Shore Reg. Repeats as CJG1 Champs defeating Middlesex 62-31
By Nick Lowel SSN Contributor
Shore Regional Repeats as CJG1 Champs defeating Middlesex 62-31
Shore Regional got out to a fast start and did not let the foot off the gas pedal in the CJG1 finals against Middlesex, winning 62-31. It has been a team effort for the Blue Devils on their run to repeat as CJG1 champs. This is the second time Shore Regional has won back to back sectionals, the 2002 and 2003 season was the last time.
“It is a pretty surreal feeling to repeat on my home court in my last home game at Shore,” team captain Rylee Drahos said. “All of my friends and family were there to support me. These are the moments we chase as athletes and I am ecstatic to have experienced them back to back.”
The Blue Devils had a three headed monster on offense and got out to a 12-2 lead in the first quarter and never looked back on their way to repeating. Junior Conley Smolokoff and sophomore Reese Fiore both scored six points in the first quarter to give Shore Regional a 16-4 lead.
The last two years the Blue Devils have been led by senior Rylee Drahos, relying on her in the most important times, but this season has been different with her teammates stepping up at different times throughout the season. Smolokoff, who scored 12 out of her 18 points in the first half and had a game-high three 3-pointers, has been given a larger role this season on the offensive end averaging 8.4 points a game.
“People think Rylee has not done as much this year as she did last year,” Shore Regional Coach Will Wishart said. “She is still putting up the numbers, but this year her teammates are doing things more consistently. Conley is more comfortable in her role and we expanded her role. We also have kids like Antonette Russo, we are not at this game without her contribution against Point Beach last round.”
Another player who has stepped up and has improved from her freshman season is Fiore. She helped Shore Regional finish off Middlesex by scoring 11 out of 21 points in the third quarter. She is averaging just over 13 points a game, which is over double last year's total of 6 points a game. She helped the Blue Devils outscore Middlesex 22-9 in the quarter and give them a 54-21 lead.
“Reese came into this season with confidence based on the experience she gained last year,” Coach Wishart said. “The hard work and the time she has been putting in to get better this offseason and even during the season she will spend time getting extra reps to improve her game and help her team anyway possible.”
Last year in the CJG1 finals against South Hunterdon, Drahos scored her career-high 40 points to give Shore Regional their first sectional title since 2003. This year she scored 21 points, 15 rebounds. 7 steals and 7 assists. This is the second time this season Drahos came close to a quadruple double.
“Rylee could have chosen any school to go to, but she decided to take a chance on me, take a chance on the school and take a chance on this program,” Wishart said. “You see what she is doing, even at a small school like Shore Regional you can be successful in the classroom, on the basketball court or whatever sport you play. She is a testament why you should stay home and play for your local school.”
As Drahos’s career is coming to an end, you see the impact she made in the program. She is going to finish as the second all time leading scorer in Shore Regional. She helped them win back to back sectional titles and with a win tomorrow, back to back Group 1 finals. What you do not always see on the sidelines though is the impact coaches can have on players. That is one of the things that makes high school sports special.
“My relationship with Wish (Wishart) means a lot to me,” Drahos said. “I am just forever grateful for all the dedication and energy and effort he puts in behind the scenes. It’s honestly unmatched and I am so proud to have had him in my corner for the last four year