Berntsen's commitment to improving was unmatched. Nearly every day of the year, the senior guard could be found working on her already well-rounded game at school or in the gym of a church near her home.
The desire to practice, of course, benefited Berntsen, who was honored as the Morris County Girls Basketball Coaches Association Player of the Year at a luncheon held on Tuesday, March 13 at Zeris Inn.
Fifteen other players, several of them career points leaders for their schools, also received recognition for fine seasons.
Berntsen, off to Princeton University in the fall, led the Cougars with a 22 points-per-game average. She shot 51 percent from the floor, made 39 percent of her 3-pointers and converted 79 percent of her free throws.
During Berntsen's tenure at Chatham, the team went 106-17 overall and 55-5 in conference play. They appeared in three Morris County Tournament semifinals.
"Amanda is an amazingly efficient player," Gaba said of Berntsen, who concluded her career with 1,964 points. "She had the ability to find the open person when opposing teams were collapsing on her."
Seniors Olivia Dudley and Lauren O'Connor were key cogs for Whippany Park, whose run concluded in the Group I final. The Wildcats claimed their first sectional title in 20 years.
Dudley, too, holds a career points record, scoring 1,752. She had 578 points in her final year for an average of 18.5. Her field-goal percentage was 47 percent. In the Wildcats' state games, Dudley's average rose to 21.0. O'Connor finished with 1,064 points. She averaged 13.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and was among the assists leaders in the state with 6.0.
West Morris forward Shayna Ericksen's 2,069 career points vaulted her to third place on the all-time Morris County girls scoring list. A four-year starter, Ericksen, headed to Manhattan College, had 72 double-doubles in her career. She had 20 points and 20 rebounds in the sectional final versus Chatham. The Wolfpack went 93-17 with her in the starting lineup and 50-3 in league games. Her senior statistics: 20.2 points, 12.0 rebounds. She shot 51 percent from the field and 72 percent from the free throw line.
Sam Tabakman, another top performer in the post, helped Pequannock to its first sectional championship in girls basketball. Tabakman, close to unstoppable inside, averaged 20.0 points and 12.0 rebounds. The University of Rhode Island-bound Tabakman had 1,963 career points and holds the school record previously established by her brother, Jordan. She took down 1,313 rebounds.
Guard Katie Reese, a senior, led Mountain Lakes in scoring, steals and assists for the fourth consecutive year. Reese, who will continue her academics and athletics at Manhattan College, scored 1,602 points in her four years as a starter. She was responsible for the Lakers' uptempo style and holds many records, including best single-season scoring average with 20.4 points per game.
Morris Catholic, which captured the North Jersey Non-Public B title, relied heavily on the contributions of guard Danni Brown and forward Jess Porada, both seniors. Brown, a reliable point guard, committed only 21 turnovers this season. She was 74 percent from the free throw line and converted 45 percent of her 3-pointers. Porada, the Crusaders' second-leading scorer, was exceptional on the boards, taking down 216 rebounds.
Three players - Kristen Swerzenski, Kristen Flaherty and Sammy Lapszynski - represented Jefferson, the 2012 MCT champion. Swerzenski, a junior, and Lapszynski, a senior, were a formidable combination inside. Swerzenski, a junior, averaged 11.0 ppg. and 10.0 rpg. Lapszynski, the Most Valuable Player of the MCT, averaged 16.2 points and was a dominant rebounder. She'll play at Niagara. Flaherty, a junior, had 74 3-pointers and averaged 11.0 ppg. and 10 rpg. Her career high was 36 points when she converted 10-of-14 3-pointers.
Selected from Randolph were sophomore Aliyah Huland El and Taylor Lusardi. Huland El, a 6-foot-1 point guard, had 470 points. Her 1,000th point is on the horizon. She was second in rebounding and led the Rams in steals, blocks and assists. Lusardi, who will play soccer at TCNJ, contributed 10 ppg. and 7.0 rpg. for Randolph, which advanced to the MCT Final Four for the first time in 10 years.
Juniors named to the MCGBCA Team were Hanover Park's Lauren Daugherty, Villa Walsh's Kerri Clifford and Mendham's Liz Malman. Daugherty, tough inside, averaged 16.0 ppg., 10.1 rpg. and 3.0 bpg. Clifford, a guard, scored her 1,000th point this winter. She averaged 16.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 steals for the Vikings. The Minutemen went from six to 12 victories with Malman, also a guard taking charge. Malman averaged 14 ppg., 4 apg. and 4 spg.
Derek Lynn of Montville and Jim O'Connor of Jefferson were selected as the county's top coaches. Lynn has been instrumental in turning the Mustangs' program around. O'Connor, who has more than 450 victories, led the Falcons to a 26-2 record. They did not lose to a Morris County team.
Gaba of Chatham and Tom Wilson of Whippany Park were feted for milestone victories. Gaba attained his 300th career win while Wilson got his 500th to become the all-time winningest girls basketball coach in Morris County.
First-year Morristown coach Tara Kelly, who had the privilege of competing in four MCT finals, three for Morris Catholic and one for West Morris, was the guest speaker. Kelly went on to FDU-Teaneck. She spoke of the experience of high school and college basketball. Kelly offered those in attendance, many of whom will play at a high level in college, important advice.
"You'll be getting your workout packets soon. Please do it," she said. "If you have to do a sprint in 35 seconds, do it in 32. You need to work hard all the time or preseason will be your nightmare."