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Mar 14, 2023

Middletown South Basketball Goes on 13-Game Winning Streak

By Tim Morris

Back in December, no one was giving the Middletown High School South boys’ basketball team a second thought. After all, the Eagles were 0-4. Who then would have thought that two months later, the Eagles would go on a 13-game winning streak, be division (B Central) champions and carry high seedings into the postseason tournaments? Eagle Head Coach Jimmy Cranwell, for one, and his team.

“I knew we had the pieces,” said Cranwell. “We played good teams on the road [during the winless start]. During that stretch, we kept it together. We had great senior leadership. They kept everyone level-headed and mentally tough.”

While the Eagles did have three starters returning from last winter, they had a lot of newcomers who had to find their roles and football players who had an extended season because of the state playoffs.

“It took time to figure it out and find cohesiveness,” Cranwell explained. “It was a confidence thing, trusting each other and playing it one game at a time. They work hard every day and are focused.”

Pat Brown and Dylan Csik, two of the three returning starters who helped provide the senior leadership that helped carry the team through its tough start, and junior Owen Richter were starters last year when the Eagles went 10-15. Cranwell noted that he saw potential then, adding that South did score wins over quality teams. The trio has been the cornerstones of the 2022-23 Eagles, providing steady production. Brown is leading the team in scoring and rebounds averaging 14 points and seven caroms a game as well a team-high two three pointers a contest. Csik, a fellow guard, is averaging just under 14 points a contest and a team-high 5.6 assists a game. Richter, before a shoulder injury sidelined him, was averaging 10 ppg.

Junior Will Nugent has been a rebounding and defensive force in the paint and has given South an inside presence to help balance the offense.

Brady Hahn (Jr.), Matt Silva (Sr.), Alex Lescavage (Sr.) and Ryan Denery (Jr.) are all part of South’s deep rotation.

The three-point shot, like so many high school teams, is a big part of the Eagles’ arsenal. Nine players have connected on the trey this year, and the team is averaging more than six a game.

“We’re pretty balanced,” said Cranwell of South’s offense. “We take the best shot available, and we make the extra pass.”

The Eagles’ have relied on an aggressive defense that has been holding teams to less than 60 points a game during their win streak.

“We get after everyone,” said Cranwell. “We play with pace and keep teams off balance.”

Cranwell added that the Eagles prefer to have teams adjust to them rather than the other way around. Having depth allows him to be flexible with his lineups.

During their winning streak, the difference for South has been winning the close games that got away in December. Cranwell attributed that to three things: competing on defense, sharing the ball on offense and, on any given night, having someone different stepping up. The Eagles will be looking to carry that formula over to the postseason Shore Conference and NJSIAA state sectional tournaments.