By Walter J. O’Neill, Jr.
The Lady Spartan basketball team at Ocean Township High School is having one of its best season in decades. They hosted and beat the Green Wave of Long Branch 60-47 on Saturday morning to improve to 11-1 overall and 4-1 in the Shore Conference C-South Division.
Michael Lazur, head coach at Ocean, has struggled for years to get a complete squad of young ladies that are talented in all aspects of the game. This year’s squad has only two seniors on the roster, so they are talented and young. “They have been playing together since they were little kids, and many of them are now playing basketball all year,” said Lazur.
Shannon Coyle had taken a Long Branch program that was consistently on the losing end. In fact, the 22 seasons before her arrival as head coach, Long Branch was 110-375. Coyle stated she had three priorities when she took over. First was to change the culture with one small step at a time. Second, was getting those she worked with to be accountable for their actions on and off the court. Third, she urged her players to recognize their full potential. Her efforts paid off as she was the 2020 Coach of the Year, and has had the Green Wave competitive among public schools.
First quarter on Saturday morning was fast and aggressive with Ocean jumping out to a 14-13 lead. Gamila Betton, who had a double-double in the win over Long Branch had 12 points and 10 rebounds. Six of those points were scored in the opening quarter. The Clark sisters, Eli a junior and Kayden a sophomore, both hit three-point shots, and junior Sofia Chebookjian had two points.
For Long Branch Mya Hepburn and Alayah Vincent each had four points to open the game. Kimi Sayson had three and Leilani Andrews had two. The Second quarter was nearly identical with Ocean outscoring the Wave 15-12 and taking a 29-25 lead into the halftime break.
Long Branch feel asleep to start the second half, as the Spartans started strong and quickly took a 10-point lead. “I really don’t know what happened, we were playing our game in the first half and then we fell behind early in the third quarter,” said Coyle. Going into the final quarter, Ocean was up 44-35.
Ocean bested the Wave 16-12 in the fourth quarter and won the game 60-47. Kayden Clark was top scorer for the Spartans with 19 points. She also had one rebound, two assists, one block and three steals. Eli Clark finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, 10 assists and three steals. Betton had a double-double as she had 12 points and 10 rebounds, one assists and one steal. Jineen Ayyash had nine points, four rebounds and two steals, while Chebookijian had eight points, seven rebounds and one steal.
The Spartans are in top position in the Shore Conference C-South Division. Their overall record is 11-1 and they are 4-1. Ocean has outscored their opponents 576-356 so far this season. They are followed by Monmouth Regional 9-2, 4-1, Shore Regional 10-2, 4-1, Donovan Catholic 3-6, 2-4, Jackson Liberty 4-7, 1-4 and Lakewood 0-8, 0-5. Lakewood has been outscored this season 394-89.
Hepburn was top scorer for Long Branch. finishing with 14 points, five rebounds and three assists. Andrews, who just transferred back into Long Branch, had 11 points, four rebounds, two assists and one steal. Vincent scored eight points pulled down 11 rebounds, had two blocks and one assist. Sayson scored seven points as did Leomary Diaz-Merino.
Long Branch is in the A-Central Division which has St. John Vianney, one of the best teams in the state, undefeated at 13-0 and 5-0 in the division. They have outscored opponents 970-470. In second is Holmdel 8-4, 4-1, Long Branch is sitting in third at 7-4 overall and 3-2 in division. Raritan is behind the Wave at 2-8, 2-3, Freehold Boro 5-6, 1-4 and winless Matawan in last at 0-12, 0-9.
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