North Brunswick Township HS Athletics


A look into the past, present, and future of the Girls Basketball team


Athletics | 2/12/2022


Consistency is something that every team strives for. No matter what level you play at, you want to keep winning no matter what. It’s one of the hardest things to maintain at a school sports level with the constant shuffling of the deck chairs and core pieces every year. Yet through all of the change and roster overhaul, the Raiders Girls Basketball team has been a pinnacle of consistency that has kept them in championship discussions for the past half-decade.

It’s well known that coaching can make or break a team and can determine how far a team goes or doesn’t go in their season. When Coach Mark Zielinski took over in the 2017-18 season, the team was in the midst of a 4-year streak of losing seasons. The culture change was apparent as they qualified for both the GMC playoffs and the NJSIAA tournament. Since being appointed as head coach, it’s been a 5-year streak of winning seasons for the Raiders. “It all leads back to the culture and players buying into the system we have in place. We’ve been very fortunate to have around 3-5 exceptional senior leaders every year and every year I've been in charge, they’ve always been quick and eager to provide our underclassmen with guidance and motivation,” Zielinski said.

That success has a blueprint though that’s always put in motion from the very beginning of the entire process of the season. It’s gotten him and the Raiders that impressive streak and he attributes it to several key factors. “Our assistant coaches do an amazing job of developing our young talent and helping them prepare for the challenges that Varsity can bring upon a player. We preach hard work throughout the entire year and the offseason work is another huge part of why we’ve been so successful,” Zielinski said.

That culture plays into the current team as well though as every player has a role and a purpose. While there are the frontline stars like Niyell McCargo and Anne Marie Quagliata who put up points in bunches, Zielinski emphasized the importance of those who may not get regular news appearances. He praised players like Megan Farrell for her “3-and-D versatility,” both Kelly and Katie DeGaetano for their “exceptional perimeter defense and emerging offensive game,” Tiana Cipot’s “excellent transition defense and speed on defense,” Mackenzy Grant’s “interior defensive skill,” and the emergence of Ava Gianni as a “strong leader and defensive presence.” As he puts it, “Every player has a role to play in the system and when it’s all clicking, I truly believe that we can beat anyone.”

It’s those frontline stars however that enable the team to shine in the way that they have this season. Niyell McCargo turned in another strong season this year averaging a strong 18.5/6.5/1.6 game average. But the stats, accolades, and records mean little now as the playoffs begin. “All we can do is go into the playoffs with a great mindset and work ethic and try to encourage everyone else to do the same,” McCargo said. “We’re a confident group with a lot of experience and chemistry and it makes a strong team and tough matchup for anyone.”

The other half of the dynamic duo that’s packed the scoring punch to lead the Raiders to the spot they’re in is Anne Marie Quagliatia who has further cemented her role as a strong #2 option behind McCargo. The second-leading scorer turned in a strong 13/2/1 season in her Junior season. Quagliatia said, “I feel like what the other captains and I are trying to give off is sinking in and the chemistry we play with is a big reason why I’m able to get these opportunities to score. It’s that bond we have as a team that makes us a complete unit and a team ready to make a push.”

So where does everything stand for the Raiders leading into the GMC’s? The 9th seeded Raiders open up against 25th seeded Dunellen (4-15) at home on Monday, February 14th at 5:30 pm. A win there would put the Raiders in a match at 8th seeded Woodbridge (13-6). Then after that, everything becomes a toss up. It’s shaping up to be an incredible tournament, one that the Raiders carry expectations, experience, and potential to bring home a title.