By Joe Ostrica
After a lax second quarter, the Brookside girls basketball team found itself down by six, 16-10, in a home game against Wellington Saturday. The Lady Cardinals turned up their defensive intensity in the second half and put together a strong rally for a 43-34 Patriot Athletic Conference win with inspired team play.
“This was probably our best defensive game we’ve played all year,” Brookside head coach Ray Mariner said. “We played zone and mixed it up a little playing man to man. Our girls really hung in there. Our offense was stagnant in the second turnover. We didn’t execute and we had a lot of turnovers.
“By the third quarter we played more with a sense of urgency. We went out there and executed better and took care of the ball a lot better. We got points from our post, which is very important.”
Senior Gabby Piwowar led Brookside with 15 points, including one 3-pointer. Mariner described Piwowar as the team’s “go-to person.”
“Gabby is the straw that stirs us. As Gabby goes, we go,” he said. “Unfortunately, she’s a marked girl, and all the opponents are looking at her. But for her to have 15 points, help handle the ball against the press and bring it up court, Gabby is our all-everything player. She gives us assists and steals.”
Senior co-captain Hailie Gerding had eight points, including two 3-pointers. Sophomore Arianna Sanchez came off the bench to score six points, grab key rebounds and even play out of position when the team needed her in the clutch.
“I thought Arianna Sanchez really gave us a shot of adrenaline coming in off the bench and controlling the boards and running the floor,” Mariner said. “For a post player bringing the ball up against the press as they were trying to take away our guards in a close game like this was huge.”
Senior co-captains Kendyl O’Neal and Julie Andorka and senior Jeanine Musall chipped in four points apiece. Sophomore Erika Elias added two points.
After the team struggled in a four-game losing streak, Mariner was encouraged to see the Lady Cardinals pick up their second win in three games.
“I think we’re playing good ball now,” he said. “I thought we should have been playing a little bit better than we were before. It’s our execution that we need to work on, and we’re doing better with that. As the season goes, we keep working the ball and working hard in practice.”
Mariner said the team’s free throw shooting is improving, and is crucial in close games.
“Early in the year we were losing games by two points or three points, but we were hitting only eight out of 20 foul shots,” he said. “That’s definitely getting better. As that gets better, the kids’ confidence is growing, too. As it grows, hopefully we’re going to grow and continue to play some good ball.”
As Brookside prepares for the second half of the season, Mariner said his team, now 3-6 overall and 2-5 in the PAC, can still challenge for the league title.
“We’re still in the mix as far as the conference goes,” he said. “Obviously Keystone has to stumble, but we’ve got a chance. We still have to play them once, and they have to play everybody again also. We still have a shot at it, it’s just a matter of going out there and doing it.”