Family Ties: Karpells, Brennans, Truhans Share Senior All-Star Experience
TOMS RIVER --- Dawn Karpell, Tom Brennan and John Truhan are usually pacers on the sidelines, three highly-successful basketball savants who tend to wear out the hardwood in front of their bench, moving in sync with the action on the court as coaches are instinctually prone to do.
On Thursday night, the three were glued to their chairs, true to their primary responsibility in guiding the West Squad to an 89-79 victory over the East in the Shore Coaches Association Senior All-Star Game but each reserving ample time to just be sentimental admirers, taking mental snapshots to mark a rare and cherished occasion. They had the best seats in the house to appreciate the work of three particular guards who will forever hold a special place in their hearts.
Sarah Karpell spent four years running the point for her mom at St. John Vianney and Isla Brennan did the same for her dad at Middletown South while Kristi Truhan made her first varsity start as a freshman for her father at Central before he took over at Red Bank, their paths coming full circle for one final basketball reunion. The heavy burden of being a coach’s kid entrusted to run a system instituted by a parent can be a taxing endeavor. The setting for their high-school farewell a unique chance to simply relax and embrace the purity of the event.
“It will be a very nice experience just to be a fan of my daughter,” said Tom Brennan, who piloted Middletown South to a 24-6 mark that featured a Central Jersey, Group 4 title. “It has to be very difficult for a young lady who is the point guard but also the coach’s kid. Expectations are intense. I think it’s hard sometimes to even lead when they have tremendous leadership skills. They put that pressure on themselves. Tonight, they don’t have to worry about the pressure to perform and execute. This will be a special night.”
Point guards have intuition that extends beyond playmaking. They can be the vehicle for a coach’s seemingly pointed message meant to be universally received, something even more magnified when the relationship between the two is in blood and not solely school colors. Tough love dispensed in timely doses upon recipients who must be fully cognizant of the dynamics in play, understanding they might not always be the subject of the issue but will nonetheless catch the heat intended for a wider audience.
“That’s the baggage,” said Isla Brennan, a 1,000-point scorer for Middletown South. “It gave me a sense of security, actually. I kind of liked it. I wanted him to always be on my case, that way, it left no room for people to doubt me.”
In the case of Sarah Karpell, she sensed the toll being taken on her mother for entrusting her daughter to operate the point for the Lady Lancers.
“One of the hardest parts was for my mom,” said Karpell, who is heading to Fordham. “She was always so worried that people would think she was favoring me. So, she was that much tougher on me to make sure it was understood that wasn’t the case. It was frustrating for me at times but, as I got older, I recognized it’s just what comes with it. I learned to accept it and I loved playing for her.”
“For her, I was even more intense in the way my message was delivered,” added Dawn Karpell. “She was such a good kid knowing I was going to hold her to a higher standard than anyone else. Sometimes, she would push back and say, ‘Mom, you’re just not being fair.’ You know you’re not being fair but it’s something you have to do just to keep everybody moving in the right direction.”
The All-Star game allowed the Truhans to venture down Memory Lane, to go back to where it all began with the two sharing a common goal. However, after launching Kristi’s career with a leap of faith it concluded with nothing more but their unconditional bond and a shared passion for the game.
“To watch the growth as her father has been amazing,” Truhan said of Kristi. I coached her in the first varsity game that she started and to be a part of the last one is special. To see it come full circle, I’m proud of her as a father more so than a coach.”
“You always have to think of him as coach first and dad second when you’re on the court,” noted Kristi Truhan. “It takes a while to separate that. But, to wrap up my career with him as one of my coaches in this is a pretty cool experience.”
Red Bank Catholic guard Julia Setaro was named the game MVP, dropping in a team-high 14 points for the West. She clicked for nine in the second half when the West expanded on its 43-40 halftime lead. Rahmena Henderson of St. John Vianney aided the cause with 11 points.
Leilani Correa of Manchester led all scorers with 21 for the East and Brielle Bisogno of Toms River North added 11.