Category: Girls Basketball

Post-halftime Morris Catholic surge dooms Rutgers Prep as frenetic comeback falls short in Non-Public B Final

“They punched us in the mouth,” said Rutgers Prep coach Mary Klinger, in the season’s post-mortem.

It didn’t look like it would be that way, though, especially with a much better start this time around than an early season loss to Morris Catholic in December.

Prep got the start it wanted, leading by as many as 13 points in the first quarter, and ending it with a 21-11 lead. Morris Catholic chipped away and got it to five by halftime, but it was after that when the Crusaders played their best basketball.

A 29-13 run through the next eight minutes gave the Crusaders a 55-45 lead at the end of three. While Rutgers Prep would eventually tie the game at 63 on a drive to the basket by Mikayla Blakes, the junior missed the and-one free throw, then got called for a reach-around foul at the other end of the floor, her fifth.

And from that point on, the Crusaders pulled away with Mya Pauldo hitting all her free throws down the stretch, sending the Lady Argonauts to a 71-63 defeat in the Non-Public Group B Final at RWJBarnabas Health Arena in Toms River, as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Blakes finished with 24, while senior Katie Ledden – in her last high school game before heading up to Kingstown to play for Rhode Island – finished with 17, including a pair of first-quarter treys during Prep’s early run.

Rutgers Prep finishes its season as the Non-Public South B Champions – their second straight sectional title – with a record of 25-6, while Morris Catholic finishes at 26-3, the Group B state champs.

The win also makes a strong case for state-ranked No. 4 Morris Catholic to finish as the No. 1 team in the state, with top-ranked St. John Vianney losing in the Non-Public A final Saturday to Immaculate Heart, No. 2 Paul VI out of the tournament, and Morris Catholic beating No. 3 Rutgers Prep

Follow Sportsplex at Metuchen on Instagram for the latest on open gym sessions on their courts and turf!

Click below to hear for postgame reaction brought to you by SportsPlex at Metuchen:

Experience of regular and postseason has Rutgers Prep ready for another state championship

When Mary Klinger’s team takes the floor for the opening tip-off Sunday afternoon against Morris Catholic in the quest for a second straight state title – and her program’s fourth overall – it will be much improved from the last time the Argonauts faced the Crusaders.

That was December 17th – Game Two of the season for both squads – in the She Got Game Classic down at St. John Vianney in Holmdel. Klinger will tell you it was not one of Prep’s best.

And the numbers bear it out, too. The Argonauts like to start hot, hitting baskets, then falling back into that full-court press, creating turnovers, and do it all over again. But they trailed after the first quarter.

And while they came back to go ahead by 13 with just three minutes to go in the third quarter, the next eleven minutes saw the Crusaders rally for a three-point win, 72-69.

Klinger doesn’t think it will happen again, and she’s got good reason to feel that way. It was only the second game with last year’s seniors gone, with this year’s senior Katie Ledden and junior Mikayla Blakes taking on additional roles. It was only the second start for GiGi Battle, a freshman who – along with fellow rookie Ava LaMonica – has been a key contributor this year.

Follow Sportsplex at Metuchen on Instagram for the latest on open gym sessions on their courts and turf!

Now with a full season behind them, a Somerset County Tournament title and a Non-Public South B trophy on their resume, they are a much different team.

And so it will be when Rutgers Prep (25-4) takes on Morris Catholic (26-3, North B Champ) Sunday at Toms River North’s RWJBarnabas Arena for the Girls’ Non-Public Group B title. Tip-off time is 2 pm, and you can hear all the live play-by-play on Central Jersey Sports Radio beginning at 1:45 with the pregame show. Justin Sontupe and Raj Shah will bring you all the action. Click here to listen.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with Rutgers Prep head coach Mary Klinger:

How They Got Here:

Rutgers Prep: #3 seed, beat #14 Moorestown Friends 76-25 in first round, beat #6 Trenton Catholic 91-43 in the quarterfinals, beat #3 St. Rose 70-47 in the semifinals, beat #1 Wildwood Catholic 70-40 in the sectional final

Morris Catholic: #2 seed, first round bye, beat #7 Wardlaw-Hartridge 89-16 in the quarterfinals, beat #5 Lodi Immaculate 88-57 in the semifinals, beat #4 Montclair-Immaculate 55-49 in the sectional final

State Championship History:

Rutgers Prep is seeking its second straight state title, and fourth overall, though unlike the other three, this is the end of the line. All three times, the Argonauts went on to the Tournament of Champions, but that was eliminated this year by the NJSIAA across all sports.

