Ku’Jane Johnson had 8 points and 10 rebounds against Steinert as Nottingham cruised to victory. File photo by Michael A Sabo.
By Rich Fisher
Jan. 8: It was a good night for the home teams in tonight’s basketball Battles of Klockner Road.
The Nottingham boys remained undefeated with a 95-37 win over visiting Steinert, while the host Spartan girls improved to 6-3 with a 50-34 victory over the Northstars.
In the boys’ game, those in attendance got to see part of the reason why the Northstars are now 7-0. Nottingham’s reserves, several who could be starters elsewhere, got to play the entire fourth quarter as Javon Jenkins, Derek Williams, Antonio Brown and Brandon “The Mini-Baron” Raba combined for 15 points.
“Our practices are phenomenal because we have so much depth,” coach Chris “The Baron” Raba said. “So far our practices have been harder than most of our games. We tell them the only way we can get better is from our practices. We practice three, four hours a day.”
Indeed, Nottingham has not played many upper echelon teams this year except for in the ESCIT and against Hopewell Valley. But because the reserves push the starters in practice, it helps keep them sharp.
Despite not playing since last Tuesday or practicing since last Wednesday, Nottingham roared to a 23-11 lead after one quarter and never looked back.
The Winter Jo-Storm was wreaking its usual havoc, as Cliff Joseph had 22 points and five rebounds, Richie Jones had 18 points and several nice assists and Darell Johnson collected 18 points. Kastro Montina chipped in with 11points and six rebounds. Also making his presence felt was Ku’Jane Johnson, who scored six of his eight points in the first quarter and grabbed 10 rebounds.
It was a fun night for K Jo, who has slowly been rounding into shape after coming in overweight.
“All he needs to do is rebound the basketball, make lay-ups and hit free throws,” Raba said. “So far he’s done that but he can always get better. One game at a time.”
Raba has Johnson doing separate workouts during practice in order to get him thinner.
“I had to lose some weight to get in shape,” Johnson said. “I run with the team a little bit, when they start doing other drills I hop on the bike, and we have a weighted jump rope and sometimes I do that. I was just eating too much in the summer.”
And despite his little scoring binge, Johnson knows his role.
“Rebounding, that’s what I do,” he said.
As for the reserves, Raba was in a quandary about turning them loose. He was trying not to score 100 on a township rival, but didn’t want to harness players patiently waiting their turn.
“Those guys play hard,” the coach said. “We had to slow the game down. With four minutes left I went to the zone for the first time in years, hoping maybe they would maybe hold it. I can’t tell guys who are fighting for minutes not to score, it’s not fair to them. “
Steinert was led by Mario Mazur with 14 points.
The girls game was a typical dogfight between the two rivals, despite the Spartans 14-point victory. It was a five-point game with seven minutes to go when the Northstars (2-5) proceeded to commit five straight turnovers that enabled Steinert to pull away for its third straight victory.
“In typical Nottingham-Steinert fashion, tonight was a grudge match,” Spartans coach Kristin Jacobs said. “I tried to preach to the girls before the game, in these games against Nottingham you can throw records out of the window.”
Leila Collazo led the attack with 17 points and three assists, while Jayda Bing had 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists, Tatiana Dorner had 10 points, four rebounds, two blocks and two steals, and Natalie Mehl had 10 points, four rebounds, four blocks, two assists and two steals.
The Northstars were pretty much a two-girl attack as Madison Diaz had 17 points and Liz Kerekes 13. Coach Lauren Kelly was not happy with the loss; but got a consolation prize when her dad, Chris, made her a post-game dinner.
“Our defense and our composure down the stretch is what helped us seal the victory,” said Jacobs, whose team is back in action against Lawrence Wednesday. “Nottingham is a tough, scrappy team. We’re happy to get of out of there tonight with the win.”
Hamilton boys win third straight to climb over .500
Hamilton got 12 points from Dane Riley to take a 50-43 victory at Allentown, giving the Hornets (4-3) their third straight victory. The Redbirds sliced a 14-point halftime deficit to five with less than a minute remaining before Javon Porter hit two clutch free throws to clinch it.
Tyler Beebe scored all eight of his points in the second quarter to help the Hornets build their lead. Zahir Davis added 10 points, while Ryan “The Mini-Dweller” Beczo chipped in with five.
The Allentown girls topped West, 68-19.