Girls Basketball – ’18-’19 Preview: Class A Central
CLASS A CENTRAL
Team to beat: Manasquan
Team to watch: St. Rose
Sleeper: Red Bank Catholic
In predicted order of finish
Head coach: Lisa Kukoda, 7th season (169-29)
‘17-’18 Record: 32-2
Potential starting 5: Annie Mako (Sr. G 5-7); Faith Masonius (Sr. G/F 6-1); Lola Mullaney (Sr. G 5-10); Kate Leturgez (Jr. G/F 5-11); Georgia Heine (Fr. G 5-10).
Key reserves: Brooke Hollawell (Fr. G 5-6); Dorothy Loffredo (Fr. G/F 5-11); Maddie Fagan (Jr. G 5-5).
Strengths: Championship pedigree, length, physicality, perimeter punch, transition game, big-game composure.
Player to watch: Faith Masonius
Amazing how fast time flies. Seems like only yesterday when people were trumpeting a freshman with skills beyond her years. Masonius is set to embark on her senior year as one of the state’s premier players. She averaged 18.7 points and 10.9 rebounds as a junior, playing an instrumental part in the Warriors’ march to a Group 2 state title and the ensuing Tournament of Champions crown. Heading to Maryland, Masonius is a phenomenal passer, confident ball handler and undeniable getting to the rim. Plus, her touch from distance tends to be pure (22 3-pointers). Don't be surprised to see her running operations from the point.
Player to watch, Part II: Lola Mullaney
The definition of a sniper, the Harvard-bound shooting guard is lethal behind the arc (49 3-pointers). Yet, her arching jumpers overshadow a variety of cuts to the hoop, part of a balanced offensive repertoire that yielded 16.0 points a game.
Filling a major void: The biggest hole Manasquan has to address is the one left by Dara Mabrey, last winter’s Shore Sports Network’s Player of the Year. It will be tough enough replacing her production but the one thing head coach Lisa Kukoda hopes she left was an indelible impression on the returning Warriors regarding the value of competitive fire.
On the rise: Look for senior Annie Mako to step up considerably. Anticipated to see far more extensive playing time, the senior brings an energy to the floor that’s contagious. And, her critical 3-pointer that vaulted Manasquan over St. Rose, 50-44, in overtime, confirmed she is not shy about taking a big shot in a big spot.
Big mistake if…: Anyone is casting doubt on this team maintaining its lofty status among the Shore’s elite. The Warriors will continue to defend in multiple looks and be fundamentally sound. Their length is going to be an issue for opposing defenses to neutralize, not to mention keep off the boards.
New additions: Junior 5-11 swing Kate Leturgez transferred in from Point Pleasant Boro and the Warriors are extremely high on 5-10 freshman Georgia Heine. Both add to the abundance of length that will make Manasquan tough to penetrate and each is more than capable of scoring away from the basket. They also will incorporate, Maddie Fagan, a transfer from Red Bank Catholic.
Head coach: Mary Beth Chambers, 1st year
‘17-’18 Record: 28-4
Potential starting 5: Sam Mikos (Sr. F 5-11); Lauren Lithgow (Sr. G 5-8); Maggie Stapleton (Sr. F 5-11); Brynn Farrell (Jr. G/F 5-11); Abby Antognoli (So. G 5-6).
Key reserves: Makayla Andrews (Jr. G 5-10); Kitty Murphy (Jr. G 5-8); Maria Tedesco (Jr. F 5-11); Allie Darcy (Jr. F 5-9); Maureen Stapleton (So. F 5-11); Layla Laws (So. G 6-1); Mary Donnelly (Fr. G 5-10).
Strengths: Veteran nucleus, defense, speed, length, championship stock, depth, impact newcomers.
Player to watch: Lauren Lithgow
Despite coming off the bench, Lithgow has always known how to make her presence felt. A deadly streak shooter, she sank 47 threes as a junior while averaging 9.0 points per game. She has steely nerve and has been groomed to capitalize on a juicer role and more minutes.
Underrated: Sam Mikos certainly qualifies under the category. The 5-11 swing is a polished defender who denies penetration by sealing off the lane, wedges underneath to work the boards and is graceful driving into the paint, especially off the wings.
