Making Waves: Unbeaten Long Branch topples Freehold Twp.
FREEHOLD TWP. - In order to have a solid point of reference and properly recognize what Long Branch has accomplished in three short weeks, grab a rag and be prepared to dust off some old girls basketball scrapbooks.
Before you come across the last time that the Green Wave experienced such a prosperous start, you first must navigate through the prolonged pain of a program. It’s been nearly a quarter of a century since Long Branch fashioned a winning record, using a 7-1 start in 1996 to finish 15-9.
In between, a string of 22 consecutive losing campaigns, some dotted with two or three wins that were vastly overweighed by the double-digit losses on the opposite side of the ledger, hinting at the perilous struggle for a team annually on the margins desperately trying to make notable strides in the eat-or-be eaten Shore Conference.
Let it be known, the current Green Wave installment is committed to flipping the script. They quietly confide in each other a will to change fortunes and experience some victorious joy.
So far, so good.
“Every game, every practice, we come out with a positive mentality,” said graceful 5-10 senior swing Anyssa Fields. “There is a real sense of teamwork that makes us believe we will pull through and get the win..”
“We say we’re going to shock the Shore,” added senior forward Madison Grayson.
Safe to say, Long Branch is making some waves. On Tuesday night, in what can best be described as a complete team effort, the unbeaten Green Wave upended host Freehold Twp. with a resounding 61-41 victory.
The A North triumph was the latest in a 5-0 start, the best outset to a Long Branch season since it opened 10-0 on course to a 22-3 showing in 1984. Credit for the auspicious beginning can be traced to an intangible coach Shannon Coyle is quick to praise.
“We have great team unity,” said Coyle. “The way they are working together is the best I’ve seen from a team in my eight years here. We have a senior group that’s been together and wants to win.”
The unselfish cohesion was substantiated by the variety of contributions from multiple resources. Fields glided to the rim in a style that yielded 18 points while her agility under the boards reaped 15 rebounds as well as four blocks.
Grayson was undaunted, muscling her way to the rim and delicate on the jumper, netting 18 points, including her first 3-pointer of the year, to complement 11 boards, all accomplished despite playing in foul trouble. Converted from a shooting guard to the point, junior Jada Rogers was a poised playmaker, delivering 12 points, six assists and four steals.
And, senior sharpshooter Alanna Lynch scored 11, marked by a perimeter splurge early in the fourth that sealed the outcome.
"We are all good individuals who play well as a team," said Fields, who offset a scoreless first quarter by accounting for all 10 of the Green Wave's points in the second when it took a 21-19 lead.
Deadlock at 25-25 a minute into the third, Long Branch tipped things decidely in its favor, crafting a 36-16 outburst over the balance of the game. A three from Rogers broke the tie and sparked a 9-2 rush that Grayson stamped with a foul-line jumper to give Long Branch a 34-27 advantage with 3:22 left in the third.
Lynch supplied the knockout punch, canning back-to-back threes in a span of 40 seconds at the start of the fourth, padding the cushion to 44-31. Freehold Twp. (5-2, 2-1) closed to within 47-37, but Lynch's third three of the period was was backed by Grayson's triple and sparked 14-4 finishing kick.
Long Branch had the edge on the glass with 39 rebounds to Township's 29, struck offensive prosperity by alertly spacing the floor in way that incorporated all of its parts, patiently ran its halfcourt sets and showed a defensive grit that conceded six field goals in the second half.
Junior twins Kaylie and Tanya Elsbree, along with classmate Lindsay Lloyd, each scored eight for Freehold Twp. Junior forward Hannah Orloff ended with six points and 10 rebounds.
Long Branch (5-0, 2-0) 11 10 17 23 --- 61
Freehold Twp. (5-2, 2-1) 12 07 12 10 --- 41
Long Branch: Anyssa Fields 5-0-8-18; Madison Grayson 7-1-1-18; Alanna Lynch 1-3-0-11; Jada Rogers 3-2-0-12; Sophia Hepburn 1-0-0-2; Mya Hepburn 0-0-0-0; Shaelyn Diaz 0-0-0-0; Gemma Massey 0-0-0-0; Emmy Sagapolutele 0-0-0-0.
Freehold Twp.: Emily Tran 1-1-2-7; Tanya Elsbree 2-0-4-8; Kaylie Elsbree 0-1-5-8; Lindsay Lloyd 2-1-1-8; Hannah Orloff 3-0-0-6; Maddie Garze 0-0-0-0; Courtney Campbell 1-0-2-4; Sarah Fenton 0-0-0-0; Alyse Withstandley 0-0-0-0; Alex Maglizzo 0-0-0-0; Emily Haberstroh 0-0-0-0.