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CLASS A CENTRAL PREVIEW

Defending champion: St. Rose

Team to beat: St. Rose
Team to watch: Red Bank Catholic
Sleeper: Rumson-Fair Haven
Pre-Season Player of the Year: Brynn Farrell, St. Rose

Pre-Season All-Division Team

Abby Antognoli, St. Rose
Sophia Sabino, Red Bank Catholic
Brynn Farrell, St. Rose
Justine Pissott, Red Bank Catholic
Lucy Adams, Rumson-Fair Haven

ST. ROSE PURPLE ROSES

Head coach: Mary Beth Chambers, 2nd season (28-3)
‘18-’19 Record: 28-3 (14-0 in A Central) A Central champion, Non-Public A champion.
Potential starting 5: Brynn Farrell (Sr. G 5-11); Abby Antognoli (Jr. G 5-7); Makayla Andrews (Sr. F 5-11); Maria Tedesco (Sr. F 5-9); Maureen Stapleton (Jr. F 5-11).
Key reserves: Kitty Murphy (Sr. G 5-8); Layla Laws (Jr. F 5-11); Niaiysa Evans (Jr. F 5-9); Avery Morgan (Jr. F 5-9); Tori Crovo (So. G 5-8); Darby Sherman (So. G 5-7); Maggie Cavanaugh (Fr. F 5-9).
Key losses: Lauren Lithgow, Sam Mikos, Maggie Stapleton.
Strengths: Championship experience, poise, energy, passion, defense, balance.
College commitments: Makayla Andrews (Lafayette); Brynn Farrell (Florida); Maria Tedesco (Mercy); Kitty Murphy (Muhlenberg).

Player to watch: Brynn Farrell

Brynn Farrell of St. Rose (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Farrell, a First Team All-Shore selection as a junior, possesses one of the most effortless offensive games that's as diverse as it is productive. She clicked for 18.1 points per game as a junior, backing her attacking drives with a pure stroke from downtown (31 3-pointers) and she commits both acts with the utmost confidence. The Florida commit seamlessly transitioned into the lineup last winter after transferring from Metuchen and instantly carved her niche, becoming an influential figure in the Roses’ run to an A Central title and second straight Non-Public A state championship. Easily overlooked but greatly appreciated is how tough she defends on the ball against some high-profile assignments. She grabbed nearly six rebounds a game and already surpassed the 1,000-point mark, a feat accomplished despite missing all but three games of her sophomore year due to injury.

Beware of…: Abby Antognoli

Abby Antognoli of St. Rose (Photo by Paula Lopez)

The junior point guard (10.6 ppg., 2.3 spg., 3.0 apg., 3.9 rpg) is pure electicity, sparking the offense with a combination of heady decisions, undeniable quickness and an assertivie nature to accomplish whatever she has planned with the ball. Named Second-Team All-Shore as a sophomore, Antognoli plays with an unbridled intensity at both ends of the floor and is always looking to create a turnover (70 steals) to get St. Rose out in transition, where she shines brightest.

By the numbers: 39.5

When you consider St. Rose went undefeated in the A Central a year ago, topping Manasquan, Red Bank Catholic and Rumson-Fair Haven twice in doing so, and yielded 39.5 points per game on defense while doing so, you begin to get the point of just how good it was defending the basket.

Depth charge

One of the Roses' best qualities is the collection of players who can hurt you. Beyond Farrell and Antognoli, St. Rose boasts 5-11 senior forward Makayla Andrews (8.4 ppg.), a punishing interior worker with a reliable finishing touch on the blocks as well as when she puts it on the floor off the wings. Her rebounding and passing are equally important to the cause. Junior forward Maureen Stapleton quietly handles a lot of the dirty work, defending vigorously in the post and challenging on the boards while senior Maria Tedesco adds muscle under the glass as well as an option to score on the blocks.

