JERSEY SHORE - The Jersey Shore girls basketball team is not just winning games this season. It is changing a culture.
A past that recently included three wins in three years at one point is dead. These new-look Bulldogs are blazing a new trail. And last night they delivered their biggest statement yet.
Sara Danley recorded a double-double while dominating the paint and Paige Packer ignited a tremendous defense as Jersey Shore overwhelmed rival Milton, 41-17 and matched its highest win total since 2007. The Bulldogs (9-3, 3-2 HAC-I) defeated Milton for the first time in six years and showed how dangerous they can be if they reach the postseason in a non-open format for the first time since 2007.
Brianna Stetts of Jersey Shore shoots over a Milton defender Friday night at Jersey Shore.
"We are the underdog in our league and I think a lot of teams don't take us seriously," Packer said. "In the locker room we get pumped up and get ready to come out and play really hard. Once we do that and teams see that we're winning they might take us seriously. It's good to come out and give a beating to some teams, especially since we haven't been doing too well the last few years."
Jersey Shore dominated all facets against another potential playoff team and outscored Milton, 34-8 from early in the second quarter until the game's final minute. The Bulldogs remained unbeaten at home and emphatically showed how foolish it is to not take them seriously.
The way Jersey Shore won stood out more than the win itself. A team that in the past hoped it would win, now believes it will win no matter how good the opponent is. That hurdle is as big as anything that happens on the court and has the Bulldogs thinking big.
"They're starting to realize that if they play on any given night they can stay with anybody. They haven't had that in the past," Jersey Shore coach Greg Bruce said. "We always had doubt, but this team doesn't have any doubt."
Milton took a brief 8-7 lead on the second-quarter's opening possession but Jersey Shore took over from there. The Bulldogs allowed just two more field goals in the game's 23 minutes and Danley sparked a 16-2 run that gave them a 13-point halftime lead.
Danley played possibly the best game of her scholastic career. The senior forward scored 14 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, made four steals and blocked three shots. She took over the second quarter, scoring 10 points and grabbing seven rebounds while scoring three times off putbacks. The senior started last year when Jersey Shore lost two close games to their rival by six combined points and would not let history repeat itself.
"That was one of my most intense games. I felt comfortable and excited," Danley said. "There are people on their team that we know and we lost to them by stupid mistakes last year and we knew we could beat them this time."
Packer loomed large in that game-changing second quarter as well. The senior point guard makes Jersey Shore go on both ends and had four points along with three assists that quarter. She has been one of the area's best defenders all year and sparked a defensive performance that bordered on perfection at times.
Packer is happier setting up teammates than scoring herself. Jersey Shore is just happy she is on its team.
"She's the general," Bruce said. "She's the one that runs everything and she's a fantastic kid to work with. She's a great team player."
Jersey Shore delivered a terrific team defensive performance too. The Bulldogs emphasized stopping Milton's transition and inside games and effectively did both. In the first quarter, Milton attempted nine shots and six were 3-pointers. Danley, Grace Naehu and Isabella Bubb did a nice job denying entry passes while Packer and Courtney Morlock pressured the guards and shadowed them everywhere.
Maggie Wetzel and Brook Swartz are talented post players for Milton who combined for 18 rebounds last night. Their touches came at a premium last night, though, and when they did get shots they were all contested.
The result was Jersey Shore's signature performance and Milton's worst offensive game in a few years. The Panthers (6-5, 2-3) never scored more than six points in a quarter and lost 31 turnovers while making just 6 of 45 shots.
"Defense is what we emphasize and don't let them in the paint," Danley said. "They got it in there a few times on me but I tried to stand tall."
Jersey Shore is doing just that now. A team that took so many thumpings in the past is now delivering them.
Maggie Wetzel 2 0-2 4, Brooke Swartz 1 1-4 3, Mackenna Miller 0 1-2 1, Dani Lincoln 1 0-0 3, Carissa Wagner 1 2-2 4, Sara Anspach 0 0-0 0, Taylor Wolfe 1 0-0 2, Madison East 0 0-1 0. Totals 6 4-11 17.
JERSEY SHORE (41)
Paige Packer 3 4-9 10, Grace Naehu 4 0-0 8, Sara Danley 6 2-2 14, Isabella Bubb 1 0-0 2, Courtney Morlock 0 0-0 0, Mercedes Boatman 0 0-0 0, Mallorie Rell 0 1-2 1, Brook Rozenberg 0 0-0 0, Brianna Stetts 1 0-0 2, Karley Oeler 1 2-2 4. Totals 16 9-15 41.
Milton6 4 3 4-17
Shore7 16 3 15-41
3-pointers: Milton 1 (Lincoln).
Records: Jersey Shore 9-3, 3-2 HAC-I. Milton 6-5, 2-3.
JV Score: Jersey Shore 41-27.