  • 2016: Non-Public Group B Champion over Saddle River Day
  • 2017: Non-Public Group B Champion over Queen of Peace
  • 2018: Non-Public Group B runner-up to Saddle River Day)
  • 2022: Non-Public Group B Champion over Saddle River Day

Morris Catholic has won the group title twice, and been to this game eight times, but is making its first appearance since 2014.

  • 2004: Non-Public Group B Champion over St. Rose
  • 2005: Non-Public Group B runner-up to Sacred Heart
  • 2006: Non-Public Group B Champion over Trenton Catholic
  • 2007: Non-Public Group A runner-up to Red Bank Catholic
  • 2008: Non-Public Group A runner-up to St. John Vianney
  • 2012: Non-Public Group B runner-up to Gill St. Bernard’s
  • 2013: Non-Public Group B runner-up to Paramus Catholic
  • 2014: Non-Public Group B runner-up to St. Rose

Morris Catholic brings two highly-touted sophomores, win over Rutgers Prep into rematch with Argonauts for state title

Head coach Billy Lovett sees a lot of parallels and similarities in his life right now.

Having played for the legendary Bob Hurley at St. Anthony’s in the 1990s, he has given his team the same experiences, playing in national showcases far from New Jersey that create great moments for his players, and top-notch exposure – like the John Wall Holiday Invitational.

He played in that tournament before it was even called that, back when it was the Raleigh Times Holiday Festival, which celebrated its 50th year this past December.

Other similarities are less intentional, like the fact this his team is very much like the Rutgers Prep team they will meet Sunday in Toms River for the Non-Public Group B state title.

Both focus on defense, which fuels their offense, which wins them championships.

Sunday’s game between Non-Public South B winner Rutgers Prep (25-4) and North B Champ Morris Catholic (26-3) tips off at 2 pm at Toms River North’s RWJBarnabas Health Arena, and you can hear it live on Central Jersey Sports Radio, with Justin Sontupe calling all the play-by-play, and Raj Shah providing the color. Click here to listen to the live broadcast.

The Crusaders began the season in the national rankings, and though they’ve since dropped out, they and Rutgers Prep are both Top 5 teams, with Morris Catholic No. 4, and Rutgers Prep No. 3. Only Paul VI (which both lost to this season) and St. John Vianney (which neither has played) are ahead of them.

Sophomore twins Mia and Mya Pauldo lead the way – two of the top point guards in the sophomore class – with Mia averaging a team-leading 17.3 points and 5.7 assists per game, while grabbing a team-best 91 steals. Mya is averaging 10.9 points a game, but just behind her sister in assists, with six fewer on the year.

And they can shoot the three. Surely, everyone knows Rutgers Prep can, and they have hit on 192 this season, but Morris Catholic has hit on a whopping 275, and average just a shade under 10 per game.

Follow Sportsplex at Metuchen on Instagram for the latest on open gym sessions on their courts and turf!

And then there’s the fact these two played each other in Game 2 of their respective seasons. The Crusaders won 72-69 in the She Got Game Classic on December 17th, wiping out a 13-point deficit with three minutes to go in the third quarter.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with Morris Catholic head coach Billy Lovett:

INSTANT REPLAY: Girls’ Non-Public South B Final: #3 Rutgers Prep 70, #1 Wildwood Catholic 40

Third-seed Rutgers Prep won its second straight Non-Public South B title, beating top-seed Wildwood Catholic 70-40 in the sectional title game at Seneca High School in Medford Lakes. Junior Mikayla Blakes led the Lady Argonauts with 22 points, while Katie Ledden followed up with 22.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko call all the action on March 1, 2023 on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Rutgers Prep girls ride defense, Blakes and Ledden to back-to-back Non-Public South B titles with 70-40 win over Wildwood Catholic

Press. Score. Defense. Rebound. Transition.


The same tried and true formula that has worked her entire life at Rutgers Prep worked again on Wednesday night for head coach Mary Klinger’s squad, as the third-seeded Argonauts “knocked off” top seed Wildwood Catholic in the Non-Public South B championship game at Seneca High School, as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

And so, it’s back-to-back sectional titles for Klinger, Mikayla Blakes, Katie Ledden and Co. with one more game to play, the Non-Public Group B final, to be played Saturday at the RWJBarnabas Health Arena in Toms River, at a time to be determined.

