Middle Township's (23) Lauryn Fields, left and (22) Kristina Startare, right battle for the ball against Point Pleasant Borough's (30) Kerry Malleck , middle during the State Group II girls basketball semifinals basketball game at Deptford Township High School Wednesday, March 7, 2012.

Edward Lea

A quick look at the roster of the Middle Township High School girls basketball team shows who one of the Panthers' leaders will be.

Olivia Schwartz, a 5-foot-10 forward, is the team's only senior.

"She's embraced the (leadership) role," said coach John Leahy. "It's an odd situation. We've never had a year where we've only had one senior. I know the team will lean on her."

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In addition to Schwartz, the Panthers return other key players from last season's team which won the South Jersey Group II championship.

Juniors Lauryn Fields and Lauren Legler also return. Fields, a 5-5 guard, averaged 13.1 points last season.

Legler, a 5-9 swing player, made nearly 40 percent of her 3-point attempts.

These Panthers will play with a slightly different style than in the past. Middle has been a physical defensive team the past few seasons. The Panthers will continue to emphasize defense, but this team should be able to produce more points than previous seasons.

"We're pretty good on the perimeter," Leahy said. "We're going to have to be better offensively than in years' past. I don't think we're going to be as physical as we've been on the defensive end, so we're going to have to make up for it by being better on the defensive end."

Leahy said the key to Middle's success will be how well the Panthers rebound.

"That's priority number one," he said. "We're not as big as we've been in the past. If we hold our own on the boards, everything else will take care of itself."

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League: Cape-Atlantic League National

Coach: John Leahy (141-75, eight seasons)

Last season's record: 24-6

2012-13 prediction: Contenders. Three-point shooters Lauryn Fields, Olivia Schwartz and Lauren Legler will provide the Panthers with plenty of offense.

Key players: Julianna Riggitano, Jr., 5-6, G; Lauryn Fields, Jr., 5-5, G; Darby Crowding, Jr., 5-8, F: Olivia Salvo, Jr., 5-8, F; Olivia Schwartz, Sr., 5-10, F; Lauren Legler, Jr., 5-9, G/F; Holly McKaig, Jr., 5-11, F; Danielle McCann, Jr., 5-6, G; Erin Ruskey, Jr., 5-8, F.


Dec. 14:at Bridgeton, 5:30

Dec. 15: vs. Willingboro at Ocean City, 7

Dec. 20: vs. Lower Cape May Regional, 7

Dec. 26: Tournament game at Wildwoods Convention Center, TBA

Jan. 3: vs. Atlantic City, 7

Jan. 5: TBA at Secaucus

Jan. 8: at Ocean City, 7

Jan. 11: vs. Hammonton, 7

Jan. 12: at Camden Catholic, 7

Jan. 15: vs. Oakcrest, 7

Jan. 18: at Egg Harbor Township, 7

Jan. 19: vs. Lenape, 1

Jan. 22: vs. Bridgeton, 7

Jan. 25: vs. Our Lady of Mercy Academy, 7

Jan. 29: at Lower Cape May Regional, 7

Feb. 2: at Our Lady of Mercy Academy, 2:30

Feb. 3: vs. Hammonton at South Jersey Shootout, 1:30

Feb. 5: vs. Ocean City, 7

Feb. 7: at Hammonton, 7

Feb. 9: vs. Mainland Regional at South Jersey Shootout, 7

Feb. 12: at Oakcrest, 7



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