MANASQUAN WARRIORS

Head coach: Lisa Kukoda, 8th season (191-36)
‘18-’19 Record: 22-7 (12-2 in A Central), Central Jersey, Group 2 champion
Potential starting 5: Maddie Fagan (Sr. G 5-4); Brooke Hollawell (So. G 5-7); Georgia Heine (So. G 5-11); Dorothy Loffredo (So. F 5-11); Maci Black (Jr. G 5-6).
Key reserves: Allison Waters (Jr. G 5-8); Mary Donnelly (So. G/F 6-0); Camryn Rothery (Sr. G/F 5-8); Grace Winn (So. G/F 5-8); Alexandra Loucopoulos (Fr. G/F 5-9); Rylyn Orlando (Fr. G/F 5-8).
Key losses: Faith Masonius, Lola Mullaney, Annie Mako, Katie Leturgez.
College commitments: Maddie Fagan (Muhlenberg).
Strengths: High energy, balanced scoring, 3-point presence, unfamiliar look.

Player to watch: Mary Donnelly

Manasquan fans will have to wait 30 days to watch the gifted 6-0 sophomore, a  transfer from St. Rose. When she officially takes the floor, they will enjoy her basketball acumen. A strong rebounder, heady passer and thinker moving off the ball, Donnelly will make an immediate impact upon insertion into the lineup.

Beware of…: Georgia Heine

Heine was an apprentice as a freshman who had the good fortune to observe and absorb the qualities that helped make Faith Masonius the Shore Sports Network Player of the Year. Her length, selflessness and smarts serve her well as she takes the next step in becoming a go-to figure for the Warriors. Her numbers were modest last winter but there were plenty of hints at her value as a scorer, passer, rebounder and defender, all elements that you can expect to see an increase in.

Georgia Heine of Manasquan (Photo by Paula Lopez)

By the numbers: 2009

That marked the last time Manasquan opened a campaign without a Mabrey or Masonius on its roster. The Warriors have boasted some incredible starpower over the last decade, featuring Michaela, Marina and Dara Mabrey as well as Ellie, Addie and Faith Masonius. They were instrumental in crafting the image of a program that was a dominating figure on the statewide level during that span. 

If you want to sleep on Manasquan….DON’T

There’s little debate that this year’s group will be a work in progress with a good deal of new faces being thrust into the spotlight, certainly a far more anonymous alottment than in years past. But, don't get it twisted. Manasquan has built a program during coach Lisa Kukoda’s term, establishing an identity as a team that defends and leaves everything on the court. That won’t change. Heine, Brooke Hollawell, Dorothy Loffredo, Maci Black, who missed last season due to injury, and Allison Waters have all experienced the varsity game and won't by bashful about asserting themselves. 

RED BANK CATHOLIC CASEYS

Head coach: Joe Montano, 30th season (636-170)
‘18-’19 Record: 19-9 (10-4 in A Central)
Potential starting 5: Sophia Sabino (Jr. G 5-9); Fabienne Eggenschwiler (Sr. F/G 6-0); Ally Carman (So. C 6-4); Toni Panayides (Jr. G 5-9); Justine Pissott (So. G 6-2).
Key reserves: Nicole Stanford (Sr. F 6-2); Casey Prior (Fr. G 5-6); Shaelyn Sabino (Sr. G/F 5-11); Emma Carman (Fr. G/F 5-10); Cassie Cavanaugh (Jr. G 5-7); Grace Wilson (Sr. F/C 5-10).
Key losses: Julia Setaro.
College commitments: Sophia Sabino (Fordham); Fabienne Eggenschwiler (Lehigh).
Strengths: Length, depth, experience, defense. 

Player to watch: Sophia Sabino

Sophia Sabino of Red Bank Catholic (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Sabino (10.4 ppg.) is the straw that stirs the Caseys. A smooth, collected guard who can handle directoral duties on the point, the junior deftly intrudes a defense in ways to achieve the best results. She can attack off the dribble, step back and fire from behind the arc (36 3-pointers), distribute and doesn't draw enough praise for her work on the boards. A tough on-the-ball defender to maneuver past.

Player to watch, Part II: Justine Pissott

Good luck defending Pissott (12.1 ppg.). If it wasn't hard enough getting a distracting hand in her face as her 6-2 frame elevates on the jumper, don't forget that her range seems limitless. That combination produced 55 3-pointers in her freshman season. Add in her hustle on the boards, passing and length defending in man to man and you have an idea of just how complete she is.

