On Saturday, February 11, the varsity boys' and girls' basketball teams will travel to The Hun School of Princeton to compete in the annual MAPL Championship tournament. Both teams earned the second overall seed in the tournament, therefore receiving a first-round bye.
The defending champion boys' team (13-6, 3-2 MAPL) will face the winner of Friday's matchup between the third seed, Hun, and the sixth seed, Mercersburg, on Saturday night at 7:45 p.m. A victory in the semi-final would secure a second consecutive trip to the championship game, which will be held on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
After getting off to a strong 9-2 start to the season, injuries and inconsistent play dropped the team into a mid-season slump that saw them lose four out of five games. The team has recovered well, however, winning three consecutive games leading up to the MAPL tournament.
“We have pulled together since we lost (co-captain) Hans Brase to injury, as teams tend to do when one of their guys goes down,” said head coach Seth Eilberg. “Our young guys are emerging and showing their improvement from the course of the season. I am proud of the effort and resilience that this group has shown. We’re really playing with a chip on our shoulder and will need to continue to do that to have a chance at making a run in either of our postseason tournaments.”
Leading the “chip on the shoulder” mentality is co-captain Josh Heyliger ’12, who recently surpassed the 1,000 career points milestone and brings a tireless work ethic to the court each day that has been more than exemplary for his teammates. Improved consistency from post-graduates Elijah McLaurin and Jerome Alexander as well as improved play from John Moran ’12 and defensive specialist Adam Regensburg ’13 have also contributed to the team’s resurgence. The trio of role players Pat Kearon ’13, Seth Regensburg ’13, and Grant Smith ’14 will be instrumental in providing key minutes throughout each game.
Meanwhile, the girls' (15-5, 4-1 MAPL) are having one of the best seasons in program history and enter the MAPL Championship having been named the top seed in the PAISAA Tournament
on Tuesday, February 7. The Hill will face the winner of the Lawrenceville vs. Mercersburg Academy game in the semi-final on Saturday at 3:45p.m. A semi-final victory likely would result in a rematch of last year’s MAPL Championship game against Blair Academy, which was won by Blair. The Buccaneers handed The Hill its only MAPL loss this season, a 62-52 setback in which Hill shot only 31 percent from the floor and 9 for 16 from the free throw line.
Since the loss to Blair, the girls' have run off six consecutive wins with a 24 point average margin of victory, allowing more than 40 points and scoring less than 50 only once. While a potent attack certainly has factored into the winning streak, coach Grey Simpson said the team's shut-down defense has been the main key to its success.
“The key to almost all of our wins this season has been our defense,” Simpson said. “We’ve been doing a really good job keeping the opposition out of the paint and forcing them to take tough shots. The girls bought into our system and play with the tenacity and basketball IQ needed to execute well.”
A testament to the team's depth is the number of girls who consistently contribute big minutes. Taylor Silar ’13 and Shannon Ruane ’12 consistently pressure the opponent’s top players each game, with Kim Breeding ’13 and Monica Patel ’12 adding strong defensive depth on the floor. The additions of Sara Graham ’13 and Julia Sottosanti ’12, both of whom missed the majority of the past two seasons recovering from knee injuries, have provided the team’s size and interior presence. Providing the offensive spark are leading scorer Deanna Mayza '13, who is averaging 17.6 points per game, and Claire Maree O'Bryan '12, who is averaging 14.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.
If the girls' do win the semi-final game, they will play for the team's first ever MAPL Championship on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.