Speed limit: Abby Antognoli travels in the fast lane. Think she's quick on the track, where she shined for St. Rose in the spring, check her out on the hardwood. The wispy sophomore guard can be an absolute blur with the brisk tempo she enjoys, Like Lithgow, she, too, came off the bench last winter and gained invaluable experience in the Purple Roses' march to the Non-Public A state title.
Interchangeable parts: Don't put too much stock in the potential starting five above. St. Rose can easily make adjustments from game to game based on preferred matchups. That luxury is due to emergence of senior Maggie Stapleton and the influx of Brynn Farrell and Makayla Andrews. Farrell burst onto the girls basketball scene as a freshman at Metuchen, averaging 28.1 points, 12.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game but her sophomore year was unfortunately cut short by a wrist injury after just three games. Andrews transferred in from Neptune, where the 5-10 junior guard clicked for 20.4 points and 11.9 rebounds an outing.
Wait is over: Mary Beth Chambers was set to run the show at St. Rose a year ago but had to watch the Roses from the stands due to a ruling by the NJSIAA. Set to embark on her first season, Chambers has all the ingredients to cook up another championship recipe in Belmar. Her arrival coincides with St. Rose stepping up into the B North after spending years dominating the B Central.
Red Bank Catholic
Head Coach: Joe Montano, 29th season (617-161)
‘17-’18 Record: 23-6
Potential starting 5: Fab Eggenschwiler (Jr. G/F 6-0); Julia Setaro (Sr. G. 5-6); Sophia Sabino (So. G 5-9); Justine Pissott (Fr. G/F 6-2); Ally Carman (Fr. C 6-4).
Key reserves: Antonia Panayides (So. G 5-8); Nicole Stanford (Jr. F/C 6-2); Katelyn Bertoldo (Jr. G 5-7); Shaelyn Sabino (Jr. G/F 5-11); Grace Wilson (Jr. F/C 5-10).
Strengths: Size, experience (although limited), youthful exuberance, defensive principles, offensive versatility.
Player to watch: Justine Pissott
Only a freshman, the 6-2 Pissott features a jumper with ridiculous range and the faith to let it fly. She can spot up from 30 feet or finish curling off a screen. When a defender flashes too quickly to challenge the release, beware of Pissott off the dribble. Her size will make her an asset as a passer who can deliver feeds over the top of a defense.
Redesign: Graduation took a toll on the Caseys, who bid farewell to Rose Caverly, Katie Rice, Hayley Moore and Amanda Hart. Want to write off RBC? Not so fast. Fab Eggenschwiler (4.1 ppg.), a 6-0 junior swing, senior guard Julia Setaro (24 3-pointers, 4.7 ppg.), Antonia Panayides, Nicole Stanford and the Sabino sisters, junior Shaelyn and sophomore Sophia (17 3-pointers, 5.2 ppg.), are no strangers to what is demanded from the program. All have experience and will be unflappable under duress. The key will be how each adapts to more responsibilties that accompanies extended playing time.
Speaking of size…: The Caseys have a serious collection of length that should come in handy, particularly around the boards. And, rebounding will be essential, be it by limiting opportunities on the defensive end or prolonging possessions on offense. Ally Carman, a 6-4 freshman, is among an army of sizable collectors that will be counted upon to control the glass and Eggenschwiler isn't bashful about contesting shots in the paint.
Everything starts with...: Defense. It's long been a signature of Red Bank Catholic, which conceded a mere 40.2 points a contest last winter. While the offense may take some time to gel, the resistance - be it in man or a matchup zone - will be expected to maintain high standards of stinginess.
Flash out: Because if defenders don't, they could feel the perimeter wrath of RBC. Pissott, Setaro, Eggenschwiler and the Sabinos headline an arsenal of long-range shooters who have no issues shooting over outstretched hands.
Head Coach: Dave Callahan, 3rd season (39-18)
‘17-’18 Record: 17-11
Potential starting 5: Lucy Adams (Jr. F 6-1); Grace Munt (So. G 5-11); Cortland McBarron (So. G 5-9); Sophia Passalaqua (Jr. G 5-6); Chase Boyle (So. F 5-11).
