South Jersey girls' basketball notes

Posted: January 11, 2012

After not making a basket in the first half, Jackie Browne stuck to a simple theory:

"A shooter's gotta shoot," she said.

The senior guard on the Bishop Eustace girls' basketball team scored 21 points in the second half, 15 in the fourth quarter, in Tuesday's loss to Washington Township.

Browne's mentality, and ability, are common among the Crusaders' three guards.

Bishop Eustace (6-3) is off to a solid start this season largely because of its backcourt's ability to keep shooting.

Senior guards Browne and Alyssa Cirucci and junior guard Taylor Hudspeth are pacing the Crusaders, who have yet to lose to a team outside of The Inquirer's South Jersey Top 10.

"We came into the season knowing that we had a nice offensive threat in the three guards," Eustace coach Kat Burke-Esposito said. "Alyssa, Jackie, and Taylor are a trifecta that I'm very fortunate to have.

"A lot of teams in South Jersey have the good fortune to have one or two solid guards. I have three that would perform anywhere. And it's tough for teams to match up with that."

The Crusaders are one of the few area teams with three players averaging double figures in scoring. Browne averages 15.8; Cirucci, 11.7; and Hudspeth, 12.1.

"We know each other pretty well," Cirucci said of the three guards. "We've been playing together for a while now, and that helps.

"And we're young at other positions. But it also helps that we usually have five solid players on the court."

In Tuesday's 67-53 loss to the No. 7 Minutemaids, all three Eustace guards recorded their highest shooting percentage during the team's second-half comeback attempt. Browne hit four three-pointers in the second half, and Hudspeth drained two of her three treys in the fourth quarter.

"They are the kind of players who, when their backs are against the wall, they put the team on their shoulders," Burke-Esposito said. "I would love to tell you that a performance like that is rare. But they hit threes. And they hit them when it counts."

Burke-Esposito, who started as the Crusaders' head coach in 2008-09, is back this season after taking last year off because of the birth of her second child.

"It feels great being back," Burke-Esposito said. "I thought it was so important for my sons to see that you can be a mom and be a basketball coach and be a strong influence in more kids' lives than just your own."

Hummel beginnings. The gym. It's something first-year Lenape coach Rob Hummel keeps coming back to. The old gym on the north side of Lenape High belongs to his team.

The boys' team, for the first year, exclusively uses the newer gym on the other side of the school's campus.

For Hummel, having his own "girls' gym" offers a sense of identity. It's a place his team can latch onto and call home, and where the players can showcase an increasingly cohesive talent level.

The Indians are off to a fast start this season, at 7-1. The only blemish is a loss to No. 6 Williamstown.

"I'm very, very happy with the team," said Hummel, who spent the previous 11 seasons as an assistant for the Lenape boys' team. "The girls are playing so hard.

"Everything that we're doing this year is new to them. And you would think it would be tough for them to adjust. But my two captains, Taylor Holmes and Brianna Wylie, are picking it up the quickest; they're working so hard to get it right. And the rest of the team follows that example."

Wylie, a senior forward, has been one of the area's top players since she played side by side with star Christina Foggie, now a standout at Vanderbilt, as a sophomore.

Hummel said Wylie had little trouble taking to his defensive-minded philosophy.

"She is the heart and soul of this team," Hummel said of Wylie, who averages 11 points. "Anything I've asked her to work on, she's worked on and improved. She has so much talent, and she's so mature."

Holmes, a junior guard, also has contributed on and off the court, and sophomore forward Alexis Sears has been a pleasant surprise.

"Our practices have been amazing," Hummel said. "The nice thing is during practice I'll have to be reminded after a drill that we were just working with four freshmen and a sophomore - they make it easy to forget. Every player, regardless of their grade, competes."


Contact Chris Melchiorre at rallysports@phillynews.com.

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