Tag: Mikayla Blakes

Rutgers Prep’s Blakes earns back-to-back CJSR Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year Honors

It’s rare for a sophomore to be named a Player of the Year in high school basketball, and that’s just what Mikayla Blakes of Rutgers Prep did last year. Which, of course, begs the question, “What do you do for an encore?”

Answer: You do it again.

Blakes – now a junior – had another fantastic season for Rutgers Prep, the clear leader of the ballclub. As she went, Prep went. And they “went” to the tune of a 25-5 record, third straight Somerset County Tournament title, second straight Non-Public South B sectional title, and a clean sweep of the Bellamy & Son Paving Top Ten’s No. 1 ranking all year, making it 28 straight weeks over three seasons.

Individually, Blakes scored 660 points on the season, by far and away not only the team’s leader, averaging 22 per game, but also the top-scorer in the CJSR area. She also led the Lady Argonauts in threes (75), free throws made (131, shooting a cool 85-percent from the line), assists (99) and steals (97).

Rutgers Prep junior Mikayla Blakes runs the point against Wildwood Catholic in the Non-Public South B Final at Seneca High School in Medford Lakes on March 1, 2023. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

Not only did she score in double figures every game – now on a 34-game streak including her last four postseason games last year – but she scored 20 or more in 21 out of 30 games this season, and topped 30 three times, with a career-high 35 at against Gill St. Bernard’s on January fifth.

But many seem to gloss over Blakes’ defensive prowess. She always seems to be in a passing lane, or forcing a bad pass into the hands of one of her teammates. That’s what makes her an all-around player, and the 2023 Central Jersey Sports Radio Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year.

We also have some honorable mentions. Scroll down to read more.

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Dom Savino talk with our Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year, Rutgers Prep junior guard Mikayla Blakes:


Jessica Cooper, St. Thomas Aquinas: You could pick from a lot of great players on the Trojans – including Leah Crosby, who’s won GMCT MVP two years running as a sophomore – but the senior forward gets the nod here. She not only led the team in scoring this year at 12.6 points per game, and rebounding at ten per game, but was a model of consistency, nearly a double-double every night out. In fact, she had 18 in 29 games this season, and a stretch of nine that spanned from mid-January into early February. Cooper will be attending Albany next year on scholarship.

St. Thomas Aquinas forward Jessica Cooper takes a baseline jumper against East Brunswick in the 2022 GMC Tournament semis. (Photo: Dom Savino)

Neysa Aguilar, Middlesex: All due respect to the rest of her Blue Jay teammates, Middlesex doesn’t reach the Central Jersey Group 1 title game without Aguilar. The senior brought it every night, scoring 577 points on the year – an average of 19.9 a game – both good for second best in the GMC. She was also their top rebounder at 7.3 a game while racking up 95 steals, impressive enough except that sophomore Jessica Devine – who’ll take the wheel next year – had a whopping 172.

Middlesex senior Neysa Aguilar gets set to step into a three – one of a career-best seven she hit en route to a career-high 30 point night on Senior Night against North Plainfield on January 31, 2023. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

Taylor Derkack, Colonia: The Patriots didn’t have the team year they wanted in 2022-23, after a program year a season ago, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort by the junior who wears No. 4 on her back, but finished No. 1 in Middlesex County in scoring, with 603 points, an average of 21.5 per game. She blew past the 1,000-point mark this year, and should pass graduating dynamic duo teammate Matti Chiera’s all-time school mark of 1,514 next year. She’s just 179 points behind, and 665 away from 2,000. After scoring 603 this year, that could be within reach.

Colonia’s Taylor Derkack holds the ball in the GMC Tournament Girls’ Championship Game against St. Thomas Aquinas on February 18, 2023 at Monroe Township High School. The Patriots won their opening round state playoff game Monday night. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

Casey Miller, Bound Brook: Miller capped a great career with the Crusaders with a 520-point season, to put here in the 1,000-point club, finishing her four-year varsity career with 1,126 points. Even as the Crusaders slumped to an 11-14 campaign, she was out there night after night putting up big numbers, trying to will her team to a win. She averaged 20.8 points a game – second only to Prep’s Blakes – scoring in double figures in all but two games, but topping 30 four times, scoring a career-high 34 in a late January road win against a ranked North Plainfield club.

Casey Miller of Bound Brook (Source: Assistant Coach Lacey Meyer @laceymeyer on Twitter)

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.

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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

Blakes scores 1,000th point, finishes with 29 to power convincing No. 1 Rutgers Prep girls’ win over No. 3 Gill St. Bernards

It was a big moment, it just wasn’t as dramatic as it could have been.

But that didn’t keep Mikayla Blakes’ teammates from mobbing her on the court, presenting her with balloons and flowers, and celebrating the junior’s 1,000th career point, which came on a free throw less than midway through the first quarter Tuesday afternoon.

It was just the third point of the game for Blakes, who finished with 29 – and five treys – as No. 1 Rutgers Prep sprinted out to a 26-4 lead at the end of one quarter, and beat No. 3 Gill St. Bernards for the 19th straight time since 2015, by the final score of 75-36.

