PHOTOS: MapSO 8th Grade Girls Basketball Team Wins 4th Consecutive Championship

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Front row kneeling: Talia Baptiste, Olivia Rodriguez, Jamie Levi, Kyla Coley, Sam Stein. Back row standing: Coach Nijah Gibson, Kayla Butler, Summer Lonning, Madison Stevens, Zahra Alexander, Skylar Gilliam, Lily Westhelle, Coach Erin Tuck.

The Maplewood-South Orange 8th grade girls finished the season with a championship win over West Orange, winning by a score of 65-34.

This marks the 4th straight league championship for the girls, and they finish their middle school careers with a record of 61-0. The team, which was the first-ever 5th grade girls team in MSO basketball history becomes the first team to “four-peat.”

Coaches Erin Tuck and Nijah Gibson have spent the last four years grooming these players for their success not only on the court but off the court as well. “The great thing about these girls is that not only are they great basketball players, but they’re amazing young women off the court, and they really embrace the Student-Athlete lifestyle,” aid the coaches.

The future of MSO Girls basketball and Columbia High School girls basketball is in good hands as this year’s 7th grade girls also advanced to the playoffs and lost a tough game to eventual league champion Nutley.

“We have been beyond blessed and lucky to have Erin and Nijah with us for the past five years. They have left their mark and impact on girls basketball in this community beyond any of our wildest imaginations and that will never be forgotten,” said coach Eddie Starzynski.

“Watching this squad play has been a highlight of the past four winter seasons for me,” said Melissa Mancuso, Director of Community Affairs for Maplewood Township. “I would like to personally thank Erin and Nijah for their dedication to our program and these young athletes. Hard work, teamwork and tenacity is apparent and engrained thanks to their great coaching.  This team has gelled and you see that sitting courtside. We look forward to watching this remarkable team move on to future successes. The bond they have is what teamwork is all about, on and off the court. This 8th grade team is one we will be talking about forever at Maplewood Recreation. I hope one day these girls become coaches and teach future generations about the game. They are unforgettable role models.”

Look for the 8th grade girls to continue their run in Essex County as they enter Columbia High School as freshmen next fall. And if you would like to get your daughter involved in MapSO basketball, contact coach Eddie Starzynski at

Photos courtesy of Missi Mancuso:

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