Panthers reach uncharted territory
By Colin Rajala - Staff Writer
East Windsor - posted Fri., Mar. 8, 2013
The East Windsor High School girls’ basketball team made shirts before the start of the Class S state tournament that read, "STATES: BATTLE HARD, WIN BIG." Those shirts say just about all that needs to be said about the Panthers' historic run to the Class S semi-final. The squad is only the third girls’ team in school history to make a state semi-final berth, the second basketball team and the first team since the girls’ softball team did it during the 1990s.
“It’s been great as a coach and someone who has been in the district for 15 years,” said Robert Lengyel. “Just to see the excitement come back for girls' sports has been phenomenal. To see our town respond and support us has been something our girls will certainly cherish.”
The 10th-seeded East Windsor Panthers advanced to the state semi-final after defeating the second-seeded Cheney Tech Beavers 54-50 on March 4 at East Catholic High School. East Windsor is a team that plays eight or nine girls deep, and on any given night six different players can erupt to beat you.
In the first quarter, the Panthers showed their depth and versatility, as five different players scored en route to an early 18-12 lead. Lengyel said that the team has had the tendency all season to let off the gas in the second quarter and that happened again as Cheney came back to tie the game at 26 at the half. The Beavers took a three-point lead at the end of the third quarter, 42-39.
In the fourth quarter, with the team down five with just under six minutes to play, Lengyel called a time out and challenged his team to work hard until the end and battle on each possession. The team responded, as Allison Rodrigue’s baseline runner cut the lead to three. After a defensive stop, Makinsey Carolus’ three-pointer tied the game up, causing the crowd to erupt and switch the tide of the game. East Windsor took the lead on the next possession and would not look back.
“We must have had at least 350 people there that were pro-East Windsor, and I think that our girls fed off their energy when we started to execute and make a run in the fourth quarter,” Lengyel said.