Beware of…: Size

The Caseys are going to be a towering force to reckon with. Senior swing Fab Eggenschwiler stands 6-0, junior guard Toni Panayides slashes off the elbows at 5-9 and 6-4 sophomore Ally Carman is more than formidable in the pivot. Factor in 6-2 senior forward Nicole Stanford and 5-10 senior forward Grace Wilson looming off the bench and 5-10 freshman swing Emma Carman in the mix and the Caseys have enough height to form a skyline.

By the numbers: 4-7

It was the Caseys' record when conceding 50 or more points in game last winter. Defense has always been RBC's trademark and it held opponents to 44.7 an outing. Most programs would be pleased with such a number. Red Bank Catholic prides itself on one much further south and has the pieces and chemistry in place to reduce what teams get this season.

Step up

Red Bank Catholic may represent the biggest threat to St. Rose in the A Central. Sabino, Pissott, Carman, Eggenschwiler, Stanford, Wilson and Panayides are veterans who toiled through the grind of the A Central. They are a year older, a year bonded and primed to make a move.

RUMSON-FAIR HAVEN BULLDOGS

Head coach: Dave Callahan, 4th season (58-29)
‘18-’19 Record: 19-11 (8-6 in A Central)
Potential starting 5: Lucy Adams (Sr. F 6-1); Paige Slaven (Sr. G 5-7); Sophia Passalaqua (Sr. G 5-7); Cortland McBarron (Jr. G 5-11); Julia Corsentino (Fr. G 5-8).
Key reserves: Charley Rosen (So. G 5-4); Sarah Hughes (Fr. G 5-6); Dylan Cahill (Fr. F 5-10); Grace Collucci (So. G 5-4); Molly Kelly (Fr. G 5-7); Julia Shanes (Fr. G 5-6); Amanda Gettings (Fr. G 5-7); Megan Reid (Fr. F 5-8); Abby Gredell (Jr. F 5-8); Ellie Kennedy (Jr. F 5-9); Katherine Harby (Sr. F 5-9).
Key losses: None.
Strengths: Starting experience, youthful depth, paint presence, playmaking ballhandlers, offensive variety.
College commitments: Lucy Adams (Trinity College); Paige Slaven (St. Michael’s); Sophia Passalaqua (Davidson for lacrosse).

Player to watch: Lucy Adams

Lucy Adams of Rumson-Fair Haven (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Long and persistent in the paint, Adams (7.9 ppg., 9.0 rpg., 2.5 bpg.) is tenacious around the glass. A seasoned leader, she is fully capable of taking over a contest through various means, including a perimeter game that keeps a defense on its toes. Her work rate and hustle has to be infectious. She will be a big part of a starting five steep on experience.

Beware of…: Paige Slaven

Slaven, a transfer from Donovan Catholic, slides into the backcourt rotation and should deliver immediate dividends. Insightful off the dribble, her sense for attacking a seam gains access to the lane to finish a drive or distribute a slick dish to the weakside. Her combination of poise, speed and deft handle defines her playmaking expertise. 

By the numbers: 3

The Bulldogs’ depth will be put to a challenge. A rash of off-season injuries have claimed the services of junior swing Grace Munt, junior forward Chase Boyle and sophomore forward Kaila Scarpa, all three promiment contributors last season. There is a possibility that Munt could be available in time for the post season. Boyle, a fierce defender, is anticipated to make a return sometime in February and Scarpa is unfortunately out of the year. 

Stress test

Sophia Passalaqua of Rumson-Fair Haven (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Despite being bitten by the injury bug, the Bulldogs appear to have the numbers needed to compensate for absences. Sophia Passalaqua is athletic and selfless on the point and Cortland McBarron (10.4 ppg., 47 3-pointers, 5.0 rpg.) emerged as a dangerous offensive component who complements her scoring with productive play on the boards. She recorded five double-doubles as a sophomore, including 26 points, fueled by six triples, and 11 rebounds in a 64-39 victory against Holmdel. Watch for sophomore guard Charley Rosen to have a breakout sophomore year.

