Locals star for 29-0 Red Hawks

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Sr Taylor Jeffers         
Fr Shalette Brown
  CLASS OF 2009 & 2012
HS Coach: Art Tooles (09) & Audrey Taylor (12)
HS Team: Franklin High School
Club Team: FBC Defenders Basketball
Mar 4, 2013   |

Even in her dreamiest summertime moments, Taylor Jeffers never saw this coming. No one did.

It’s tough to predict 29-0. It’s even tougher to actually go 29-0, and that is what the Montclair State University women’s basketball team has done so far this season. Jeffers, fellow Franklin High School graduate Shalette Brown and three other players from the area have helped make it happen.

“It’s just amazing to have a season like this,” said Jeffers, a senior forward who averages 11.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. “Nobody thought we’d be able to go undefeated like this. But we have a really good group of girls this year. We’re all on the same page, especially as far as defense is concerned.”

The Red Hawks allow just 45 points per game, with opponents shooting a paltry 34 percent from the field and 24 percent from 3-point range. Montclair State averages 17 steals per game and forces a mind-boggling 28 turnovers. Just in case the other team gets a shot off, the Red Hawks own a plus-11 in rebounding margin.

On Saturday Jeffers posted 16 points and six rebounds in a 71-51 shutdown of Lebanon Valley, earning the program’s first berth in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III Tournament. Next up is Christopher Newport on Friday in Indiana.

“This has been really shocking and surprising,” said Brown, who tallied 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals against Lebanon Valley. “And tremendously fun —especially all of us being so close.”

This didn’t happen by accident. Head coach Karin Harvey recruited talent-rich Somerset, Union and Middlesex Counties and got skilled athletes who already knew each other through high school and AAU circles.

In addition to the Franklin connection of Jeffers and Brown, Harvey plucked leading scorer Melissa Tobie from Roselle Catholic, freshman guard Jordyn Stanley from Woodbridge and freshman guard Vicky Beneventine from Ridge.

Jenny Malone, who hails from North Plainfield and attended Roselle Catholic, was the starting point guard last year but got hurt in the preseason.

“That was a really big blow for us,” Jeffers said. “But that didn’t stop her from coming to practice every day and motivating us and helping us. It’s like she’s on our coaching staff.”

Stanley scored two points off the bench in Saturday’s second-round win.

“She’s doing really well,” Jeffers said. “As a freshman you can be a little scared sometimes, but she’s been able to step up and make some plays for us.”

The local connections matter. Jeffers helped recruit Brown, who is the New Jersey Athletic Conference’s Rookie of the Year.

“I’ve never come across somebody who works so hard,” Jeffers said. “Usually players that young don’t understand how much it takes — the dedication, the work ethic. She gets it.”

The whole team gets it. That’s why the players took it in stride when the NCAA sent them on the road for the first two rounds because of New Jersey’s push to legalize sports betting.

“You make the best of the situation,” Jeffers said. “We’re just happy to be having the season we’re having.”

 

Written by Jerry Carino  @njhoopshaven

Staff writer Jerry Carino: jcarino@njpressmedia.compress-
media.com

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