Toms River South trailed 24-21 at the half, but used a strong performance on the defensive end to earn a 52-47 victory over Jackson Memorial in A South. The Indians are now 2-2 overall and 2-1 in the division after winning two straight. They are clearly still very much in the race with a long season to go.
But Jackson Memorial did not make it easy, jumping out to a 16-11 first quarter lead. They were stingy throughout the game, forcing turnovers, and getting garbage buckets when it was necessary. Every time it looked like the Indians would finally get a little bit of breathing room, Jackson Memorial was there to make them work twice as hard.
“You can always expect this from Jackson. They always play hard. It doesn’t matter if they have a Division I forward who is a three point shooter or soccer stars who are playing basketball. Coach Goodale always gets them ready. We always expect a tough game against them”, added Toms River South head coach Sarah Paturzo.
And it's Dani Evans, yes Kimi's little sister with the three! Jackson Mem off to a good start leading TRS 5-0. pic.twitter.com/az8lBu0e88
— Ryan Wydra (@SCHoops1) December 22, 2016
Sophomore forward Dani Evans was on fire in the first half, scoring 14 of her 19 points and hitting 4 three pointers. Tonight, she was able to show why she is becoming one of the premier shooters in A South. She is so tough to defend between not only having good size, but the excellent outside range.
“Yesterday in practice, we spent a lot of time talking about how to match up with Evans. In the first half, I felt like we left her open a little too much. A lot of her shots were uncontested. At the intermission, I told the girls that we had to get somebody in her face to challenge those opportunities. After that, we made sure to emphasize that we knew where she was and that there was always a hand in her face”, said Paturzo.
— Ryan Wydra (@SCHoops1) December 23, 2016
The Indians would get a huge boost from point guard Emily Donzanti. She scored 12 of her 19 points in the second half. Donzanti is such an all around talent that can make life difficult for anyone on the opposition. Teams have to always account for her speed and athleticism.
Tonight, she was absolutely clutch in the fourth quarter, hitting two free throws that gave the Indians a 46-45 lead. Later on she put herself in the perfect position after Taylor Garland came up with a critical steal. Garland hit a lightning quick Donzanti that was already breaking to the basket for a layup. This put the Indians up 49-46 with 1:45 left.
“Emily is constantly doing things for us on both the offensive and defensive end. In the past, teams have had the game plan of taking her away. They tried to do that a little bit in the first half, but we have some other girls that can handle the ball, but don’t have quite as much varsity experience. When they do that, we can put Emily on the wing where she can contribute more as a scorer. She spent a lot of time working on her shot in the offseason. Now she’s developed more of an inside and outside game which can hurt teams in multiple ways”, said Paturzo.
Gregorio takes the feed from Donzanti, finishes and draws the foul. FT makes it 41-37 TRS. pic.twitter.com/4UmqfZettY
— Ryan Wydra (@SCHoops1) December 23, 2016
Toms River South also got great production from forward Maria Gregorio who finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds, coming so close to a double-double. Gregorio was able to get herself to the foul line twice in the fourth quarter by using her power to create scoring opportunities. But what most teams don’t realize is that Gregorio also has quite the shooting range for a post player. She can hit threes when no one expects it.
“Maria, with her build and strength, we try to get her to the rim a little more. For awhile she kind of got in the habit of settling for a fade away when feeling the pressure, but tonight she really stepped up and used her power to get to the basket. That’s where she’s going to be successful. That’s also going to open up some shots up for our players on the outside as teams begin to double down on her”, added Paturzo.
Ultimately, it was the toughness and grit of the Indians that should have fans really excited about the season. Every time the Jaguars fought back, the Indians rose to the challenge and were able to make the key plays down the stretch. When you have leaders like Donzanti and Gregorio that can help close out a game, that puts you in a great position as a team. That’s the type of competitive nature that you want to see from a team in a tough division.
“Moving forward, this is a great experience to close out a game when the lead is constantly changing. In the past when we didn’t have as much experience, this was a game we would have lost because the second they took the lead, we wouldn’t have known how to battle back and take control. Managing the tempo of our possessions was also a big factor. If it’s one possession, that one possession could affect the whole game. Last Friday against TRN we had 18 turnovers, and then 27 against Pt Boro. Tonight we took care of the basketball and kept our turnovers down which was a big difference”, said Paturzo.
The Indians won’t play another divisional game until January 6th against Central. This team will still see Toms River North one more time at home, and will have two games against both Southern and Brick Memorial coming up. They will have every chance to get back in the mix.
“I’m excited about the way our girls continue to fight. We just take every game one day at a time. We’ve been practicing hard and working on our techniques. We know that if we can get on the court and play at a high level, we’ll be there at the end”, said Paturzo.
Stay tuned to NJSR for all of your previews, updates, and recaps. You can follow @njsportsreport on twitter for all of the action. Be sure to like us on Facebook and check out our YouTube page!