RARITAN ROCKETS

Head coach: Anthony Vona, first season
‘18-’19 Record: 12-13 (6-8 in A Central)
Potential starting 5: Lucy Alberici (Jr. G 5-6); Sarah O’Leary (Jr. F 5-10); Joei Tarrazi (So. G 5-4); Megan Casey (So. G 5-5); Grace Smith (So. F 5-8).
Key reserves: Julia Reasoner (Sr. F 5-7); Carmela Petrignani (Fr. G 5-6); Nina Branda (So. G 5-3); Alivia O’Neill (So. F 5-8).
Key losses: Renata Alberici, Meg Borys, Jordan Hyman, Katrino Wojtowicz.
Strengths: Speed, ball handling, 3-point presence.

Player to watch: Lucy Alberici

The Rockets were slammed by graduation but can find solace in Alberici. Her hard-nosed play yielded 7.0 ppg. and, while a majority of her points come inside the arc, leave her unsupervised behind it and Alberici can make you pay.

Beware of…: Youthful exuberance

There's a pretty good chance the starting five could boast three promising sophomores. Joei Tarrazi and Megan Casey are frontrunners to join Alberici in the backcourt while 5-8 Grace Smith could man one of the forward spots and work the boards alongside 5-10 junior Sarah O'Leary.

By the numbers: 5

Raritan suffered five losses a year ago decided by seven points or less. It flirted with a big mid-season upset before ultimately bowing to Rumson-Fair Haven, 42-40. In defeat, the Rockets noted the one thing that transcends within the program year after year - insatiable grit.

Intangibles

There is a collection of shooters first-year coach Anthony Vona foresees making some noise along the arc and the quickness of his playmakers is suited for the pace conducted in the A Central. Where Raritan can make up some ground against its stiff competition is through the tireless hustle that seems to come natural.

HOLMDEL HORNETS

Head coach: Darren Ault, 13th season (156-129)
‘18-’19 Record: 12-14 (4-10 in A Central)
Potential starting 5: Leah Nolan (Sr. F 5-10); Carson Fontana (Sr. G 5-6); Ryann Taylor (Jr. G/F 5-8); Olivia Palmer (Jr. G/F 5-8); Lindsay Cannon (Jr. G/F 5-7).
Key reserves: Abbey Ferguson (So. F 5-10); Emma Quirk (Jr. G 5-6); Molly Julian (Jr. G 5-7); Katherine Martini (So. F 6-0); Mia Giamonco (So. G 5-2); Nicole Worobel (So. G 5-5); Becky Scheinvor (Sr. G 5-7).
Key losses: Jenna Stolker.
Strengths: Defense, offensive variety, improved depth, more familiarity.

Player to watch: Leah Nolan

The 5-10 senior forward (9.4 ppg.) maintains an active presense for the Hornets, capable of stinging in the lane or from long distance (17 3-pointers). Her support on the boards, dispossessing hands and shot blocking on defense and vision moving the ball in the halfcourt confirm a well-rounded game.

Beware of…: Carson Fontana and Ryann Taylor

Fontana, a 5-6 senior guard, will make the offense tick in the backcourt, delivering the necessary pass, driving to the basket and stepping back to hit from distance (17 3-pointers). But, it's that first quality, getting the ball into shooter's hands in ideal situations that makes Holmdel dangerous. Taylor makes a splash from 3-point territory (37 threes in '18-'19), marked by the five she sank when she tagged Toms River South for 19 points in a 49-35 win. That threat from downtown throws shade on her knack for picking spots when attacking the basket, as well has her passing sense.

By the numbers: 9.7

That's how many points per game Olivia Palmer averaged as an unsung sophomore. Over a span of 11 games from Jan. 22 to Feb 21, the 5-8 swing found her place in the scheme and groove within the flow of play, netting 12.5 a contest, highlighted by three consecutive performances of 20 or better.

Head above water

Holmdel managed to do so last season, qualifying for the Central Jersey, Group 2 tournament despite a losing record but boosted by the power points reaped in the A Central. It got a measure of revenge by avenging two regular-season losses to Raritan with a 60-55 victory in the first round before bowing to Rumson, 61-46, in the quarterfinals. Don't be surprised to see this cast make a deeper push this year.

