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The Pulse: Absegami girls basketball

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By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Publisher Now is the time of year when varsity basketball coaches have to flip that switch, get their team into playoff mode. Not as easy as it might seem. That is the challenge for Absegami girls coach Meghan Tracey, as the Braves close out the regular-season schedule soon and prepare for a first-round South Jersey Group IV playoff matchup with No. 4-seeded Cherokee. Tracey said the big key for Absegami, seeded 11th in the playoffs, is playing consistently for four quarters. The Braves have played well at times, but also have gone through stretches of sloppy play. They can’t afford that in the postseason. “We are trying to work on executing consistently. We have Millville (on Tuesday), and next week we will have two (C.A.L. playoff) consolation games, which will be big for us getting ready for playoffs,” Tracey said. “We have moments where we look the way we should and then we have moments where we are inconsistent. All of our players need to put four quarters together. When we play like that, we obviously are more successful.” Eva Sodaitis has been the leading scorer for the Braves, and also a quality defender in the post. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O'Sullivan) Barbara Gedeon has been one of many key contributors who have helped lead the Braves to a berth in the state playoffs. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O’Sullivan) Absegami (13-7, 5-6) has won two straight and is fifth in the tough Cape-Atlantic League American Conference, which features teams such as Holy Spirit, Atlantic City, Millville and Mainland. The Braves have relied on their strong defense, and most of their wins have come in low-scoring affairs. Without a real dominant scoring threat, coach Tracey knows her team has to defend well and make each possession count. “Our biggest challenge is definitely consistent scoring. I am usually happy with where our defense is,” Tracey said. “We hold teams to low scores for the most part. I know that we have to do that to have a chance to win games because of our inconsistent scoring. But we are getting better, the girls work hard every day.” The defense starts with Eva Sodaitis and Arielle Schafer on the low blocks, and Tracey said that the Braves have gotten a huge lift from Sara Pietropola, a sophomore who has emerged as a lockdown defender on the perimeter. Freshman Julia Dolan has been a key contributor for Absegami, giving coach Meghan Tracey a spark off the bench. Freshman Julia Dolan has been a key contributor for Absegami, giving coach Meghan Tracey a spark off the bench. “She has been our defensive stopper. Without her amazing defense, we would have a very hard time winning. She doesn’t always score as much as the other girls because she’s going crazy on defense for us,” Tracey said. “But she has been our rock. She comes to play every day and she’s very consistent. She plays at a much higher level than most sophomores. “I say ‘Sara, can you guard (a certain opposing player)?’ And the response has always been ‘YES’ without any hesitation or second guessing herself.” Julia Dolan, a freshman, also has provided a spark off the bench for the Braves, and Mary Riggs and Brielle Clarke have played well at the guard positions. Coach Tracey said that with the grind of the regular season taking its toll, she is trying to liven things up a little bit in practice and take some of the edge and pressure off. “We will be having a fun practice this week where we have Basketball Olympics and we play their favorite game, ‘Star Wars,'” Tracey said. “It’s pin bombardment with a twist. It’s like dodge ball, it’s so much fun. At the same time it teaches them teamwork and they really get after each other.” Still, the focus of the next two weeks will be preparing for Cherokee. It will be a tough challenge for the Braves to go on the road and beat a quality team, knowing that a loss ends the season. “It’s definitely a different mentality. We will be preaching to the girls to have no regrets when they walk off the court that day,” Tracey said. “I am trying to get them to play like that right now.” Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays [adsense]

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Video of the day

VIDEO OF THE DAY

Here's part of the Absegami band's performance during the Braves' annual Thanksgiving Day game again…