Lauryn Fields likes to think she's 5-foot-4.
That might be stretching it.
But no matter how tall she is, there's no denying the impact the Middle Township High School senior had on Cape-Atlantic League girls basketball this season.
The point guard averaged 18.7 points and led the Panthers to the CAL championship and the South Jersey Group II final. She is The Press Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
"It's all about heart," Fields said. "I've been the littlest one on the court since I picked up a basketball. You have to have the will power and heart to go against an opponent who's bigger than you and not back down. I've never backed down from a challenge."
Fields finished her career with 1,692 points - the most of any girl to ever play at Middle Township. Fields spent her freshman season at Cape May Tech.
"I'm so happy I found my way back to Middle Township," Fields said. "We're like a family. We trust each other so much. You have to believe in one another to win games."
Fields was at her best in the CAL tournament final. Middle trailed Wildwood Catholic by 12 points in the third quarter. But Fields scored 14 of her 20 points in the second half to rally the Panthers to a 42-39 win. She sank long-range 3-pointers and acrobatic floaters in the lane. The CAL title was Middle's first since 1996.
"Carrying my team to victory was a great feeling," Fields said.
Middle finished 24-6 despite playing January and most of February without senior standout Lauren Legler, who fractured her ankle. The injury put even more offensive pressure on Fields and the rest of the Panthers.
"We expected a lot of Lauryn coming into the year," Middle coach John Leahy said. "But when Legler got hurt even more fell on her. Teams threw a lot of junk defenses at us. I thought (Fields) did a great job of handling herself."
Fields handled one of the most difficult roles in all of basketball - a point guard who is counted on for scoring. Fields penetrated opposing defenses to create shots for herself and teammates en route to leading the team in points.
"I thought she did a great job of making her teammates better," Leahy said. "What Lauryn has learned is how to get her points and keep her teammates involved. She was a our leading scorer, but she really didn't take a whole lot of shots."
Fields is considering several colleges, including Western Michigan, NJIT, High Point University in North Carolina and Maryland-Eastern Shore.
"I want to go to a school where I can make an impact as a freshman," she said.
Just the same as she did this season for the Panthers.
Team of the Year
Cedar Creek began the season with modest expectations. After all, standout Kristine Miller had graduated and moved on to Fairfield University in Connecticut.
But the Pirates showed that they have quickly become one of South Jersey's top programs. The Egg Harbor City school opened in 2010.
Cedar Creek finished 24-5 and won the South Jersey Group II title this season. The Pirates finished No. 6 in The Press Elite 11 and are The Press Team of the Year. Cedar Creek was the CAL's most consistent team. The Pirates won the CAL United Division and beat Middle Township 56-50 to win the South Jersey Group II title.
"It was a great run," Pirates coach Fran Raph said. "No one expected us to do anything this year. It was great to see them do what I knew they could do. We won a South Jersey Group II championship, which is a huge accomplishment."
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