Rutgers Prep (25-6) will face 2nd-seed Morris Catholic (26-3), a team they lost to in December, after giving up what was a 13-point third-quarter lead to lose by three. Morris Catholic beat 4th-seed Montclair-Immaculate 55-49 Wednesday night in the Non-Public North B final.

For Rutgers Prep, it was the usual: Blakes leading on offense with 22 points, Ledden adding 20. Zahra Alexander finished with ninr.

Prep never trailed in the game, jumping out to a 9-2 lead they would never relinquish, and holding Wildwood Catholic without a field goal for most of the second quarter. The Argonauts built the lead to as many as 36 in the fourth quarter before the starters came out.

Follow Sportsplex at Metuchen on Instagram for the latest on open gym sessions on their courts and turf!

Click below to hear for postgame reaction brought to you by SportsPlex at Metuchen:

Rutgers Prep junior Mikayla Blakes
Rutgers Prep senior Katie Ledden
Rutgers Prep head coach Mary Klinger

Lady Argonauts, looking for repeat, travel south for Non-Public South B final against Wildwood Catholic

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:


South Brunswick boys, Middlesex girls fall in sectional finals

The GMC got swept in sectional title games Tuesday night, as the South Brunswick boys were ousted in the Central Jersey Group 4 title game, while the Middlesex girls lost in the Central Jersey Group 2 final.

That’s in addition to the South River boys, which lost 60-52 to Manasquan at home in the Central Jersey Group 2 final 60-52, the Rams stopped in their quest to win their first sectional trophy since 1991.

Colonia is now the last remaining public school from the Central Jersey Sports Radio coverage area to be alive in the state tournament. The North 2, Group 3 champion Patriots take on North 1, Group 3 winner Ramapo at Phillipsburg Thursday night at 7, a rematch of last year’s sectional semi, won by the Raiders.

Boys’ Central Jersey Group 4 Final: #1 Trenton 53, #6 South Brunswick 37

The sixth-seeded Vikings – who pulled off numerous upsets late in the year en routr to the GMC Tournament final, and now the CJ4 title game – gave top-seed Trenton (29-1) a valiant effort in a tough, hostile environment in the state capitol. In fact, South Brunswick led 12-11 after one quarter, and despite a run by the Tornadoes over the next eight minutes, only trailed 29-25 at halftime.

But Trenton further extended the lead in the third quarter, and pulled away for good in the fourth. They’ll now move on to face Egg Harbor Township, the third-seed out of South Jersey Group 4 – which upset top-seed Lenape Tuesday night, 41-36 – Thursday night at 7:00 at Central Regional High School in Bayville.

The Vikings (20-7) were led by Kalani Antoine’s 10 points, while Daniel Swirad chipped in nine, and Hamrehar Chhabra added six.

Girls’ Central Jersey Group 1 Final: #1 Shore Regional 62, #2 Middlesex 31

Shore came out hot to a 16-4 lead at the end of one quarter, and continued over the next 16 minutes, going into the locker room with a 32-12 lead thanks to a stifling defense.

Jaclyn DeShields led Middlesex (20-9) with 14 points, while Jessica Devine added 10, but senior Neysa Aguilar – the team’s leading scorer – was held to just two points in the game.

Shore (23-6) now moves on to the Group 2 semifinals against South Jersey Group 1 winner Woodstown. The top-seeded Wolverines (22-8) were 57-30 winners over Wildwood Tuesday night, and move on to the semis at Deptford High School Thursday at 7 pm.

Senior Neysa Aguilar leads Middlesex into CJ1 title tilt down the Shore, against Shore

Being a senior athlete in any sport is a unique thing, especially when it comes to tournament time.

They say play every game like it’s your last? For high schoolers, it very well could be, once that last state tournament comes around.

Neysa Aguilar of Middlesex has always been a standout, but she has upped her game to the next level in the 2023 NJSIAA Tournament.

And that will need to continue Tuesday night when second-seed Middlesex (20-8) travels to take on top-seed Shore Regional (22-6) in the Central Jersey Group 1 final, with a 6:30 tip-off time in West Long Branch.

