Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 51
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

BALL OF FIRE: Princeton High girls’ basketball junior guard Casey Moran races up the court last Friday in PHS’ 55-29 loss to Lawrence in the season opener for both teams. Moran scored a team-high nine points in the defeat which saw PHS jump out to a 10-7 lead before succumbing to the more experienced Cards.

With New Coach Shoop Providing Energy, Moran and PHS Girls’ Hoops Playing Hard

Bill Alden

Casey Moran and her teammates on the Princeton High girls’ basketball team were inspired as they hit the court last Friday for their season opener against visiting Lawrence.

“Our new coach [Steffanie Shoop] has brought such great energy,” said Moran. “Everyone has risen to the challenge. Everyone is giving 100 percent and it was ready to come out today.”

As new coach Shoop provided animated guidance from the sideline with fist pumping, shouts of encouragement, and stamping her heels, PHS charged out of the gate.

The Little Tigers built a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter over a far more experienced Lawrence team. The game was knotted at 11-11 after one quarter and 16-16 midway through the second quarter.

The youthful PHS squad, which started two freshmen [Laurel Kasel and Talya Nakesh] and a sophomore [Julia Maltby], showed its inexperience as the Cards ended the half with a 13-0 run to take a 29-16 lead at the break.

Although PHS cut the lead to 10 briefly in the third quarter, Lawrence pulled away over the latter stages of the contest to post a 55-29 victory.

While Moran acknowledged that the Little Tigers sputtered after their strong start, she was happy with the way they hung in there.

“We got a little tired in the second quarter; we got a little sloppy,” said the junior guard, who ended the evening with a team-high nine points.

“We kept our heads up. We came out hard in the second half; we had a few runs where got some baskets.”

In Moran’s view, Shoop’s fiery approach has impacted the team’s personality. “Coach really sets the pace for the whole team, she gets us so excited,” asserted Moran.

“She gets excited for each and every practice and game. I think the team’s highest quality is that we always hustle. If we get unfocused or whatever, we still give 100 percent and that’s what’s going to help us reach our potential.”

As a battle-tested veteran, Moran knows that Shoop is leaning on her to help bring PHS’ younger players along.

“Now that I’m an upperclassman, I’m seeing it from a different point of view,” said Moran. “I was looking up to people last year. Now people are looking up to me so I hope I can help them.”

Shoop, for her part, liked the way her young team came out of the gate in the opener. “I couldn’t be prouder of them,” asserted Shoop, a former head coach at South River High, who is replacing Nikki Inzano.

“They are a hardworking team; there is no quit in them. We have a long way to go and they are not afraid to go that length. They know what they have to do.”

PHS had trouble handling prosperity, according to their coach. “I think what ended up happening is that they couldn’t believe how well they were playing,” said Shoop, who got seven points from Rachel Basie in the loss to Lawrence with Julia Maltby adding five and Laurel Kasel and Meg Reilly chipping in four apiece. “I think it actually startled them and I think they started to get nervous.”

The Little Tigers will need to calm down in order to hold leads when they get them.

“We needed to slow the pace down and we needed to run our offense,” said Shoop. “Those were the keys to our undoing but those are things we can work on.”

Shoop believes she has some good talent with which to work. “Casey is our floor leader, Rachel [Basie] is great,” asserted Shoop whose team fell to 0-2 with a 55-48 loss to Monroe last Monday.

“Laurel had a good game. Talya has a lot of potential. Julia Maltby has incredible potential; we just need to work on her offense.”

In Shoop’s view, her players have the right mindset to realize their potential. “They have a great attitude; I love coming to practice,” said Shoop.

“I’m really excited. I’m ready to work and the great thing is that they are too. I’m not looking at the score; the goal is to get better everyday. This is a growing year. We are going to grow and get better.”

Moran, for her part, sees a nice growth curve in store for the Little Tigers. “We are all ready to work really hard,” said Moran.

“I think we can do it. I’m proud of the way we played. We didn’t play perfectly but we played hard. I know it can only go up from here.”

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