Monroe takes big step toward ending division title drought

Monroe's Nicole Tatte battles for a loose ball with South Plainfield's Yasmeen Mighty (left) and Naomi McNeill. Photo by: Jeff Grant

Monroe’s Nicole Tatte battles for a loose ball with South Plainfield’s Yasmeen Mighty (left) and Naomi McNeill. Photo by: Jeff Grant

MONROE — It’s been nearly 30 years since the Monroe High School girls basketball team has won a divisional title. Tuesday night against South Plainfield, the Falcons took a major step in ending that drought, running away from their Greater Middlesex Conference White Division rivals, 60-37, to move into a first place tie atop the White.

Monroe (14-2) and South Plainfield (11-6) each have two division losses and the Falcons earned a bit of revenge after a 49-42 loss in South Plainfield on Jan. 9.

Junior Cindy Foresta was the star of the show, scoring 18 points and hauling in 17 rebounds, giving her a double-double that wowed her coach.

“Cindy is such an even-keeled type person and you don’t even realize that she scores that many points or grabs that many rebounds, but she shows up in the big games. I’m really proud of her,” Monroe head coach Leigh Vogtman said.

In the third quarter, Foresta knocked down three 3-pointers and finished the stanza with 11 of her game-high 18 points. Monroe outscored South Plainfield 19-6 coming out of the locker room, as it shot 8-14 from the field. For the game, the Falcons made 23 of 60 shots from the floor.

Monroe got out into the open court and got a bevy of open layups, thanks in part to South Plainfield committing 15 turnovers. Nichole Tatte swiped four steals and the Falcons finished with nine steals as a squad.

“We like to push the ball, but a lot of teams come back and play a zone against us to slow us down,” Vogtman said. “But we talk about executing and getting good looks instead of getting antsy and throwing up something that doesn’t help us.”

In the game’s opening moments, Monroe went on a 10-0 run to turn a one-point lead into an 11-point advantage, burying any hopes of a South Plainfield comeback.

“I thought we’d come out a little rusty, but I didn’t think we’d come out that rusty,” South Plainfield head coach Kevin Hughes said. “And I knew Monroe would come out flying because we beat them early in the season. I figured if we could withstand the early run, we’d be in it, but we couldn’t.”

Point guard Erica Junquet was in command of the floor from the opening tip, running the offense and dishing to teammates for open jump shots and layups. In the first quarter, Junquet had three assists, finding Erin Seppi for an easy layup, Demi Rousseau for a 3-pointer and Foresta for a layup just before the buzzer. Junquet finished with 15 points and Demi Rousseau chipped in eight.

South Plainfield’s leading scorer Kate McLaughlin got off to a nice start, knocking down a contested 3-pointer and driving to the hoop for a tough layup in the first quarter, but she made just two free throws the rest of the way to finish with 10 points. Sarah Cargill added nine points and Naomi McNeill battled her way to seven points, but the Tigers got doubled up on the boards, 38-19.

After the game, Vogtman spoke about staying in the moment and not getting too caught up in where her squad ranked in the division. But with the way the Falcons have been playing in the last two weeks, it’s hard not to imagine ending the 26-year drought without a division title.

“We’re taking each game one at a time; we know where we are in the division and we don’t want to speak too soon,” she said. “But we want to end up in a good spot. We don’t have many banners for girls basketball around here.”


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