Not only is she averaging 21.2 points per game, but she’s coming off a 32-point, 12-rebound effort in the semifinals against Dunellen, peaking – perhaps – at the right time.

Head coach Kevin Harper will need all of that and more against a Blue Devils team that is the defending champion, having made a run all the way to the Group 1 title game last year. They’re led by senior Rylee Drahos (18.5 ppg) and sophomore Reese Fiore (12.9 ppg).

Middlesex, meanwhile, is making its first appearance in a title game since 2020, Aguilar’s freshman season. That year, they had made their third straight trip to a sectional final, only to fall to small-school powerhouse and neighboring Bound Brook all three times.

Disappointment to be sure for Aguilar. The next season, the COVID-shortened year of 2021, Middlesex made it into the Somogyi Family Pod, the GMC’s top postseason pod, but their run was over before it began, waylaid by a COVID outbreak around the team.

And so, here’s Aguilar, with that one last shot. Make it a good one.

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko talk with senior Neysa Aguilar about her time at Middlesex, the influence of her coach, and the Central Jersey Group 1 title game against Shore Regional:

Colonia gets past Snyder to win 2nd straight North 2, Group 3 title; Monroe girls fall to Jax Memorial in CJ4 final

The Greater Middlesex Conference public schools went 1-1 in sectional title games Monday night, as the Colonia boys won their second straight North 2, Group 3 title – and third in the last four postseasons – while the Monroe girls fell in the Central Jersey Group 4 championship.

The Patriots led a tight game most of the way, and were up the half by four, 29-25, but pulled ahead on a 12-2 run to lead 41-20 under the three-minute mark in the third quarter. The fourth-seeded Patriots came out with a 64-51 win, to make it back-to-back titles in the section, and their third in the last four playoff seasons.

Jaeden Jones led Colonia with 17 points, while Noah Taylor chipped in a double-double, with 15 points and ten rebounds.

Now, for the second year in a row, they move on to the Group 3 semifinals in Phillipsburg, and will play the North 1 champion Wednesday night at 7 pm at Phillipsburg High School. Tonight’s North 1 final features top-seed Ramapo and 2-seed Teaneck, and tipped off at 7 pm. Ramapo knocked Colonia out last year in the group semis, also in Phillipsburg.

Click below for postgame reaction with Colonia head coach Jose Rodriguez:

On the girls’ side, third-seed Monroe fell 53-45 to 5th-seed Jackson Memorial, which also knocked them out last year in the semifinal round. Senior Haley Higgins led the Faclons with 13 points, while sophomore Evangelina Francisco scored 12 in the loss.

The season ends at 17-10 for the Falcons.

And then there were five: South Brunswick, South River, Colonia boys; Monroe, Middlesex girls will vie for sectional titles

CORRECTION: The girls’ sectional finals are opposite days from the boys in each group. Monroe girls play Monday, Midesex plays Tuesday.

Week One of the NJSIAA state tournament is in the books, and the public sectional title games have all been determined. Five teams from the Central Jersey Sports Radio listening area are on to Championship Week, and will play for trophies next week, including three on the boys’ side and two on the girls’ side.

Here’s a full breakdown of who will play for titles.

Scroll all the way down to see the upcoming public and non-public schedule for CJSR-area teams remaining in the state tournament.

For the boys, the standard-bearers are Colonia, South Brunswick and South River.

The Patriots (21-8) were the first to punch their ticket, doing so on Friday night with a win over top-seed South Plainfield in the North 2, Group 3 semifinals. (Click here for a full recap and postgame audio from our very own Chris Tsakonas.) They will be the first to play this week when they host 6th-seed Snyder (17-7) out of Jersey City. Game time is 6 pm.

Colonia is going for its third straight sectional title in the past four seasons and second straight, as they won the section last year over South Plainfield in a 58-56 double-overtime thriller in their own gym – where they will play again Monday – but were knocked out in the Group 3 semifinals by Ramapo.

The Patriots also are making their fourth straight appearance in a sectional title game. There was no state tournament during the shortened COVID year of 2021, but in 2020, Colonia lost to Irvington in the title game, a year after beating West Morris 57-33 on the road to take their first of two North 2, Group 3 crowns so far under Jose Rodriguez.

