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Freshmen honed skills with JB Hoops

When they played together in the spring and summer, the members of the JB Hoops-Rose AAU girls basketball team could be counted to do what it takes to help their team, according to their coach.

Now that they are playing for their separate high school teams for the first time as freshman, those traits continue to show through.

“These girls are team-first,” coach Gerry Rose said. “They’re not greedy. They want to be a good team. I think that’s what makes this group a special group.

“As we all know it’s, tougher to guard five people than one person.”

Although they are just a month into their careers, the players are making an early impact at the high school level.

At Riverside, Kayla Rose and Emily Taylor have started every game and Alese Karpinski, who practiced with the team at times, but missed the AAU games because of injury issues, is already the second player off the bench.

Even with the young lineup, Riverside managed to go 4-4 in its preparation for the start of Lackawanna League play this week.

“We came in obviously as a rebuilding year, but we seem to be a little bit ahead of schedule,” Riverside coach Jack Mekilo said. “I attribute that, number one to commitment. We have a great commitment from this group, whether it’s in the weight room or playing basketball in the summer.

“And, they all like basketball and they all like each other.”

Rose, Taylor and Karpinski have been a big part of it. With Rose at center and Taylor and Karpinski joining sophomore Maria Laboy as the forwards the team uses, the Lady Vikes are making progress with a young frontcourt.

It did not take long for Rose and Taylor to show they could be factors on the high school level.

Rose scored 20 points and Taylor 13 in their varsity debut, a 53-51 loss to North Pocono, a Class 5A school and the defending Lackawanna League Division 2 champion.

Scoring in double figures in half the team’s games, Rose is the second-leading scorer with an average of 11.5

“I sort of feel like how the Knicks felt when they won the lottery with Patrick Ewing,” Mekilo said. “Kayla has come in and given us a back-to-basket, low-post scorer that we can just dump the ball into. We can throw the ball into the low post and get points off of it, that doesn’t happen all the time in high school girls basketball, and when it does it’s a great starting point for us.”

Mekilo has similar praise for Taylor, who is averaging 7.5 points per game.

“Emily is a throwback player,” he said. “You would never tell she’s a freshman, just by the way we handle her. We throw a lot of things at her and she handles every one of them. She’s in the middle of everything for us. She takes the ball out (against) the press. She, a lot of times, guards the other team’s best player.

“She’s very versatile. She’s one of those players who fills up the stat sheet.”

As the JB Hoops-Rose AAU team, the girls had a successful 2017 season, winning multiple tournament championships together.

Gerry Rose has been able to see most of his players in action already in the high school season and he likes what he has seen.

“They’re being allowed to use what they’re good at,” Rose said. “I think coaches are putting them in the right positions where they can do something that’s good for the team.”

Two other players on the team are established starters.

Rachael Rose is running the offense as point guard and is the leading scorer at Scranton Prep, which won its first five games. With Rose at the controls, the Classics are 6-2 with their only losses coming to defending District 2 champions Holy Redeemer and Abington Heights.

Clair Marion is starting on the wing for Abington Heights, which is 5-4 against a demanding early schedule.

Cecilia Collins is also making an impact at Scranton Prep where she is the team’s top 3-point shooter and third-leading scorer, bringing offense off the bench.

Maggie Mills is a third JB Hoops-Rose player on the Classics roster.

Anna Talutto is the top scorer off the bench for unbeaten Dunmore, the defending Lackawanna League Division 3 champion. She is playing primarily as an off guard, but also fills in at the point when needed.

Carena Colo, a wing player at North Pocono, and Lauren Casey, a post player at Nanticoke, are regular parts of the rotation at two more defending champions. Nanticoke has not lost since Opening Night.

Forward/center Skylar Bianchi is seeing regular action off the bench at Valley View (6-3).

Olivia Cuillo is the team’s third-leading scorer while playing on the wing for Old Forge.

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