This is the real season. The second one.
Rutgers Prep head coach Mary Klinger considers the regular season the preseason. Not to demean it, but other than a division championship, which is nice, there’s no trophy for the regular season.
There is for the Somerset County Tournament. Check.
There is for the Non-Public South B section of the state tournament. 32 minutes remain.
The defending champion and third-seeded Lady Argonauts (24-4) will play for back-to-back titles this evening when they take on top-seed Wildwood Catholic (24-4) down at Seneca High School in Medford Lakes, NJ. You can hear the game broadcast live on Central Jersey Sports Radio, beginning with pregame at approximately 4:45 pm; tip-off is scheduled for 5:00.
Click here to listen to the live broadcast tonight, starting at 4:45 pm.
Rutgers Prep has been the dominant girls’ basketball team in the Central Jersey Sports Radio coverage area for several years now. In the last seven seasons, they have only lost seven games to four different New Jersey schools: Paul VI, Morris Catholic and St. Rose once each, and Trenton Catholic and St. John Vianney twice.
They haven’t lost to a public school since falling to Franklin in the Somerset County Tournament final in 2019, a year the Warriors finished just 34-0, winning the Tournament of Champions.
Prep is led by junior Mikayla Blakes and senior Katie Ledden, but has plenty beyond that. Blakes, though, leads in most statistical categories: 21.9 points per game, 72 threes, 126 made free throws, 92 assists, 87 steals. The Rhode Island-bound Ledden – the only senior in the starting lineup and who sees significant playing time, meaning don’t expect much to change in Prep’s dominance next season – averages 14.6 points per game, second on the team, and is the top rebounder at 6.6 per game.
Scroll down to hear Rutgers Prep head coach Mary Klinger talk with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko, and for prior coverage of the Rutgers Prep girls’ basketball team.
Then there’s a freshman who’s made serious contributions as a starter: GiGi Battle. She’s scoring a shade under 10 points per game, and is second on the team in rebounds (5.5 per) and third in steals with 47.
Zahra Alexander (7.8 ppg) and Chloe Escanillas (7.3 ppg) round out the starting lineup.
As for Wildwood Catholic, junior Kaci Mikulski is the leading scorer at 14.9 points per game. The point guard also has a team-leading 81 assists and can shoot the three-ball, hitting 70 times from downtown. As a team, they’ve hit just a handful fewer threes than Prep (175, compared to 184 for the Argonauts) but they are content to play a lower scoring game, averaging just 48.2 points on offense. Prep scores about 72 per game on offense.
Rutgers Prep was able to beat St. Rose of Belmar on the road in the semifinals despite ending the first quarter without a lead, something they had not done since January 8th, when they trailed 16-12 after one against McDonough of Maryland, and lost 53-43. They also trailed after one in losses to Montverde (FL) and Morris Catholic in the She Got Game Classic on December 17, as well as in wins over Pickering Central (OH) and South Shore (NY).
But mostly, Prep likes to start games hot. Besides the sectional semis, when they trailed St. Rose 10-9 after one quarter but wound up winning by 23, they shutout Moorestown Friends 27-0 in the opening quarter of their first round game, and had a 29-8 lead in the first 8 minutes over Trenton Catholic. Still, those leads will be harder to come by in the later rounds.
A win would put Rutgers Prep in the Non-Public Group B Final for the second year in a row, down at Toms River North’s RWJBarnabaas Arena, Sunday at a time to be determined. They won there last year, beating Saddle River Day 62-51 to move on to the Tournament of Champions, which was eliminated last season by the NJSIAA in order to give student-athletes more down time between seasons.
Click below to hear Rutgers Prep head coach Mary Klinger talk about the Lady Argonauts, and the matchup with Wildwood Catholic:
PREVIOUS COVERAGE OF RUTGERS PREP
- Rutgers Prep girls top St. Rose, earn right to defend South B title; Gill boys fall to Montclair-Immacculate
- Alexander’s career game powers Rutgers Prep girls over Gill St. Bernard’s to complete Lady Argo three-peat
- Rutgers Prep seeking third straight SCT girls’ title is a huge mountain to climb for Gill St. Bernard’s
- Make it an eighth straight trip to the SCT Finals for Rutgers Prep, 67-38 winners over Franklin
- Gill St. Bernard’s girls move on to SCT title game with 76-47 win over Watchung Hills
- It’s the real season now for Rutgers Prep, as Lady Argonauts seek fourth straight SCT Final
- Rutgers Prep sweeps top seeds in Somerset County Tournament; Gill St. Bernards takes both No. 2 seeds
- Blakes scores 1,000th point, finishes with 29 to power convincing No. 1 Rutgers Prep girls’ win over No. 3 Gill St. BernardsRutgers Prep girls hold court in final Bellamy & Son Paving Top Ten before season’s end
- No. 1 Rutgers Prep’s defense stifles No. 7 Franklin early to win season opener