By Jim Hintelmann
WEST LONG BRANCH – With family and friends looking on, including her high school coach, Joe Montano, Quinnipiac (Conn.) freshman Samantha Guastella, who played high school ball at Red Bank Catholic, wanted to put on a good effort in Saturday’s Northeast Conference game with Monmouth University.
Guastella, a 6-1 forward, made sure that her rooting section wouldn’t go away disappointed as she turned in one of her best efforts of the season, scoring 11 points going 5 of 8 shooting from the floor, grabbing seven rebounds and blocking six shots in helping league power Quinnipiac (17-5 and 9-2 in the NEC) to a 75-63 win. The Bobcats trail only Sacred heart, which beat Monmouth Monday.
“I wasn’t nervous,” admitted Guastella, who is averaging five points and 4.5 rebounds a game in playing a key reserve role for the Bobcats. “It was exciting and it was like being back in high school, again.
“I saw a lot of people that I haven’t seen since I was playing at RBC,” she said. “We’ve been playing very well together as a team and I was excited about that also.”
Monmouth (12-10 and 7-4 in the NEC), which had been playing solid basketball this season, never seriously threatened due to Quinnipiac’s superior size and all around talent, especially guard Felicia Barron, who scored 23 points on 10 of 19 shooting from the floor, handed out five assists, and came up with three steals.
“Quinnipiac is a very good team,” said Monmouth’s first year coach, Jenny Palmateer. “You have to bring your A game. There is no doubt about it. You can’t afford to have a lot of screw ups on the defensive end or the offensive end.
“We did out-rebound them, which was a goal of ours going into the game,” she said, “but the rest of it went out the window.”
Monmouth led just once in the game, and that was at the beginning when Alysha Womack, Monmouth’s leading scorer with 19 points, dropped in a short jumper for a 2-1 lead, but the Bobcats came back with six in a row, four by Barron for a 7-2 lead.
Monmouth got as close as 7-6 on baskets from Womack and Betsy Gadziala. But Guastella, who hit on her first three shots, scored underneath for the Bobcats.
Monmouth’s Abby Marti scored from inside the paint, but then the Bobcats quickly pulled away.
Leading just 14-12, Quinnipiac scored the next 14 points, five of them by Barron, to open up a 28-12 spread.
“We have a lot of chemistry on the court,” said Guastella. “We get along great and I love the school and the team.”
Monmouth eventually fell behind, 34-16, after baskets from Barron, Guastella and Kari Goodchild, but the Hawks did make a 14-4 run to close the gap to 38-30 by the end of the half.
The Bobcats, though, came out strong in the second half by scoring the first eight points for a 46-30 advantage, and later increasing the lead to 68-48. Monmouth never got closer than the final score.
“Playing college ball is much harder than in high school,” Guastella admitted. “In high school there are usually a few good players on each team, but everyone is the best where they came from in college. There are no weak links.”
Palmateer remains optimistic despite the loss.
“We had some early season setbacks with injuries,” she said, “but other players on the team got a chance to play some minutes and I think the team benefited from that.”