Jackie Ventricelli is not even a basketball player. Soccer is her sport.
In the fall, Ventricelli led the Sayreville War Memorial High School girls’ soccer team in goals when she connected 17 times.
Girls’ basketball is her second sport.
It helps helps her footwork and conditioning for the beautiful game. She also happens to be pretty good at it.
The junior’s consistent scoring, 15.6 points per game, and playmaking defense, 5.1 steals per contest, have lifted Sayreville to a 9-5 record this winter. The Bombers are 6-1 in their last seven games, winning all six games by double digits.
Like a soccer player, Ventricelli’s energy galvanizes the Bombers.
“Coming in, having that athletic ability, it translates to basketball really well. She reads the court so well. We play a zone and she can read the weak side before the offense,” said Sayreville coach Janet Cook. “She gets steals where our kids are like, ‘I didn’t even see her coming.'”
Like a basketball player, Ventricelli can score in multiple ways. She has made 38 free throws, 38 field goals and 35 three pointers.
The junior is a natural shooter. But she is also constantly tweaking.
“She listens, corrects things and wants to be effective at it,” Cook said. “It’s her focusing in practice on her form and being ready to shoot when teammates pass to her. Now she’s starting to catch and look for her shot.”
The Sayreville girls’ soccer team was often too dependent on Ventricelli to score. No other player delivered more than 10 goals last fall.
The Sayreville girls’ basketball squad does not have that problem. On the court, Ventricelli is surrounded by capable scorers.
Lyssandra Delacosta (9.6 points per game), Serina Townes (9.3), Stephanie Van Note (9.3) and Brooke Holland (8.2) are all scoring more than eight points per contest. None of them can shoot like Ventricelli. But they complement her by getting to the basket, drawing fouls and kicking the ball out for open treys.
“Them all being able to score has opened things up for Jackie a lot more,” Cook said.
Every player knows her role, too.
Delacosta handles the ball and creates offense. Townes cleans the glass on offense and defense. Holland rebounds and finishes around the basket. Van Note “is great at attacking and finishing,” Cook said.
The Bombers are also about to get even deeper. Janeva Holland, Brooke’s sister, came back from an injury last week. Cook thinks Janeva can also score double digit points in any game.
“We can all score and we all feed off each other,” Delacosta said.
“Everyone on the court wants to win,” Ventricelli added. “We have good chemistry from last year. We know how we all play. That’s an edge over other teams.”
Sayreville is good. But it may have a tough time winning the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament.
The Bombers will probably have to beat GMC White Division rivals Bishop George Ahr High School (11-2 record) and Edison High School (10-4) at some point in the tournament. They are 0-3 against those teams this year.
But Sayreville can definitely make a run in the Central Jersey, Group 4 state sectional tournament.
“I think we can,” Cook said. “If we shoot well, we can play with anybody.”
“We all love being together and we want to go far in the postseason,” Delacosta added.