GIRLS BASKETBALL Middle Township @ Lower Cape May Regional
January 20, 2022
January 23, 2022

VIDEO: Middle shows signs of progress with win over OLMA

Middle Township's Brianna Robinson gets into the top of the lane against Our Lady of Mercy Academy Saturday.


CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – The Middle Township High School girls basketball team was in a very unfamiliar place through its first nine games – under .500.

But now, the Lady Panthers are starting to show signs of getting back to the kind of play expected out of one of South Jersey’s most consistent programs.

Middle enjoyed one of its best victories of the season to date Saturday afternoon, building a 20-point lead midway through the fourth quarter before settling for a 57-46 win over Our Lady of Mercy Academy in a key Cape-Atlantic United Conference contest.

The win was the third straight for Middle, which improved to 7-5 overall, 6-1 CAL United. The team remains one game behind Wildwood Catholic, which is unbeaten in conference play. All other CAL United teams have at least three conference losses.

“This was a win that we needed, from a couple different viewpoints,” Middle coach John Leahy said. “First, we needed to beat a good team and that is a really good team with a lot of talent. To get over the hump and beat somebody really good, it’ll certainly help our confidence that the girls have kind of proven to themselves that they can play at a certain level. Then obviously it’s significant with the conference and the playoffs and the CAL Tournament. We needed it to stay within arm’s length of Wildwood Catholic.”

Middle led from start to finish, jumping out to a 12-5 lead behind eight first-quarter points from senior forward Kylie Graham. Sophomore Iyanna Bennett then sank six key points off the bench in the second quarter to spark a 17-7 run that gave Middle a 13-point lead at the half.

Middle eventually upped its advantage to 20 at 50-30 midway through the fourth quarter before OLMA ended the game on a 16-7 surge that made the final score closer.

Junior point guard Jada Elston was steady throughout, scoring 16 points. She made 5 of 6 free-throw attempts in the final period. Graham and Bennett each added 10 points and junior forward Mia Elisano chipped in seven points and 13 rebounds.

Middle suffered through COVID-19 issues early in the season, with many players in and out of the lineup, particularly over the Christmas break. Only one regular of the varsity rotation has played in every one of the team’s 12 games so far.

Leahy believes his team is getting close to full fitness.

“We went through the whole COVID stuff over the break but I feel like, knock on wood, we’re past it now and the kids are getting their cardio and their conditioning back,” he said. “I certainly feel like we’re headed in the right direction. We’re cutting down on some mistakes and the kids are settling into their roles.”

If Middle is to finish the regular season strongly, it’ll have to do it away from home. In a rather odd scheduling quirk, Saturday’s game with OLMA represented the team’s final home contest of the regular season, at least as the schedule stands now. Middle is set to play 11 straight games on the road, beginning with Monday’s CAL United contest at Hammonton.