Add Region XIX title, national championships are next BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer BY TIM MORRISStaff Writer Brookdale Community College’s women have captured the Garden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) championships before, three times to be exact. But the 2006-07 title will hold a special place for coaches Joanne Cobb and Marianne Campacci. First, the Blues were coming off an injury-jinxed 2005-06 season in which just getting five healthy players on the court was a victory in itself. Add the misfortunes of the previous season to the overall competitiveness in the GSAC this winter, and you have a special championship. “The league this year was very tight,” said Cobb. “That made it [championships] very enjoyable. Anyone could beat anyone on any given night. “This was special,” she added. “This is possibly the most talented, friendly, upbeat team we’ve ever had.” They will be taking the talent and camaraderie all the way to the junior college national championships, thanks to their win last weekend at the Region XIX Tournament at the County College of Morris. The Blues beat Bergen 77-67, to earn their second trip to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) tourney. It all gets under way on March 15 and runs through the 18th at SUNY in Delhi, N.Y. The Jersey Blues, 18-8 overall, were 12-2 in the GSAC and won the regular season via a tiebreaker over Gloucester, which also went 12-2. But the Blues swept the season series 2-0, thereby winning the championship. Injuries did pop up very early in the season when BCC lost starting point guard Tiara Gaines. It could have been a big problem for a team that was looking to run at every opportunity and would need a point. But Katie Miller and Kwiatkowski filled in more than admirably. Without their contributions, the Blues would not have been able to win the conference title. “They went from shooting guard to the point, which says something about them,” said Cobb. “I would say we exceeded expectations without a point guard.” What stood out the most about the BCC women this winter was the team’s flexibility and depth. Cobb and Campacci could go big or small with the lineup depending on what matchup was best, and, they could go deep on the bench. A typical game saw the Blues going 10-12, which allowed them to keep fresh legs on the court and press teams for the entire game. “We had so many versatile players,” noted Cobb, adding that during the regular season, the Blues’ scoring balance produced an average of 70 points a game, despite not having a single player scoring more than 12 points a contest. Fabrizio (Brick Township) just edged Keishia Taylor (Point Pleasant) for the scoring leadership with an 11.565 average to Taylor’s 11.500. Jamie Biddle (Howell) was the third BCC player in double-figures, averaging 10.750 a game. Brie Kwiatkowski (Marlboro via Monsignor Donovan) and Lisa James (Manchester) made significant contributions, averaging 8.417 and 7.625 respectively. The 5-11 Fabrizio gave the Blues a double-double each night, averaging a team-high 10.348 rebounds a game. Biddle, who is also 5-11, pulled down 5.250 caroms a game. Kwiatkowski was the team’s play-maker, with 106 assists during the season (4.417 apg). Defensively, Brookdale held teams to an average of just 56 points a game. The team’s full-court pressure defense came up with 280 steals, with Fabrizio (54) and Taylor (50) the top thieves. Easy to forget in Brookdale’s success was just how young the team is. There are only four sophomores on the team. Despite the overall record and GSAC title, the Blues did play like a young team. “We did make some really big freshman mistakes,” said Cobb. That the Blues could overcome the mistakes speaks volumes for their talent. They also grew out of those mistakes as the season progressed. They will begin next year as the team to beat. But 2006-07 still has another chapter to be written, the upcoming NJCAA tournament. The Blues beat Middlesex, 76-65, Saturday in their semifinal and then topped Bergen, 77-67, in Sunday’s final to capture their second region title in the last three years. Biddle was the MVP of the tournament after scoring 22 points, pulling down 12 rebounds and blocking six shots against Bergen. The former Rebel sparked a second-half comeback with her three-point shooting. Brookdale was 0-12 from behind the arc in the first half Sunday and trailed Bergen by six, 32-26. But as cold as the Blues were in the first 20 minutes, they were just as hot in the second half, connecting on seven of their nine shots. Bergen led from the start to the 10:00 mark of the second half when a Hoffman free throw put the Blues up 53-52. On Bergen’s next possession, Brookdale came up with a steal and Taylor hit a three. Biddle then hit two straight threes and the Blues were off and running with the 10-0 run. Taylor also scored 22 for the new region champions. James added 13 and Fabrizio had 10 rebounds, nine in the second half.