Then on Tuesday, two more teams will play for titles. In South River (26-3), the top-seeded Rams are in the Central Jersey Group 2 title game – their first appearance since they won it all in 1991 – where they will play host to second-seed Manasquan (25-4) at 7 pm. South River got there with a tense win over fourth-seed Bound Brook Saturday, 72-66.

While South River made it to the GMC Tournament semifinals before falling to St. Joe’s of Metuchen, the Warriors are the Shore Conference Tournament Champions, beating Ranney of Eatontown 61-46 in the final.

Also Tuesday night, it will be sixth-seed South Brunswick (20-6) traveling to take on top-seed Trenton (28-1) in the Central Jersey Group 4 title game at 5:30 pm. The Vikings were 72-62 home winners in the semifinals Saturday over 7th-seed Marlboro, a surprise home game after the Mustangs had upset 2nd-seed Freehold Twp. in the quarters. But this time they will have to go on the road, and play a top ten team statewide, to boot. Many consider the Tornadoes a favorite to go all the way and win Group 4.

South Brunswick last made the sectional finals in 2020, when they beat Marlboro 72-20 in the title game on March 10, 2020. The date is significant because the season ended there – before playing in the statewide Group 4 semifinals – when the NJSIAA shut down high school sports at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s one of the rare instances of a team ending their season with a win in a sectional finals.

On the girls’ side, one team will play each day: Monroe, then Middlesex.

On Monday, it’s the Central Jersey Group 4 title game at 5:30 pm, which third-seed Monroe (17-9) finds itself hosting against 5th-seed Jackson Memorial (20-9). The Falcons knocked out 2-seed South Brunswick on the road Saturday morning, 59-42, in a game that tipped off at 10 am as part of a doubleheader with the Viking boys. But they probably figured they would be playing on the road. They found out they’d get to host after the Jaguars upset top-seed Hightstown, 61-44.

Monroe and Jax Memorial met in last year’s CJ4 semifinals, with the Falcons falling 46-44. Monroe last made a sectional final in 2016, when the girls beat Hunterdon Central 48-35 to take the Central Jersey Group 4 title, before falling to Lenape in the statewide Group 4 semis. They had also lost the year before in the finals, 60-52 to Marlboro.

Then on Tuesday, second-seed Middlesex (20-8) will visit top-seed Shore Regional (22-6) in West Long Branch for a 6:30 title tilt in Central Jersey Group 1. The Blue Jays have had a stellar run under head coach Kevin Harper, and senior Neysa Aguilar has been they key reason. She scored 32 points in a 69-42 semifinal win over Dunellen, and has averaged 22.7 points in three state tourney games so far.

The last sectional final appearance for Middlesex came in 2020, when the Blue Jays lost to Bound Brook 56-41 in the Central Jersey Group 1 title game. (The Crusaders, incidentally, also had their tourney run cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, after a 48-32 group semifinal win over Woodbury.) That was the third straight year Middlesex had lost to Bound Brook in the CJ1 finals. They also lost to South River in the sectional finals in 2015. The Blue Jays won their only title in 2004, when they rallied to beat Dayton 60-41in the Central Jersey Group 1 finals; they would go on to lose to South 1 champ Riverside in the Group 1 semifinals.



Boys – North 2, Group 3 Final
#6 Snyder (17-7) at #4 Colonia (21-8), 5:30 pm

Girls – Central 1 Final
#2 Middlesex (20-8) at #1 Shore Regional (22-6), 6:30 pm

Boys – Non-Public South A Semifinals
#5 Union Catholic at #1 Camden Catholic, 7 pm
#7 Rutgers Prep at #6 St. Joseph-Metuchen, 6pm

Boys – Non-Public North B Semifinals
#4 Roselle Catholic at #1 St. Thomas Aquinas, 6 pm (CJSR)
#6 Montclair-Immaculate at #2 Gill St. Bernard’s, 6 pm

Girls – Non-Public South B Semifinals
#5 Holy Spirit at #1 Wildwood Catholic, 6 pm
#3 Rutgers Prep at #2 St. Rose-Belmar, 5 pm


Boys – Central 4 Final
#6 South Brunswick (20-6) at #1 Trenton (28-1), 5:30 pm

Boys – Central 2 Final
#2 Manasquan (25-4) at #1 South River (26-3), 7:00 pm

Girls – Central 4 Final
#5 Jackson Memorial (20-9) at #1 Monroe (17-9), 5:30 pm