The word Artie LaGreca used to describe Jewel Tunstull’s season was “consistent.” And the Northeastern-bound center has been just that for Midwood in her first year transferring from Virginia.
But LaGreca, the Hornets coach, knew she was capable of even more and Tunstull showed a serious glimpse of that last Saturday afternoon.
Tunstull had seven straight points, including a pair of and-1s, at the start of the fourth quarter as Midwood expanded its lead against Manhattan Center. The visiting Hornets kept the Lady Rams at bay from there, winning, 51-40, in non-league girls basketball in East Harlem.
“I think I’m getting more confident now,” Tunstull said. “I think this was the best game I ever had with the team.”
Midwood (13-9) opened the second half on a 9-0 run and Tunstull had the final seven points of it, beginning with a 3-point play. By the 5:13 mark of the third quarter, the Hornets had a 34-22 lead and never let Manhattan Center (13-9) go on a prolonged run to rally. Tunstull said the key to the stretch was rebounding, but she made a few big-time post moves also, showing, as LaGreca said, that Division I skill set. She finished with 17 points.
“She was up for today,” the coach said. “I could see it in her eyes early this morning.”
Junior forward Francess Henry was ready for the game this week after LaGreca pitted the seniors against the underclassmen in an intrasquad scrimmage. He said Henry was able to play freely running the point for the underclassmen without having to worry about deferring to any of the seniors. That play carried over into Saturday. One of the top 3-point shooters in the city, Henry was more aggressive to the basket and finished with 13 points and only a single 3.
“I think that empowered Francess,” LaGreca said of the scrimmage. “She looked more relaxed on the court.”
Midwood did a fine job defensively on Manhattan Center as well. The Hornets used a triangle-and-2 in an attempt to take guard Aziza Patterson and forward Brea Castro Gambrell out of the game. Each had 10 points and the strategy worked for the most part. Castro Gambrell, defended excellently last Saturday by Beranda Felder, went off for 22 points last Monday against Bergtraum and Patterson is a future Division I guard.
“We didn’t want them to get hot,” Henry said. “If they got hot, it would have been a tough game for us.”
The Hornets have actually been one of the hottest teams in the PSAL lately. They beat South Shore last week and this victory against Manhattan Center gives them a strong shot at a top six seed in the upcoming Class AA playoffs.
“The kids are buying into the fact that this is a good time to be playing your best basketball,” LaGreca said.
Manhattan Center coach Jaywana Bradley isn’t sure where the loss puts her team. The Lady Rams had a tough week, going 0-3 against Bergtraum, John F. Kennedy and Midwood. But Bradley has other issues. Her team is down three guards right now. Reserves Sonata Mallory and Kyale Waters are out for personal reasons and Kiarah Dunlap, usually Center’s first guard off the bench, reinjured her knee in the Kennedy loss.
Waters and Dunlap could be back for the postseason, but Bradley doesn’t know for sure. Until then, Patterson and Yen Pham have to essentially play the entire game.
“It is a burden on us right now,” Bradley said.