SHORE BLUE DEVILS

Head coach: William Wishart, 4th season (33-52)
‘18-’19 Record: 12-15 (2-12 in A Central)
Potential starting 5: Rylee Drahos (Fr. G 5-8); Madison LaRosa (Jr. G 5-6); Chloe Wollman (Sr. G/F 5-9); Savannah Notte (Sr. G/F 5-8); Caitlin Donegan (Sr. F 5-11).
Key reserves: Sam Carew (Jr. F 5-11); Megan Gammon (Jr. G/F 5-7); Lily Santi (Sr. F 5-6); Sydney Sears (Sr. G 5-5); Kayla O’Scanlon (So. G 5-5).
Key losses: Emily Guo.
Strengths: Experience, athletic, quick, defensive length, proven starters.

Player to watch: Madison LaRosa

Remember the name. In the A Central, LaRosa is too often overlooked due to marquee contemporaries despite her consistency. She has been Shore's leading scorer in each of the last two seasons, including 13.7 as a sophomore. Her size doesn't inhibit her aggressiveness piercing inside and that tenacity creates space for her to fire from downtown, where she drilled 37 3-pointers a year ago. A wicked streak shooter, LaRosa closed last season by averaging 19.5 points over the final five games. And, all that talk of her offensive prowess shouldn't overshadow her hustle on the glass and hard-nosed defense.

Beware of…: Balance

Pay LaRosa too much attention and the Blue Devils will be happy to introduce others into the scoring equation. Senior Caitlin Donegan, a 5-11 forward who battles inside, 5-9 swing Chloe Wollman, a rugged defender, 5-8 senior swing Savannah Notte, who thrives in the steal department, 5-11 junior forward Sam Carew, 5-7 junior Megan Gammon and 5-5 senior guard Sydney Sears are all acquainted with the grind of the stacked division and won't blink at the competition. Working as a unit last year should translate nicely this winter.

By the numbers: 2-12

Shore's record inside the A Central last year needs a closer look. The Blue Devils have the misfortune of tangling with some of the heavyweights not just in the Shore Conference but in the state, yet, maintain their tenacity game in and game out. The schedule may not do it many favors in season but, the payout can come once the state tournament commences. Shore has a track record for doing big things in late February, honed by who they polished their skills against prior to the playoffs.

Freshman to watch

The Blue Devils could introduce Rylee Drahos on Opening Night. The 5-8 freshman guard will debut surrounded by a cast of veterans who can show her the way and alleviate any jitters by spreading the floor and the offensive wealth.

MONMOUTH FALCONS

Head coach: Laura Forbes, 3rd season (9-35)
‘18-’19 Record: 1-21 (0-14 in A Central)
Potential starting 5: Alyssa Hughes (Sr. G 5-6); Ava Yeagle (So. G/F 6-1); Sydney Po (So. G 6-0); Jillian Vigil (Sr. G 5-9); Aly Amadruto (Fr. G 5-0).
Key reserves: Caitlin Keane (So. G 5-5); Kamlyn Bevacqua (Fr. G 5-6); Ayana Contreras (Jr. G 5-7).
Key losses: Teyonce Wilson, Destiny Bland, Chloe Wilson, Sophia Penn.
Strengths: Grit, tenacity, guts.

Player to watch: Sydney Po

Much like the Falcons’ program, Po is undergoing a growth spurt. She grew three inches from a year ago and, at an athletic 6-0, could be one of the bigger surprised within the division. A modest scorer as a freshman, Po displayed some versatility as both a shooter and penetrator.  

Beware of…: Improvement

Po, sophomore swing Ava Yeagle and senior guard Alyssa Hughes endured the trials of last season and gained valuable playing time to get a taste of how difficult the division is. The Falcons are primed to take some strides toward accumulating a few more wins.

By the numbers: 49.5

Monmouth's defensive effort wasn't bad in '18-'19, a testament to how hard it played despite losing its first 18 games while giving up 49.5 points a game. In order to close the gap, the Falcons have no choice but to examine ways to increase the 22.7 points they averaged on the Monmouth side of the scoreboard.

Follow Gregg Lerner on Twitter @gregglerner. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.

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