TOMS RIVER – Vickie Gillen can tolerate some reckless abandon from Brielle Bisogno. Truth be told, the Toms River North coach admires it.

Sure, there are limits. She could do without the occasional cheap foul due to over exuberance but Gillen recognizes it comes with good intentions, from the heart of a hustling senior point guard committed to playing every ounce out of it. Gillen is at peace with the minor transgressions because having Bisogno competing at full throttle sure beats the alternative, especially when you consider it wasn’t that long ago that there was some doubt such enthusiastic stylings out of her playmaker might not be seen again.

Bisogno is only a few years removed from a torn ACL in her right knee, an injury that stole her entire sophomore year as well as a portion of her confidence. She admits there were times upon her return last season when she played out of character, tentative and reluctant to accelerate for fear her repaired joint might not be able to handle the sudden shift of gears.

“I wondered if I was ever going to get back to where I was,” Bisogno reflected. “I was nervous but I kept training and going through physical therapy telling myself I can do this.”

Maybe it took a little longer than anticipated to regain trust in the knee, but based on lively bursts and defensive spring revealed on Friday night, Bisogno has shed any lingering trepidations and replaced them with a familiar swagger.

Finding balance between attacking the rim and striking behind the arc, Bisogno was the offensive catalyst to complement fierce halfcourt defense that combined to vault the visiting Mariners over Toms River East, 37-27, in the season opener.

Bisogno scored a game-high 18 points, accompanied by five steals, four rebounds and three assists and her spirited work ethic declared a clean bill of health.

“I wouldn’t want to play against Brielle Bisogno,” said Gillen. “She knows one speed. Sometimes, it’s frustrating because she just goes, goes, goes, but that’s what makes her good and hard to play against.”

Toms River North led from start to finish, racing out to a 12-0 lead in the first five minutes. Bisogno picked up assists on the first two buckets of the opening surge before capping it with a three. And, when Toms River East clawed itself back into the contest, she was quick to stem the tide, setting up junior swing Kristina Johnson for a 3-pointer and tacking on a pair of foul shots to give North a 19-10 with 1:18 left in the first half.

Down by as much as 16 in the fourth, East, narrowed the gap to 34-22, which under four minutes left. However, Bisogno made certain that’s as close as it got, converting a layup through contact as part of a three-point play that widened the gap to 37-22 with 3:09 to go.

Both sides made scoring difficult by instituting an active 2-3 zone. North’s was just a bit more stubborn, limiting East two a mere two fields goals in the first half and a 15 percent shooting spell for the evening.

“We played very good defense. That’s been our mainstay for the last few years,” Toms River East coach Kevin Cohen said. “We shot 15 percent from the field (8 of 53). You’re not going to win like that. We squandered some opportunities when we got turnovers. I want to take the positive out of this, like how well we defended,  but we have to shoot better."

Johnson canned both of her 3-pointers in the first half and finished with eight points while senior forward Jenna Paul had six points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots. Senior guard Adriana Hart led Toms River East with six points.

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