Cape Atlantic

VIDEO: Powell, Middle pull away in 4Q to reach South Jersey title game

Posted: February 28th 2024

Middle coach John Leahy talks to a his team during a timeout in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's game against Manchester Township.


CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – Every few years, it seems a young player in the Middle Township High School girls basketball program erupts onto the scene late in the season.

Reagen Powell is the latest.

Powell, a sophomore forward, recorded 19 of her career-high 27 points in the second half to help Middle Township pull away from Manchester Township, 61-51, in a South Jersey Group II semifinal game Wednesday evening.

It was the second straight strong performance by Powell, who netted a team-high 13 points in the team’s overtime win over Haddon Heights earlier this week.

Middle, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, will travel to top-seeded Cinnaminson on Friday in a rematch of last year’s sectional title game. Middle beat the Pirates, 57-48, in that contest to win the South Jersey championship for the first time since 2011.

Cinnaminson topped Haddonfield, 38-28, in the other semifinal Wednesday.

“I know they’ll have a huge crowd and it’ll be a very tough game,” Middle coach John Leahy said. “I think our league, and the schedule we play, prepares us for games like this, whether they’re home or away. I feel like our kids are super battle tested. We’ll go up there and give it everything we’ve got.”

Against Manchester, Middle led, 51-48, with five minutes to go after Manchester star Devyn Quigley scored her only points of the fourth quarter on a difficult running jump shot. Middle went on to dominate the remainder of the game, scoring the next 10 points while holding Manchester scoreless until a meaningless three-pointer with seven seconds to play.

Powell started Middle’s late-game run with a layup off a slick pass from Abbey Cappelletti. From there, Middle went on to make 8 of 10 free throws in the final three minutes.

“The way we finished the game was fantastic,” Leahy said. “We were really solid with the ball and we made our foul shots. I’m super proud of the kids.

“I felt like when we got up three possessions, we were in a good spot. There was no need to rush. We were able to really settle in and close it out.”

Powell accounted for 12 of Middle’s 18 points in the fourth quarter. She sank two three-pointers, two layups and two free throws. Powell was 10 for 10 from the foul line for the game. She added seven rebounds.

Powell is averaging 8.4 points and 5.8 rebounds for the season. Over the last 10 games, however, she’s scoring at a 12.0 average, reaching double figures in eight of those contests.

“It’s a testament to how hard she’s worked,” Leahy said. “She’s been working on her game, working on her body, working on her shot and it’s shown. How you play during the season is a reflection of what you do the previous nine months. This is a kid that’s improved and improved and has continued to grow.”

Middle limited Quigley, a North Carolina State signee, to 14 points, tied for her season low for a game. She entered the contest averaging 33 points per game for the season.

Middle double teamed Quigley throughout, with McKenzie Palek and Abbey Cappelletti guarding her together for the entire 32 minutes.

“She’s a tremendous player, one of the best in the history of New Jersey, and the (Madeline) Nolan girl has had some monster games for them, too,” Leahy said. “We wanted to make their other players make plays and to their credit they did for a while. But we stuck with our strategy and the kids continued to believe.”

Hannah Cappelletti added 10 points for Middle, three of which came on a 25-foot shot just before the halftime buzzer. Palek added nine points and nine rebounds.

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