That 39-point lead was the Lady Argonauts’ biggest of the game, mainly because of Prep’s three-point shooting in the second half, as both teams kept their starters in well into the fourth quarter, as they are the best conference teams they will face in the regular season.

Overall in the game, Rutgers Prep (11-3, 9-0 Skyland Delaware) hit 10 times from beyond the arc, with Chloe Escanillas adding three, Katie Ledden hitting a pair from downtown, and Ava LaMonica adding another.

Brooke Baisley led the Knights with 14, and while it bested her season average of 11.4 points per game, she only had four in the first half when the game was really decided. That was more a testament to Prep’s defense than anything, which ran its full-court press the majority of the first half.

Click below for postgame reaction presented by Sportsplex at Metuchen:

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Junior Mikayla Blakes
Assistant coach Michelle Sharp (Note: Head coach Mary Klinger left the game after Blakes’ 1,000th point to travel to an athletic director’s conference, leaving Sharp to take over.)

No. 1 Rutgers Prep’s defense stifles No. 7 Franklin early to win season opener

Meet the new Rutgers Prep, same as the old Rutgers Prep.

Actually, they’re not that new, with several huge pieces back from last year’s 29-3 team that made the last ever Tournament of Champions title game.

But the results were much the same: a full-court press to open the game left the Lady Argonauts up 7-0 before Franklin could score, and they pulled away to an 86-44 win on opening night at home Thursday.

Junior Mikayla Blakes led all scorers with 26 points in just three quarters of play, as the bench came in for the final eight minutes. Blakes had five treys, including a four-point play in the first quarter where she was fouled making a triple.

Rhode Island-bound senior Katie Ledden followed with 14 points, while freshman Gigi Battle finished with 10, and junior Zahra Alexander had nine. Another freshman in the starting five, Ava LaMonica, chipped in six.

Click below for postgame reaction, sponsored by SportsPlex at Metuchen:

Junior point guard Mikayla Blakes
Mikayla Blakes of Rutgers Prep. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)
Head coach Mary Klinger

Super sophomore Mikayla Blakes is Central Jersey Sports Radio Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year

It’s rare that a senior – sometimes even a junior – isn’t named Player of the Year, in just about any sport, whether in high school or college.

But when someone is as good as Mikayla Blakes, just a sophomore at Rutgers Prep, the class year gets thrown out the window.

And so, Blakes is the inaugural Central Jersey Sports Radio Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year, an honor that’s well-deserved.

The numbers are impressive. Consider that as a frosh in the short COVID year she scored double figures in seven of 13 games – and in each of the season’s final five games – her encore was even more impressive: 18.3 points per game, and double figures in all but three games – two of which were blowout wins, while the other was a loss to Westtown, PA.

But she was so much more than the numbers showed. A double-threat, she could get hot from downtown – hitting five times in a game twice, including against Gill St. Bernard’s in the Somerset County Tournament final – but was devastating off the drive as well.

And as she explained to Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko this week, there’s a reason for that.

Click below to hear Rutgers Prep’s Mikayla Blakes talk about her 2021-22 season:

CHAMPS!! Rutgers Prep girls survive Saddle River Day, win third Group B title, earn berth in NJ’s last TOC

Rutgers Prep head coach Mary Klinger knew her team would face adversity, somehow, at some point, against Saddle River Day in the Non-Public Group B title game. It was just a matter of what form it would take.

In the end, the Lady Argonauts were winners, 62-51, down at the RWJBarnabas Health Arena at Toms river North High School, clinching their third berth in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions, which is in its last season.

But it was not easy, not by a long shot.

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To the fans in the stands, it looked like it might be over early. Prep sophomore Mikayla Blakes scored 17 points in a monster first quarter – going 8-of-8 from the foul line – to get her team out to a 31-21 lead. But Saddle River Day got back in the game with a slow and steady 15-2 run to close the half.

And yet, Rutgers Prep still led at halftime by seven, at 33-26. The momentum continued for the Rebels in the second half. UNC-bound Paulina Paris – who had 12 first-half points, and was the only one scoring for a while, along with Blakes for Prep – had an eight point third quarter, and her team took the lead by three late in the period. Rutgers Prep got it back quickly, and ended the third with a 41-40 advantage.

In the final eight minutes, when Klinger reminded her team that she told them they would face adversity in this morning’s game, they overcame that adversity.

And it was another sophomore who had a huge contribution. Chloe Escanillas had seven fourth quarter points, including a trey, to help build a double digit lead, and give Prep an 11-point win in the end.

The only question remaining for Rutgers Prep (27-2) this weekend is whether the Argonauts will get a first-round bye in the Tournament of Champions, which begins back down in Toms River on Wednesday. St. John Vianney – playing in the second game against Immaculate Heart Academy at RWJ, should they advance, will get the top seed. It’s up for debate whether Rutgers prep or Manasquan – should ‘Squan move on Sunday in Toms River in the public finals – would get the second seed and the other bye.

If Rutgers Prep gets it, they would open Friday in the TOC semis. Otherwise they open Wednesday.

