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Vikings Girls Basketball: A Triumphant Start to a New Era

By Saesha Bhat ('24 Co-Editor-in-Chief)

After nine seasons full of numerous achievements and records broken under former coach, Mr. Jeffrey Johnson, the Viking Girls Basketball Team started their 2023-2024 season with a brand new Head Coach, Mr. Ryan Murphy. No one fully understood how the team would play out with Murphy’s arrival, but with the season over after three long months, it is safe to say that the team has nothing to worry about in the future. 

After leaving his job of eight years, Mr. Murphy was looking for a new opportunity, and the Lady Vikings, who are one of the more accomplished teams in SBHS, posed as a great chance to achieve something amazing. He has been a teacher since 2015, now an English teacher at North Brunswick High School, and was constantly surrounded by sports his entire life, whether it was as a team player or as a coach. He spent some time coaching the Woodbridge Middle School Lady Warriors and the John F. Kennedy Girls Varsity Team before ultimately landing in South Brunswick, where he described he had an “outstanding” season.

“Obviously our win-loss record wasn't as great as recent years, but the growth from the beginning of the season to the end was tremendous. We played a very difficult schedule and tested ourselves every day. We had a few crazy buzzer-beaters, an awesome Senior Night game, and nearly went to the Sectional Finals. This season was definitely successful,” he said.

Apart from the numerous achievements Murphy was grateful for– defeating Colonia, defeating Monroe twice, and having two game-winning buzzer-beaters– he took note of the more intimate moments that made the team even more enjoyable such as the daily practices, the friendship between the teammates, the long bus rides, and of course, the pregame bagels. He also understood that even the losses, especially the one against Middlesex in the GMC quarterfinals, as frustrating as they are, are necessary to learn and move forward as a team. 

As for the future, Coach Murphy is determined to continue the Lady Viking’s legacy by encouraging more prospective players and advancing higher than this season could reach, possibly even earning them a photo on the wall. 

“For the program as a whole, a goal of mine is to establish a yearly summer camp for the younger players in South Brunswick, Kendall Park, and Monmouth Junction to build stronger connections with our youth programs. For the returning players, I really want to get back to the GMC Quarterfinals and avenge this year's loss. I'd like to get back to the Sectional Semifinals and advance to the Finals. We have so much talent in this school and so much support in the community, and I'd like to see us succeed at an even higher level,” he said. 

Team achievements were not the end of this wonderful season for many players had personal accomplishments that ended their high school careers on a high note. Senior and Co-Captain Meher Vig reached one of the most coveted achievements for a high school basketball player: 1,000 high school career points. She was bestowed this honor at the team’s second Monroe game where balloons, banners, and photographers crowded the room to celebrate her personal win. 

“Reaching 1,000 career points this season has been an incredible journey that started from the day I stepped on the basketball court. It’s a dream I’ve had since I was a little girl, and I’m extremely fortunate to have amazing teammates, coaches, and parents who’ve supported me to make this possible,” Vig said.

Apart from this, Meher had other celebrated achievements such as first in all-time steals, second in all-time games, fourth in all-time points in girls’ basketball, being named to the GMC All-Red Division team, and being selected to the overall All-GMC team. 

Senior and Co-Captain Leilani Pinder also joins Vig with numerous personal achievements as she joined the 500 career rebounds club at the game against Woodbridge, finishing fifth in all-time rebounds. Some other personal achievements include first in all-time assists, second in all-time steals, being named to the GMC All-Red Division team, and a buzzer-beater that won them the game against Hopewell Valley. Recently, Pinder committed to William Paterson University to continue her basketball career and become an even more accomplished athlete who makes SBHS proud.

With four seniors leaving the team this season– Saesha Bhat, Trisha Reddy, Leilani Pinder, Meher Vig– other younger star players are given a chance to follow in their footsteps. Junior Alexis Lease-Springer, who has been a varsity player since freshman year, can make her junior year one for the books. She ends the season with 754 points and averages nine points per game, allowing her the possibility of joining the 1,000 career points club in her senior year. She also was named Second Team All-Red Division. Although injured at the end of the 2022-2023 season, she made herself a promising team player this season through her killer defense and “clutch” threes. 

Lease-Springer said, ”I am feeling very thrilled going into my senior year of basketball because I will be back even better now from my injury that happened a year ago. I know what I will do or accomplish for next season and hope to achieve most of my goals. I am hoping to accomplish getting my 1000 [career points] and winning a state championship with my team or GMC finals too.”

Although moving forward without major players on the team, there is no doubt that the Lady Vikings will be able to achieve just as great accolades. With a fresh coach dedicated to making the program better and a team with prospective star players, the team’s future looks very optimistic. 

Congratulations to the team’s exceptional 2023-2024 season!

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Congratulations on a very successful season!

So many great memories!

Seniors: You represented us well! You will be missed!

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