Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Iha Sees Big Test, Says 'Bring It On'

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Iha Sees Big Test, Says 'Bring It On'

Article excerpt

The litany of Immaculate Heart's current basketball success is eye-catching.

Start with a league title in the high-powered Big North United Division. Add in a Bergen County championship.

And, as a capper, there was Wednesday's 44-40 victory over archrival Holy Angels to successfully defend the North Non-Public A title. That gave the Blue Eagles, ranked No. 1 in The Record girls basketball Top 25, a program single season record 28 wins.

That's quite a resume for a team that leans so heavily on underclassmen and plays a tough schedule. But still, the Blue Eagles want more.

"I'm pumped," said senior guard Samantha Wilkes, who leads IHA into today's Non-Public A state title game against Red Bank Catholic at Toms River North High School's Pine Belt Arena. "I feel good about this team. I really think we can go far in this tournament."

That would be quite an accomplishment. South Jersey Non-Public teams have dominated this bracket over the years, and Red Bank Catholic (27-1), ranked No. 2 in the state girls basketball poll, falls into that mold.

"Unfortunately, they're very good," said IHA coach Steve Silver, who spent two days studying the Caseys on video. "I'm very impressed. They are a fun team to watch with a lot of interchangeable parts, and they all shoot the ball very well."

The Caseys don't have a dominant inside player, but Silver said all five starters and the first girl off the bench shoot well. That provides an interesting challenge for a team that prides itself on defense.

Look for the Blue Eagles to try to pressure the Caseys, aggressively confronting the shooters on the perimeter. The Villanova-bound Wilkes will be a key in that regard -- remember her second half performance Wednesday against Holy Angels -- but there will also be pressure on forwards such as sophomore Katia Oge and senior Mackenzie Gardner to step out of their defensive comfort zones and defend the outside shot with authority.

Silver does a masterful job rotating eight players, but IHA's depth will take a bit of a hit if senior guard Taylor Anderson (ankle) can't start. She did a nice job in limited action off the bench against Holy Angels, but she is an underrated key to this team, especially on defense. …

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