Key reserves: Elizabeth Kelly (Sr. F 5-10); Maggie Ryan (Sr. F 5-7); Abby Gredell (So. F 5-7); Ellie Kennedy (So. G 5-7); Kaila Scarpa (Fr. F 6-0); Charlie Rosen (Fr. G 5-3); Grace Collucci (Fr. G 5-4).
Strengths: Long, athletic, unselfish.
Player to Watch: Lucy Adams
Long and agile, the 6-1 junior can fill a stat sheet through the diversity of her contributions. As a sophomore, she raised her game by delivering nine points, nine boards and three blocks an outing. Considering the void left by electrifying Tori Hyduke, Adams will quite possibly shoulder a heavier scoring burden. Her progress shooting the three will complement her play inside while her appetite on the glass and passion for defending on the ball are traits the Bulldogs hope will be contagious.
Who will step up?: It might be the No. 1 question for coach Dave Callahan when it comes to scoring. Hyduke set the tempo for the Dawgs and fashioned a 26.3 scoring rate for her work. While Callahan is realistic enough to know that asking so much out of one individual is herculean, he does expect some of that scoring load to be equally distributed among the cast. Sophomores Grace Munt (4.0 ppg.) and Cortland McBarron (4.2 ppg., 23 3-pointers) saw time on the floor as freshmen and are ready to ascend in the shot rotation.
Compensating on defense: One way to make gains will have to unfold on the defensive end. Rumson conceded an uncharacteristic 52.6 points a night to opponents, yet its notable length, if used wisely, should curtail any extravagant offensive outbursts. The Bulldogs seek to deny access into the paint, get the upper hand on the boards and make good use of their extended bench.
Head coach: Darren Ault, 12th season (144-115), first at Holmdel
‘17-’18 Record: 17-10
Potential starting 5: Jenna Stolker (Sr. G 5-4); Leah Nolan (Jr. F 5-10); Carson Fontana (Jr. G 5-6); Ryann Taylor (So. F 5-8); Lindsay Cannon (So. G 5-6).
Key reserves: Kenya Wagner (Sr. C 6-0); Olivia Wotjunik (Sr. G 5-6); Olivia Palmer (So. F 5-7); Molly Julian (So. G 5-6); Emma Quirk (So. G 5-5); Abbey Ferguson (Fr. F 5-8); Katherine Martini (Fr. C 5-10).
Strengths: Quality backcourt, developing talent, cohesive offense.
Player to watch: Leah Nolan
The 5-10 junior swing is shrewd at finding opportunities to finish. Be it inside, along the arc (where she knocked down 13 3-pointers) or at the line, Nolan (7.5 ppg.) knows how to convert a scoring chance. Over the final 15 games, she averaged 8.6 points an outing.
New system: The Hornets have to get acclimated to new head coach Darren Ault, who piloted Mater Dei, before most recently serving as an assistant coach at St. John Vianney. One point Ault will concentrate on is toning down opposing offenses, who stung Holmdel for 52.6 points a game. It will have no choice but to dig in and defend within a division that offers no breathers and houses two defending state champions - Manasquan and St. Rose - as well as perennial powers Red Bank Catholic and Rumson-Fair Haven.
Space the floor: Holmdel plans to spread opponents thin. Nolan, Ryann Taylor (6.8 ppg., 42 3-pointers), Carson Fontana (5.7 ppg., 17 3-pointers) and Jenna Stolker (21 3-pointers) are capable of making their presence felt from long range while senior center Kenya Wagner can take advantage of any space available in the paint.
Size won’t matter: The roster doesn’t seem to show an immense collection of height but the Hornets will offset size with speed, running the floor when afforded the luxury.
Head coach: T.J. O’Donnell, 3rd season, 5th overall (56-44)
‘17-’18 record: 14-13
Potential starting 5: Renata Alberici (Sr. G 5-6); Meg Borys (Sr. F 5-10); Jordan Hyman (Sr. G 5-6); Katrina Wojtowicz (Sr. F 5-9); Lucy Alberici (So. F 5-7).
Key reserves: Madison Taylor (Sr. F 5-8); Julia Sire (Jr. F 5-7); Sarah O’Leary (So. F 5-10).
Strengths: Scoring, grit, veteran-laden, bonded, battle tested.
