EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The Mainland Regional High girls basketball team is starting to make the regular season look like a bunch of scrimmages leading up to the postseason. The Stangs are beginning to run out of competition in the Cape-Atlantic League.
Egg Harbor Township came into Monday’s Bunting Family Pharmacy Game of the Week sporting a 13-1 record, and the Eagles were just a game behind Our Lady of Mercy Academy for first place in the CAL National Conference.
But Mainland cruised to a 61-32 victory as seniors Kasey Bretones (22 points) and Bella Mazur (15 points) outscored the Eagles all by themselves. The Mustangs also were able to keep EHT’s two big stars — Ava Kraybill and Averie Harding — in check, as the pair combined for 11 points. A big key defensively was Mainland putting Bretones on Harding, a 6-foot-2 center. Bretones, nearly 6-feet herself as a point guard, has drawn tough defensive assignments her entire career.
“I couldn’t have done it without all my teammates, especially Sydney (Stokes), knowing that if Averie would make a move, I had Sydney in help. It was a complete team effort (on defense),” said Bretones, a University of Massachusetts recruit. “We knew they were relying on outside shots so we just had to get out on them on the perimeter and defend those shots. We just kept playing our game and doing what we do.”
“We knew this was a huge game for the CAL. We knew boxing out was going to be key because they have (Harding), and Kasey and Sydney did a great job guarding her,” Mazur added. “The biggest key was fronting her. We always have each other’s back, so we knew there was help.”
Mainland (15-0, 7-0 CAL American) raced out to a 16-0 lead to start the game as everything was working for the Stangs. A driving layup from Bretones made it 8-0 and a 3-pointer from Mazur pushed the lead to 11-0 and forced EHT to call a timeout. But following the respite, Bretones scored on another drive to the basket, then hit a 3-pointer.
The Eagles (13-2, 6-1 CAL National) finally broke the drought with a long-range shot from Kraybill, and that started a 12-2 run that got them to within 18-12. Kraybill banked in a long 3-pointer at the buzzer of the first quarter to cut the deficit to 18-10, and sophomore Skyler Wood hit a jumper to get EHT to within six points.
But all that work went for naught, as Mainland blitzed the Eagles with a 14-2 run to close the first half with a commanding 32-14 lead. The difference during that stretch was Mainland’s ability to shut down EHT’s outside shooting while getting easy looks at the basket on the offensive end.
“We knew we had to get out and defend everyone, we weren’t going to take anyone lightly. Even if they didn’t make shots in their last game we knew they were capable of knocking down shots against us,” Mazur said. “Coach (Scott Betson) always puts that in our head — anytime we force a shot, he always let’s us know we can get a better shot if we run through the offense a couple of times. We should definitely listen to him more when he tells us that.”
Stokes and Ava Mazur, Bella’s twin sister, each scored six points while Ava Sheeran and Jade O’Neil combined for six more for Mainland. Katie Keenan led EHT with 10 points, including two of the team’s five 3-pointers.
Mainland now turns its attention to Holy Spirit on Wednesday night, and the Stangs have a couple of tough nonconference games left on the schedule, including Ocean Township on Thursday and a battle with perennial state power St. John Vianney on Feb. 3.
“We’re just working on togetherness — working together, making the right reads and not playing selfish basketball,” Bretones said.
“Just staying poised and playing together is one of our biggest things this year, and it’s been going well for us,” Bella Mazur added. “We just have to play as a team. We have Reilly Naigle, who is a freshman and is giving us really good minutes, and I’m confident in all my teammates. Even if one of us picks up a few fouls, we can fight through that.”
WHAT’S NEXT: Mainland hosts Holy Spirit on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. EHT hosts Millville on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.
Sully, as he’s known throughout South Jersey, began his newspaper career in 1995 and has worked for some of New Jersey’s top papers, including The Asbury Park Press and Press of Atlantic City, as a writer and editor. He’s earned several New Jersey Press Association awards and continues to produce high quality reporting, writing and photography.
A native of Ocean County, Sully played high school baseball at Lacey Township High and college baseball at Pfeiffer University in North Carolina. After a successful 15-year career in the newspaper business, Sully launched Glory Days Magazine in 2013 and for nearly a decade has been bringing fans outstanding and insightful coverage of high school sports throughout South Jersey.