Northstar girls top Hun as 5-foot-7 Penix getting ‘Famus’ for standing tall; Steinert, Hamilton boys win

Nottingham Junior Patricia “Famus P” Penix looks for room to get around a Hun defender. Penix had 11 points and 11 rebounds in the Northstar victory. Photo by Wes “The Media Mogul” Kirkpatrick

By Rich Fisher
Jan. 22:
If she keeps this up, Famus will start becoming famous.

Slowly but surely, Patricia “Famus P” Penix is making a name for herself in Mercer County girls’ basketball, and she took another big step tonight after helping Nottingham to a 44-34 victory over visiting Hun.

The junior forward, who stands somewhere between 5-6 and 5-7, collected 11 points and 11 rebounds for her second double-double of the year. She also had four steals, shot 5-for-9 from the field and provided energy all over the court.

Patricia “Famus P” Penix goes up to grab 1 of her 11 rebounds against Hun. Photo by Wes “The Media Mogul” Kirkpatrick.

“She leaps through the roof, she dives for loose balls,” coach Lauren Adams said. “She’s not afraid to go up against girls twice her size. She helps us back on defense. She literally does everything we ask of her, with a smile on her face. You can’t make her mad.”

She has no reason to be mad these days, especially after making massive progress over the summer.

“I played basketball against my boy cousins this summer; I beat them most of the time,” she said proudly. “I actually could beat all of them.”

Granted, they were younger cousins, but let’s not quibble over that. Whatever she did, worked.

“Oh my gosh, it’s immeasurable,” Adams said of the improvement. “She played AAU in the spring and her confidence, her basketball IQ, her understanding, all went up. I can’t even describe Patricia last year to Patricia this year. She’s so coachable. She takes what you say and she goes out and does it.”

“Pat’s stepped up so much as a big girl,” added teammate Madison Diaz, who led Nottingham with 12 points on four 3-pointer. “You wouldn’t expect it with her size. She comes out of nowhere to get rebounds against girls that are 6-feet tall.”

It’s not just that. Even when other players have position on Penix, she somehow finds a way to get around them to grab a ball coming off the rim.

“I think it’s like, I jump really high and I just know I’m gonna get it,” Penix said. “It’s confidence. I know I’m coming down and I’m gonna get this rebound. It’s all being smart. If it’s somebody real big and slow I can get behind them.”

Penix was a key to the win, but so were plenty of others. Diaz scored nine first-half points to help Nottingham to a 23-14 halftime advantage. After intermission, Sara Haas had six en route to a 10-point, 8-rebound night, while Penix scored seven second-half points and Giuliano Pocino made an acrobatic lay-up to spark the start of the second half. Liz Kerekes finished with eight points as Nottingham (6-7) won for the fourth time in sixth games and moved to 1-0 with Christie “Braender Who?” Fink running the clock.

“I have a great group of girls and every night it’s somebody different stepping up; shooting, rebounding,” Adams said. “You can always count on some tough pay from Penix and Sara down low, and our guards played under control. I’m very happy.”

The defining element to the victory (other than Fink Factor) was Nottingham’s tenacity and hustle. Of the six girls who played, there probably wasn’t one who left the game without a burn mark

Madison Diaz, led Nottingham with 12 points on four 3-pointers. Photo by Wes “The Media Mogul” Kirkpatrick.

from diving on the floor.

“That was one of the things we talked about before today,” Adams said. “We talked about just playing tough. Instead of pouting after a missed shot or a turnover, fight for it back. And that’s what we did.

“We probably got our shot blocked 10 times if not more. We could have put our tail between our legs, took our ball and gone home but we didn’t. It was just an amazing effort from all the girls.”

What made both the coach and Diaz happy, is how the Northstars built a lead and then kept it. Nottingham went up by 15 twice in the second half, and never let the deficit get under eight in the fourth quarter.

“That was important, especially for us because it’s happened to us in the past,” Diaz said. “We’ve let certain teams stay in the game with us when we should blow the game apart, and it comes down to a game in the fourth quarter. That’s what we didn’t want.”

Learning how to win is as important as wanting to hustle, and Adams feels if she sees more of what she saw tonight, Nottingham may continue to pick up the Ws.

“We’re hitting a nice little streak here,” the coach said. “I just know going forward, the teams we’re going to face we need to bring the same energy as we did today.”

One thing is certain – the Stars are feeling better about themselves now than when they were languishing at 0-3 and 2-5.

“I think we finally gained our confidence,” Diaz said. “We’re playing together now, we’re all putting it together. It’s not just one person doing this, one person doing that. We’re playing as a team, as a family more so.

“I think we always had confidence but we needed more of it to pick each other up,” Penix added. “The more confidence, and the more we pick each other up, the better we get each game. We know what we have to work on.”

Steinert boys shut down Spotswood shooters to earn second win in three games

In the first of back-to-back games against Greater Middlesex Conference opponents, Steinert took a 58-53 victory at Spotswood for its second win in three games.

With the game tied 31-31 at halftime, the Spartans went ahead by five after the decisive third quarter and held on for their third victory.

“We knew they could shoot from the outside and when we started to pressure them and make it difficult by taking away their favorite looks, it gave us a chance to get out and run and spread the floor,” coach Kyle Flanagan said. “We were in similar situations this year late with a lead, and were able to take from those experiences and pull out the victory today.”

Mario Mazur led the offense with 20 points, while Lamont Morrison had 15 and Trevor “Son of Birthday Boy” Giordano added 13.

Hamilton boys extend winning streak to seven with last-second heroics by everybody

It continues to be an interesting and exciting season for the Hamilton West boys.

Faced with a three-point deficit with 20 seconds left, the Hornets somehow managed to take a 69-68 victory over Princeton Day School to stretch their winning streak to seven straight.

“Another tough game,” said coach Jay Malloy, whose team moved to 8-3. “Pretty bad first half and we were down by as many as 16, but great effort in the second half by my guys.”

And yet, with 20 seconds left and the Hornets trailing 68-65, Chris Charles missed two free throws and things looked bleak. But Chris quickly atoned for it when Hamilton got the offensive rebound and got it back to Charles for a lay-up. On the ensuing inbounds play, the Panthers tried throwing a long pass over the press “and Francis Saydee made a great steal at the foul line.” Saydee passed ahead to Tyler Beebe, who found Javon Porter in the corner. Porter drove the baseline to make a tough leaning layup with six seconds remaining.

Following a timeout, Charles came up with a game-winning steal as PDS was trying to bring the ball up court.

“A great ending,” Malloy said. “We had a much better defensive intensity in the second half, which led to some fast break points, which helped us get back in the game.”

Porter led the attack scoring 15 of his 16 points in the second half. Charles added 13, Dane “Sponge Bob” Riley tallied 12 and Richmond Shasha chipped in with nine.

About The Author

Rich Fisher has been around the Hamilton Township sports scene for so long that he actually got Rich Giallella’s autograph when Giallella was still a player! Proud product of Hamilton YMCA and Lou Gehrig baseball leagues and former teammate of Jim Maher on a very average Barton & Cooney rec basketball team, Fish graduated from Nottingham Junior High and Steinert High school and has covered township sports since 1980. His goal in life is to convince Maria Prato that Jersey tomatoes are at least 100 times better than California tomatoes.