Bristol girls basketball has a tough time in tipoff tourney

BRISTOL BORO – “Oh Brother!”

To take the words of the late Philadelphia Phillies broadcaster Richie Ashburn, that’s about all you could say about the Bristol girls basketball season opener.

On their home court, the Lady Warriors were dropped cold by New Jersey rival Pennington Prep Dec. 4 in the Chic D’Angelo Memorial Coaches Versus Cancer Tipoff Tournament.

Ignited by 11 first-quarter points and 22 for the game poured into the basket by junior Annie Brunner, the Red Raiders went on to a 46-19 triumph. Pennington captured the tournament trophy the next day with a 43-35 win over Suburban One League (SOL) rival Truman, which defeated Morrisville to get to the title game. The Bulldogs then rebounded with a 51-46 triumph over the Warriors in the consolation matchup.

In the opener, little seemed to go right for Bristol. Down 22-0 after the first period, the Warriors went to the locker room trailing, 25-6.

It could have been worse. As good as the Red Raiders shot in the first quarter, Pennington couldn’t buy a basket in the second period with Brunner on the bench. When the Raiders – who were without leading scorer Carly Rice – missed their first four shots coming back from the intermission, head coach Jeff Eckerson put Brunner back in to get the Pennington offense moving again.

The move seemed to work as the Raiders, from there, scored 21 second-half points to just 13 for the Warriors.

“We had to stop them from scoring,” said Bristol senior Olivia Onal. “But that’s hard; they had girls who just towered over us.

Bristol also had trouble with substitutions, said Olivia.

“It was very hard for the underclassmen to grasp the concept of filling in and rotating; it just didn’t click with them.

“Moving forward, that will definitely be something to work on in practice.”

Along with classmates Janieree Davis-Wooten, her sister Desiree Davis-Wooten and Kate Santana, Onal says the Warrior seniors have a job to do this season.

“The underclassmen – we have to help them learn the game and improve,” said Onal. “The four seniors that are leaving, three of us have been here all four years. We are handing it off to a fresh new five and we hope to see change in their play.”

That fresh new five include junior Bendu Jackson, sophomore Kendell Lewis along with freshmen Emily Mieses, Odell Barrett and Hailey Sweeney, who started in the opener.

“We just have to work together more and progress and have confidence,” said Sweeney. “We were all nervous in the beginning of the game.”

That may be just part of the reason why Onal, Santana and Janieree will be the go-to players this season on offense.

“I’m the outlet and Jay is the girl I feed the ball to constantly,” said Onal. “Also, Kate is a very good outside shooter so it will be the three of us; we’ll just try to rotate it and hopefully get the ball to one of us.

“It will revolve around the three seniors but the freshmen will definitely be a contributing factor.”

Pennington is already getting help from its 9th-graders. Leah Johnson followed up an 8-point performance in the opener with 14 points and 20 rebounds in the ensuing win over Truman. Freshman Gianna Luchessi scored five points including a 3-pointer in the Raiders’ 22-point first quarter vs. the Warriors. Johnson had six in that period.

“It feels great,” said Brunner, who tallied 16 in the tournament title win over the Tigers. “To win our first game is a good start for us.

“We just hope to keep up the intensity and keep playing our hardest.”

Last season, Pennington finished 13-11 overall, falling to Morristown-Beard in the Prep B final. In the Mercer County Tournament, the Raiders lost 39-31 to Trenton Catholic but rebounded with a big win over Princeton.

UPDATE: Bristol had a much better showing in the consolation game against Morrisville, which won 51-46. Trailing the Bulldogs 29-28 at the half, the Warriors watched Morrisville pull away to a 44-36 edge by the end of the third quarter. Kate Santana (12) and Kendall Lewis (11) led Bristol’s offense with double digits and Davis-Wooten added nine. Sweeney also came through, scoring eight and Onal added six points to the effort.

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Pennington 46, Bristol 19

(Dec. 4 at Bristol)

Bristol             0 6 7   6 – 19

Pennington 22 3 9 12 – 46


Annie Brunner 22; Ayanna Johnson 4; Leah Johnson 8; Gianna Lucchesi 5; Tara Hessenthaler 2; Devon Bergen 3; Christine Carugati 2.


Jannieree Davis-Wooten 7; Kate Santana 7; Olivia Onal 1; Hailey Sweeney 3; Bendu Jackson 1.

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