Something to Prove: Donovan Catholic Girls Basketball
TOMS RIVER - Rarely does a team bring back almost an entire lineup yet still have something to prove, but that's the spot the Donovan Catholic girls basketball team has found itself in this season.
The Griffins graduated one of the Shore Conference's top players, guard Dana Carbone, from last season's 21-win team. Carbone averaged 18.4 points, 5.4 assists and 3.7 steals a game and became the eighth player in Donovan Catholic history to pass the 1,000-point scoring mark for her career on her way to earning a scholarship to play for Monmouth University. Donovan Catholic is now out to show that the wins will keep coming despite the loss of Ocean County's top talent.
"I knew losing her would be difficult, but I think we're getting the hang of it and it's going to be a good season,'' said senior guard Chelsea Crowe.
The Griffins have jumped out to a 2-0 start after a win on opening night over Jackson Liberty and a 68-37 rout of 11th-seeded Toms River North in the first round of the WOBM Christmas Classic on Saturday afternoon.
"Everyone thought last year that Dana carried us, and this year we have something to prove,'' said junior guard Kaitlyn Borghesi, who had 12 points in the win over the Mariners.
The solution to replacing Carbone has been to have no one person replace Carbone.
"It's hard to replace a Dana Carbone, but the girls have all bought into the idea of a platoon system where they all can share the ball and get equal minutes,'' head coach Jerry Bruno said. "They know their roles. We have the bigs looking to screen-and-roll and pick, and we've got four or five good guards that can distribute the ball and take it off the pick-and-roll, and that was obvious today."
"I think it's not just one person,'' Borghesi said. "We have a lot of people back, and we share the ball."
That was evident in the win over Toms River North on Saturday, as Crowe led the way with 23 points and was one of three scorers in double figures in front of Borghesi (12 points) and Annie Taylor (10 points). Crowe was an All-Class B South first-team selection by the coaches last season and clearly has taken over the role as the top scorer vacated by Carbone. Her continued emergence has once again made Donovan Catholic the favorite in Class B South after winning the title last season.
"She's our top offensive player, so when we need a big shot, we know she's there for that,'' Borghesi said.
A lethal shooter from the wing, she hit 42 percent of her 3-point attempts as a junior.
"Last year she was the beneficiary of so many people double-teaming Dana, and now Chelsea has the same role that Dana had, however we have a good point guards who are able to get into the paint and kick out when necessary,'' Bruno said. "Chelsea is one of the best shooters in the Shore Conference in my mind."
The Griffins have a deep group of guards that also includes a pair of freshmen, Molly Collins and Alyssa Hirschy, as well as senior Kelcy McGeehan, who is out until January with a concussion, according to Bruno. They also have good size up front with Taylor, senior Abby Roth, 5-foot-10 juniors Megan Loughrey and Danielle Frey, 5-foot-11 sophomore Anna Zalepa and 5-foot-11 senior Jade Cunningham.
The guards also are at the front of the Griffins' swarming full-court pressure, which created much of their offense in the win over Toms River North.
"We're faster than last year's team, so we're trying to put pressure on the ball and press every game,'' Crowe said.
"That's our bread-and-butter,'' Bruno said.
While the Griffins have been at the top in Class B South, they will find out where they stand in the greater world of the Shore Conference when they take on perennial power Red Bank Catholic, the No. 3 seed, at 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 26 at Pine Belt Arena in the WOBM quarterfinals.
"I think it's a great opportunity to see where we're at in the Shore,'' Crowe said.
"I have a veteran team,'' Bruno said. "We're not going to shy anyway from anybody. When we come on the floor we're going to play hard for 32 minutes."