And next, the Rutgers Prep boys will try and win the Non-Public A title this afternoon at Jersey Mike’s Arena at Rutgers University. If they take the title, Rutgers Prep will be the first school in Middlesex or Somerset County to have both its boys’ and girls’ teams make the Tournament of Champions in the same year.

Click below for postgame reaction from Rutgers Prep’s win in the girls’ Non-Public B Championship Game:

Sophomore guard Mikayla Blakes (game-high 27 points, 1 trey, 14/16 from the foul line)
Rutgers Prep’s Mikayla Blakes
Junior guard/forward Katie Ledden (16 points, 12 in the first half)
Rutgers Prep’s Katie Ledden
Head coach Mary Klinger

“REPEAT”: Rutgers Prep cruises past Gill St. Bernard’s to win second straight SCT title, 5th of last 7

When you think about how good the Rutgers Prep girls’ basketball team was Saturday in the Somerset County Tournament final against Gill St. Bernard’s, it makes you realize how good St. John Vianney is.

They’re only the No. 1 team in the state, and blew out Prep on Super Bowl Sunday up at Kean, a “wake up call,” Argos head coach Mary Klinger told CJSR this week as to what her team needed to do to win a championship.

Lesson learned, goal achieved.

After a tight first quarter, where second-seeded Gill actually led 10-8 after the first eight minutes, the next eight were in a different stratosphere, leading top-seeded Rutgers Prep (23-2) to a 64-35 win over Gill St. Bernards (16-5).

Super sophomore Maikayla Blakes hit a trio of treys in a 30-6 run by Rutgers Prep, with their stifling defense fueling their high-powered offense, and all of a sudden, the teams went to the locker room with Prep ahead 38-16.

Rutgers Prep may be a bit on the young side, but GSB head coach Mark Gnapp’s team is, too. And he admitted this week maybe his team was a year ahead of schedule. Sunday’s result bore that out.

It was the second straight Somerset County Tournament title won by Rutgers Prep, which won the 2020 championship over Watchung Hills. They’ve now won five of the last seven tourney titles, having taken three in a row from 2015 to 2017.

Gill also has dropped three straight meetings with Rutgers Prep in the finals, losing in 2016 and 2017 as well.

Blakes led Rutgers Prep with 25 points, while junior Katie Ledden added 16. Sophomore Jennah Johnson led Gill in defeat with 17.

Click below for postgame reaction from the Rutgers Prep girls’ Somerset County Tournament win:

Sophomore Mikayla Blakes
Head coach Mary Klinger

No Dalce? No problem. Rutgers Prep girls cruise to win top Skyland Tournament pod

With little fanfare, Villanova-bound Christina Dalce missed Wednesday’s 73-18 semifinal pod win over 5th-seed Hunterdon Central. You wouldn’t have noticed unless you saw the box score, and no line with her name on it.

She missed top-seed Rutgers Prep’s championship game as well in the league’s top Blue Division pod, but the Argonauts still won.

They beat 2nd-seed Gill St. Bernard’s in yet another dominant performance, 69-41, to win the Blue title, in a game heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio, powered by Bellamy & Son Paving.

Senior Belle Pellecchia had a game- and career-high 25 points, including 12 free throws, more than making up for the absence of Dalce. Freshman guard Mikayla Blakes added 11, and dished out three assists.

The win moves Rutgers Prep to 12-0, with one more game to play. They host a “regular season” game against Saddle River Day Saturday afternoon at 1, after which the Rutgers Prep boys play in the top boys’ pod against Watchung Hills, a surprise winner over top-seed Gill St. Bernard’s in the semifinals.

The Gill girls drop to 10-2.

Click below to hear postgame reaction from Rutgers Prep’s win in the Skyland Conference Tournament’s Blue Division title game:

Rutgers Prep senior guard Belle Pellecchia
Rutgers Prep freshman guard Mikayla Blakes
Rutgers Prep head coach Mary Coyle-Klinger

Dalce, Klinger talk dominant Rutgers Prep win in battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2

Ten players had ink in the scoring column Saturday afternoon for Rutgers Prep, and only one of them put up double figures.

Guess who?

Villanova signee Christina Dalce poured in 15 points – 13 which came in the very decisive first half – as No. 1 Rutgers Prep played stingy defense in a 65-33 win over No. 2 Franklin on Senior Day, heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio, and powered by Bellamy & Son Paving.

Dalce scored nine in the first quarter, and four more in the second quarter. The rest of the Argonaut scoring was balanced, as freshman Mikayla Blakes and senior Kylie Favors – on three treys – each had nine. Sophomore Katie Ledden chipped in eight points.

Rutgers Prep dominated the game from the start, thanks to stifling defense. They never trailed, jumping out to an 8-0 lead, which Franklin cut to 8-5. But the Argonauts then went on a 25-0 run before a Morgan Jones free throw stopped the bleeding. Rutgers Prep finished the half with a 35-6 lead.

Click below to hear Christina Dalce and Rutgers Prep head coach Mary Coyle-Klinger talk about their dominating victory over Franklin.

Senior F/C Christina Dalce
Head Coach Mary Coyle-Klinger