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.

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