Player to watch: Katrina Wojtowicz
The Rockets will rely heavily on the playmaking of the senior swing. She is the top returning scorer (11.5 ppg.) and finds a variety of avenues to exhibit her shooting touch. Wojtowicz keeps a defense honest with her balance of interior finishing and stroke from distance. She drilled five 3-pointers en route to 19 points in a 51-50 loss to Cherry Hill East.
Perimeter punch: Virtually anyone on the floor will be a threat to fire from 3-point range. Between Wojtowicz (41 3-pointers) and senior Jordan Hyman (8.0 ppg., 31 3-pointers), defenses will be busy monitoring the arc.
Open space: With the threat of outside shooters looming, sisters Lucy (8.1 ppg.) and Renata (8.9 ppg.) can have some fun exploring off the dribble. Each has a nose for finding a seam and exploiting it.
Tough task: The Rockets have potential to be quite good but the down side is they'll have to prove it in what's arguably the toughest division in the Shore Conference. If they can carefully manuever through the schedule and qualify for post-season action, one thing is certain - they will be ready for action.
Head coach: William Wishart, 3rd season (21-37)
‘17-’18 Record: 11-17
Potential starting 5: Caitlin Donegan (Jr. F 5-9); Emily Guo (Sr. G 5-4); Madison LaRosa (So. G 5-4); Savannah Notte (Jr. F 5-7); Chloe Wollman (Jr. G 5-7).
Key reserves: Sam Carew (So. F 5-11); Lily Santi (Jr. F 5-6); Madison Karpe (So. G 5-5); Cassie DeSantis (So. F 5-8); Sydney Sears (Jr. G 5-5); Nicole Generelli (Jr. G 5-7); Jessica Barton (Sr. F 5-11); Megan Gammon (So. F 5-7); Jill Olsen (Sr. F 5-10).
Strengths: Delicate blend of experience and youth, length (physically and collectively), athletic post play, long wings.
Player to watch: Caitlin Donegan
The 5-9 junior forward is a jack-of-all-trades. Donegan can score the basketball in traffic (6.4 ppg.), retrieve it off the rim (5.8 rpg.) and set a tone in the halfcourt. She pumped in a season-high 19 in a 47-43 verdict over New Egypt and cleared 16 boards to accompany 10 points to key a 41-35 decision against Monmouth last season.
Poise under pressure: Shore has a daunting task ahead. As a Group 2 school in this division, it will strive to keep its head above water with an eye toward constant improvement. Playing against the speed, size and depth advantage of some of its A Central foes will elevate the Blue Devils.
Get to the finish line: Toiling against the likes of Manasquan, St. Rose, Red Bank Catholic and Rumson, won't be easy for Shore. However, its recent track record of handling business versus peers speaks for itself. Two years ago, it took a 7-19 record into the post season and advanced to the Central Jersey, Group 1 final before bowing to eventual state champion Bound Brook. Last winter, it went into Central Jersey, Group 1 carrying a 9-16 mark only to reach the sectional semis.
Head coach: Laura Forbes, 2nd season (8-14)
‘17-’18 record: 8-14
Potential starting 5: Teyonce Wilson (Sr. G 5-5); Courtney Hicks (Jr. G 5-6); Sydney Po (Fr. G 5-9); Ava Yeagle (Fr. F 5-9); Sophia Wilson (Sr. F 5-7).
Key reserves: Destiny Bland (Sr. G 5-6); Chloe Wilson (Sr. F 5-8); Alyssa Hughes (Jr. G 5-6).
Strengths: Worth ethic, room for development, defensive responsibility.
Player to watch: Vacant
Monmouth doesn’t return much experience but can turn that into a positive. It will be an incentive for players to step forward and seize the leadership role for a squad that could potentially start two freshmen - guard Sydney Po and forward Ava Yeagle - when it opens on Friday at Rumson-Fair Haven.
Hearty competition: With so many questions revolving around almost a completely new cast, the chance to challenge for playing time should raise the level of play. There’s not much notable size within the roster, but the Falcons expect to be quick and accountable on defense.
Limited experience: Seniors Destiny Bland, Teyonce Wilson and Chloe Wilson all got minutes as juniors and had the chance to measure their mettle up against Manasquan and Red Bank Catholic, getting a taste of what the upper echelon of the Shore looks like. That type of experience can go a long way in terms of increasing game speed and defensive value, two qualities the Falcons have to ,manufacture.