By Walter J. O’Neill, Jr.
The lady Spartans of Ocean Township dominated the White Bracket of the 5th Annual Blue Devil Holiday Invitational basketball tournament held at Shore Regional. It is a tournament that features two brackets with six teams in each.
Ocean was the top seed in their bracket followed by Howell, Monmouth Regional, Freehold Township, Jackson Liberty and Sayreville. They opened the tournament beating Freehold Township (https://thelinknews.net/2023/12/29/spartans-hand-patriots-first-loss-of-the-season/) and faced Howell in the bracket finals on Saturday, December 30.
Both teams entered the finals with only one loss this season. The Rebels of Howell lost 53-50 to Colonia on December 19. Manasquan High School handed the Spartans their only loss, 56-43, on December 20. However, this game, the white bracket finals was all Ocean Township.
Michael Lazur, head coach of the Spartans, has a team that is full of talent. The starting five and the sixth and seventh players to come off the bench are all skilled ball handlers. They possess speed, strength under the boards and have great on floor chemistry.
At the close of the first quarter, Ocean held an impressive 11-1 lead on Howell. Leading the Spartans in those first eight minutes was Jineen Ayyash, senior forward, with five points. She is an exciting player to watch, as he can play guard and bring the ball up court with strength and size to battle under the boards. Eli Clark, senior guard, Sofia Chebookjian, senior forward and Carolina Bariscillo, sophomore guard all had two points.
In the win over Freehold Township, Gamila Betton senior forward/center for Ocean, suffered a cut at the bridge of her nose. During the championship game against Howell, which Ocean won 51-30, Betton was wearing a face shield. She had only two points in the first half, scored in the second quarter. She finished with eight points, but was the leading rebounder for the Spartans with six.
In the Second quarter Ocean outscored Howell 16-10. The second half of the game was very tight, as Ocean only outscored Howell 11-8 in the third quarter and 13-11 in the fourth. With the 51-30 victory, Ocean improved to 4-1 on the season.
Leading all Spartans in scoring was Kayden Clark, junior guard, with 15 points. She also pulled in four rebounds, had two blocks, one assist and one steal. Older sister, Eli, scored 13 points, had seven assists, three rebounds, two steals and one block. Finishing with 11 points, five rebounds, one assist and one steal was Ayyash.
Ocean has a big test on January 3, when they host Red Bank Catholic with a tipoff at 5:30 p.m.
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