By Walter J. O’Neill, Jr.
Monmouth Regional girls’ varsity basketball hosted the Green Wave of Long Branch early Saturday morning in a nondivisional Shore Conference match-up. It was an exciting game from the opening tip off until the final buzzer sounded with Long Branch taking the 51-46 victory.
Both schools were very consistent throughout the game. What’s impressive this year, is that both programs have all players on the court contributing to the game. Years past, each team might have one or two players that stood out, not in 2023. All ten girls on the court could dribble, pass, shoot, and play aggressive defense. All that contributed to a thrilling game.
Long Branch took an early 13-9 lead on the Falcons. Working the ball up court for the Wave was Kimi Sayson, a fearless sophomore point guard. She is tiny, but plays big. She can dribble with both hands, has moves and great vision. Back on the Wave roster, transferring back in this year, was Leilani Andrews, who has speed and a deadly outside shot.
Monmouth Regional has two guards who are also small, but play big. Senior Alyson Amadruto has the main duty of getting the ball across the half-court line. Assisting is Julia Biasi, junior, who plays the guard and forward spot.
Forwards for Long Branch are Mya Hepburn, senior, who can hit the boards and also jump out as a guard. Sophomore Leomary Diaz-Merino is the quiet one on the Wave roster. But she has the confidence of an upper classman when she is on the floor and can shoot the lights out.
Playing down low for Monmouth Regional are junior Kate Hicks with three years experience on varsity. She also has great ball skills and hit the hoop hard. Olivia Gades is also a junior with three years on varsity with the ability to jump outside as a guard.
In the paint for Long Branch was junior Alayah Vincent. She also has three years on varsity and has made a huge improvement in her physical conditioning and skills. She is the factor for the Wave under the basket.
Monmouth Regional had 5’10” sophomore Amaya Harris under the hoop. She had tremendous strength in hitting the boards and can also fire off from outside the arch.
During the second quarter of action both teams were deadlocked at 13 points each. Both were applying full court pressure and both were able to break that pressure most of the time.
Long Branch had its best quarter of action to start the second half, outscoring Monmouth Regional 18-12. They were able to run a few backdoor plays where Vincent was left unguarded. Most of that was because Harris was in foul trouble and sitting on the bench.
Monmouth Regional played their best ball to end the game as they outscored Long Branch 12-7 in the fourth quarter. However, it was not enough as the Green Wave pulled out the 51-46 victory. Long Branch improved to 9-5 overall and are 8-5 in the Shore Conference A-Central Division. Falcons fall to 10-4 overall, last week they were number 10 in the top ten of the Shore Conference. Falcons play in the C-South Division and are 5-2.
Andrews was top scorer for Long Branch with 15 points. She had three steals, two rebounds and one assist. Diaz-Merino finished with 12 points, six steals, three assists and two rebounds. Scoring nine points, pulling in four rebounds was Vincent. Sayson had eight points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Harris was top scorer for the Falcons with 16 points. Three Monmouth Regional players finished with eight points; Biasi, Kasey Chonko and Kicks, while Gades scored six points.
Click the photo for the caption
Additional photos will be posted at www.Facebook.com/TheLinkSports