STAFFORD TOWNSHIP - Kristen Sharkey doesn't mind the all the recent snow.
"It's good practice," the Southern Regional High School senior said.
Sharkey is headed to the University of Buffalo on an NCAA Division I basketball scholarship.
The 6-foot-1 Sharkey, with her ability to score in the post and shoot from the perimeter, is one of the region's top players.
"One on one, you're not beating her," Rams coach Kathy Snyder said. "You see her bringing the ball down for us. She can shoot a 3. She has done a great job of making herself a complete player."
Sharkey's high school career is winding down. She and the Rams (17-7) begin play in the state tournament this week. Southern, the No. 6 seed, hosts 11th seeded Clearview in a South Jersey Group IV first round game Tuesday. Southern lost to Washington Township 42-39 in last year's sectional final.
"We just have to put everything together," Sharkey said. "We want to win big in the states."
Sharkey averages 21.6 points and 12.9 rebounds. She showed how dominant she can be in Southern's 62-51 win over rival Toms River North on Feb. 8. Sharkey scored 14 of Southern's 16 first-quarter points. She finished with 25 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks.
Sharkey excels even though opposing defenses go to great lengths to stop her.
"She is fouled so much, Snyder said. "They grab her shirt. She gets attacked."
But as good as Sharkey is, she is underrated.
One reason is she plays in the Shore Conference, considered by many New Jersey girls basketball observers to be the state's best league.
The Shore Conference is filled with so many high-profile teams and players that sometimes Sharkey's exploits go unnoticed. If Sharkey played in any other league, she would be one of the most dominant, if not the best, player.
"I really don't like to worry about that stuff," Sharkey said "I just like to play my game."
The Shore Conference is home to St. John Vianney (last season's Tournament of Champions winner) and perennial power Red Bank Catholic.
There's also Neptune, Colts Neck, Rumson-Fair Haven and St. Rose. USA Today ranks Neptune No. 15 in the country. Colts Neck and Rumson are the defending state Group IV and Group II champions, respectively.
"The Shore Conference is tough," Southern coach Kathy Snyder said. "What she does for our team is just amazing. I can appreciate what she does, but anybody that hasn't followed us …. She is overlooked. There's no question."
Sharkey said the Rams missed a chance to grab some headlines during the regular season. Southern's two losses to Jackson Memorial cost the Rams the Shore Conference A South title. Southern also lost an interdivision game to Middletown South, one of Monmouth County's top teams.
"I think we kind of buried ourselves," Sharkey said.
But the Rams have another chance to grab the headlines this week when the state tournament starts.
"We want to win South Jersey Group IV for our school and for ourselves to take that memory out of high school," Sharkey said. "We have to work real hard to get it."
But no matter what happens her high school career will soon come to an end.
"It went by really, really quick," she said. "It's kind of weird to think back. It feels like I was a freshman like three minutes ago. But now, I'm excited to go to college. It's the next chapter."
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