In the opening 16 minutes, the turned the ball over 19 times; after intermission, they had just six more.

“We’re young and made up of underclassmen, so this gives us some positive confidence,” Bonk said. “We’re right there, so we know we can come back and we’re growing and getting better. We just need to get over that hump.”

The Hawks out-rebounded Old Bridge 35-19, but Carney and Torre were ultimately too much to handle.

“Amanda’s freshman year that she’s having is unbelievable. We’re not even halfway through the season, so I can’t wait to see what else she can do for us,” DiMino said. “And Taylor is a one of our senior captains; She’s a leader on the court and she’s a great asset for us.”

Metuchen’s Flaherty to miss 2-3 weeks with fractured foot

Metuchen High School senior point guard Katelynn Flaherty will miss 2-3 weeks with a fractured foot, as first reported by MSG Varsity’s Gregg Lerner.

Flaherty, who transferred from Point Pleasant Beach to Metuchen on Jan. 2, debuted for the Bulldogs Wednesday against Mother Seton and posted an impressive stat line of 26 points, eight assists and eight steals.

Flaherty appeared to hurt herself in the second quarter of Metuchen’s 68-48 victory, but she came back to score 10 points in the third quarter before sitting out the final quarter.

“She’s become a vital part of the team, both on and off court. She’s sharing her wisdom with the players and everyone respects one another,” Metuchen head coach Pat Mayo said. “We’ll make the best of it.”

Mayo said that she doesn’t have a definitive time frame of how long Flaherty will be out, but she said it’ll be at least one week.

In Friday night’s game against Wardlaw-Hartridge, senior Cassie Smith scored a season-high 47 points, adding 17 rebounds and five steals to pace the Bulldogs to a 67-41 victory.

“We are going to play our regular game until Katelynn gets back,” Mayo said. “If Cassie scores 40, we’ll take what’s given to us. Our complimentary players are getting better, so we’ll be OK.”