By Walter J. O’Neill, Jr.
On a cold, rainy miserable January 6, the Blue Devils of Shore Regional traveled to Rumson-Fair Haven to face the Bulldogs in a nondivisional Shore Conference girls’ basketball game. It was a very steady game, with both teams scoring in double digits every quarter. However, Rumson-Fair Haven had the edge and won 68-54.
The Bulldogs started the game red hot and were way out in front of the Blue Devils. Shore Regional didn’t roll over, but settled down and fought back. Closing out the first quarter, RFH had a 19-12 lead. However, the Blue Devils, were racking up the fouls as they were called five times in that opening quarter.
One of those who seemed to be in the focus of the officials was Ava Coyle, sophomore guard for the Blue Devils. She is a firecracker on the floor with tremendous speed, is a gifted ball handler and very aggressive on defense.
In the second quarter, Rumson-Fair Haven added 15 points to their total, while Shore scored 13. Going into the break, the Bulldogs were up 34-25. Bad news for the Blue Devils is that Coyle had three fouls, and had to tone down her defense.
Early in the third quarter Coyle received her fourth out of five personal fouls. William Wishart, head coach of the Blue Devils, has depth on his bench as he had Coyle sit to save her for the final quarter. Angela Christopher and Jasmin Okuska, both juniors, were given time filling in for Coyle.
Going into the final quarter, RFH had their largest lead of the game at 51-40. Shore Regional was able to close that gap and drew within five points of Bulldogs. However, Shore was taking long three-point shots trying to take the lead, but they were not making hitting the basket. Rumson-Fair Haven was able to get the rebounds and made their own three-point buckets.
During one timeout, Reese Fiore, junior point guard and forward for the Blue Devils, grabbed a trash can, ran into the hallway with assistant coach Emily Olsen, and threw-up. She came back from that timeout and reentered the game. Coyle was also back in the game, but she was playing cautious as she didn’t want to foul out.
Kimi Sayson, junior point guard for the Blue Devils, was driving hard to the Bulldogs rim, teammate Conley Smolokoff, senior forward, had her biggest impact during the finals minutes of play. She was the lead defender on the full court pressure Shore was applying and forced several turnovers.
With the 68-51 victory, Rumson-Fair Haven improved to 7-3 overall on the season. They are currently in second place in the Shore Conference B North, which is led by Red Bank Catholic. Falling in behind RFH is Colts Neck, Red Bank Regional, Middletown North and South. Erin Reed led all Bulldogs with 17 points and nine rebounds. Raquel Guidetti finished with 15 points and three rebounds, while Ella Mason scored 14 and had eight boards.
Shore Regional drops to 4-4 overall on the 2023-2024 season. They are in fourth position in the B Central division. Leading that group is Ocean Township followed by Donovan Catholic, Monmouth Regional, Shore, Lakewood and Jackson Liberty.
Fiore was the leading scorer for the Blue Devils with 16 points and pulled in eight rebounds. On the season so far, she has 84 points and 41 rebounds, seven assists and 12 steals. She is about 300 points away from the elite 1,000-point club. Last year she finished with 420 total points and still has half this season and all next year to make 1,000..
Also finishing in double digit scoring was Sayson with 11 points. Sayson also had five rebounds. On this season, she has 74 points, 35 rebounds, 34 assists and 40 steals.
Spending nearly an entire quarter on the bench took some of the firepower out of Coyle’s game. She had only seven points in the loss to RFH. For the 2023-2024 season, she has 78 points, 27 rebounds, eight assists and 22 steals. For her short one and half years on varsity, she has 233 points.
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