By BRIAN CUNNIFF
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — The Middle Township High School girls basketball team beat Lower Cape May, 60-22, Friday evening.
The result was almost an afterthought to the coaches, however. They were simply happy to play.
That’s because five of the seven boys teams in the pandemic-created Cape-Atlantic League East Division are currently shut down due to COVID-19 concerns.
“We’re very fortunate and very lucky,” Middle coach John Leahy said. “I think we’ve now seen firsthand how quick it can happen. It’s not anybody’s fault. It’s just the times we live in. We’ve talked all year about trying to appreciate every day and now it’s literally on our doorstep.”
Boys teams from Middle, Cape May Tech, Mainland, Atlantic City and Ocean City are all currently in quarantine and will be sidelined for various amounts of time. All five situations came to light just in the past week.
For Leahy, the situation hits very close to home. His son, also John, is a senior on Middle’s boys team.
“Selfishly, my son’s sitting at home and he would love to be playing,” Leahy said, his voice cracking with emotion. “You see kids from our school sitting at home and they would love to be playing. If that doesn’t open up your eyes and appreciate the opportunity you have, I don’t know what will.”
Friday was a bizarre day for those involved in Cape May County basketball.
The governor’s announcement that parents and/or guardians of players are finally permitted to attend games was a welcome announcement for the players and their families. CAL schools are expected to allow those fans to attend beginning next week.
But Friday also featured announcements that the boys teams from Cape May Tech and Ocean City would be joining Mainland, Atlantic City and Middle in quarantine. Boys games featuring Middle Township at Lower Cape May and Mainland at Ocean City were postponed Friday.
“We’re happy for the girls for the fact that we’ve been able to come out every day and play,” Lower coach Mike Pittman said. “Everyone knew coming into the season how serious this COVID situation was. As we can see on the boys side, you might come out and play one night and then not have a game for two weeks. So for us to still have our schedule intact and to be able to play is really good for the girls. Just to have this opportunity, especially for the seniors, if we can play all our games it would mean a lot to them.”
Middle Township (7-0), the only unbeaten team in the East Division, got 24 points from Kate Herlihy and 15 points from Jada Elston in the win. The Lady Panthers raced out to a 36-10 lead at halftime and never looked back. Their starters did not play in the fourth quarter.
“I’m really proud of my kids,” Leahy said. “We’re all trying to do the right things. There’s a lot of luck involved. We’re off (Saturday), now let’s just keep saying our prayers that we get to practice on Sunday.”
Lower Cape May got 13 points from Kaitlyn McGuigan. The Lady Tigers (0-7) have struggled in what is, by far, the CAL’s most talented division.
“It’s a positive, No. 1, just that we’re playing,” Pittman said. “Second, the younger girls are getting thrown to the wolves a little bit. They’re getting some good varsity experience against some very high-level teams. To play against them night in and night out, it’ll help our younger girls get through those growing pains and get better and mature.”