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CLASS A SOUTH PREVIEW

Defending champion: Toms River North

Team to beat: Jackson Memorial
Team to watch: Toms River East
Sleeper: Toms River North
Pre-Season Player of the Year: Kristina Donza, Jackson Memorial

Pre-Season All-Division Team

Bianca Giordano, Jackson Memorial
Jordyn Madigan, Toms River East
Kristina Donza, Jackson Memorial
Kristina Johnson, Toms River North
Rachel Capua, Jackson Memorial

JACKSON MEMORIAL JAGUARS

Head coach: Rachel Goodale, 19th season (302-179)
‘18-’19 Record: 19-8 (11-3 in A South)
Potential starting 5: Bianca Giordano (Sr. G 5-5); Kristina Donza (Sr. G 5-9); Rachel Capua (Jr. G 5-8); Mackenzie Dakin (Sr. G 5-7); Allyson Vella (Sr. G 5-7).
Key reserves: Brooke McKown (So. G); Zoei Maffei (Fr. G/F); Amber Williams (So. C 6-2); Chloe Messer (Fr. G). 
Key losses:
Dani Evans, Haley Pitlak.
Strengths: Experienced backcourt, creative playmaker, scoring, interior presence, defense.
College commitments: Kristina Donza (Navy); Bianca Giordano (East Stroudsburg). 

Player to watch: Kristina Donza

Anchors away! The 5-9 Navy commit (16.8 ppg.) is an absolute tour de force, capable of taking over a game not just by exploding offensively, but by doing so through diversity. Donza finishes drives, sticks threes, deposits putbacks, makes a path to the foul line and deflects defensive attention off teammates. And, we haven't even touched on her rebounding (7.3 rpg.) and defense (1.5 spg., 1.0 bpg.). A sheer force, Donza had seven double-doubles as a junior.

Player to watch, Part II: Bianca Giordano

One of the most entertaining point guards in the Shore, Giordano gets her thrills by creating for others. Her imaginative distribution is eye-opening theatre but also the key that unlocks the teeth of the Jaguars' halfcourt offense. She has handed out 401 career assists - almost every with a zesty snap -  and is the type of player that magnifies the strengths of her teammates. She dished out 189 dimes as a junior.

Beware of...: Rachel Capua

Capua is among the Shore's more unsung producers. All she did as a junior was quietly go about her business in a fashion that reaped 13.8 points a night, including 49 3-pointers. When Giordano explores the interior off the bounce, a kick to Capua perched along the arc can be expected.

By the numbers: 55.3 and 44.5

The former is the offensive output the Jaguars generated last winter, a number that could go even higher this season, while the former is what was allowed. Not bad, but coach Rachel Goodale has spent the preseason tuning up the defense to cut that number substantially. One way to achieve that could be through some new looks, including more pressure.

Enthusiasm

It abounds around the Jaguars and rightfully so. Jackson Memorial has impressed in scrimmages, overpowering and stifling at the same time. They went 11-3 in the A South and now turn from hunter to hunted, a role Goodale and crew are more than happy to assume. The Jags play with a high-intensity energy and can do so thanks to the likes of senior guards Mackenzie Dakin and Allyson Vella, two integreal backcourt pieces, and Brooke McKown, Zoei Maffei, Chloe Messer and 6-2 sophomore Amber Williams itching to get involved off the bench. Depth is something the Jags will capitalize on.

TOMS RIVER NORTH MARINERS

Head coach: Vicki Gillen, 19th season (306-162)
‘18-’19 Record: 21-7 (13-1 in A South), A South champion
Potential starting 5: Kristina Johnson (Sr. G 5-10); Sydney Howell (So. G 5-6); Faith Wavershak (So. G 5-5); Gia Pissott (So. C 6-2); Jackie Benvenuto (So. F 5-10).
Key reserves: Paige Farley (Sr. F 5-9); Lexie Rizzo (Jr. G 5-9); Brandi Manna (So. G 5-5); Victoria Laudien (So. G 5-7); Julia Grodzicki (Fr. G 5-8); Darcy Gaboury (Fr. G 5-7); Arliana Torres (Fr. G 5-2).
Key losses: Jenna Paul, Brielle Bisogno.
Strengths: Athletic, interior presence, offensive balance, hustle.
College commitments: 
Kristina Johnson (Rowan).

Player to watch: Kristina Johnson

Kristina Johnson of Toms River North (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Johnson makes a big move for the Mariners from an offensive perspespective. A year ago, the 5-10 guard was the third option in system and thrived within the space she was afforded by defenses too intent on containing '19 graduates Jenna Paul and Brielle Bisogno. She often got uncontested looks from the arc due to defenses either collapsing on Paul inside or scrambling to cut off a Bisogno drive. This year, Johnson will most likely be the target opponents circle as the one demanding some added attention and for good reason. She has a pure jumper that connected on 26 3-pointers and clicked for 7.4 points per game. What Johnson might have in store for the unsuspecting is more penetrating moves from the wings to the rim, where her graceful drives could reap interior rewards.

Beware of...: The guards

As freshmen, Sydney Howell and Faith Wavershak were no mere supporting players. Each found her place and made an impact. Howell is lethal shooting the three, a point she drove home with 38 triples while Wavershak made her bones as a gritty defender who stuck her nose in to wreak havoc on opposing playmakers. Her hustle and willingness to get on the floor for a loose ball is inspiring and an enthusiastic spark for the Mariners.

By the numbers: 1,043

Toms River North stung opponents for 55.4 points per contest last season, accumulating 1,553 over its 21-7 performance. Jenna Paul (607) and Brielle Bisogno (436) were responsible for 1,043 of them. Translation: The Mariners will be counting on some new resources to generating point production to make up for the losses of its two primary scorers from a year ago.

Muscle in the paint

The Mariners have some of that. Jackie Benvenuto flexed her power in the paint coming off the bench as a 5-10 freshman. She made her presence felt on the glass and defending around the rim. Gia Pissott, a 6-2 center, usually wasn't far behind, checking in at the scorer's table to offer menacing defensive posture in the lane that dared frisky guards to challenge her shot-blocking authority. Each will be thrust into a bigger roles.

Vision toward the future

Credit coach Vicki Gillen for getting Howell, Wavershak, Benvenuto, Pissot and 5-5 guard Brandi Manna extensive playing time as freshmen. That forsight primed the quintet in a manner that should have North set to defend its A South crown. Gillen notes the biggest challenge for the Mariners is preparing those who were in supporting roles last season into high-profile assignments.

TOMS RIVER EAST RAIDERS

Head coach: Kevin Cohen, 16th season (208-175)
‘18-’19 Record: 20-8 (11-3 in A South)
Potential starting 5: Jordyn Madigan (Sr. G 5-2); Nicole Platten (Sr. G 5-7); Emily Maire (Sr. F 5-11); Lizzie Gillen (So. G 5-7); Sydney Lorentzen (Jr. G 5-6).
Key reserves: Natalie Dudar (Jr. F 5-6); Kelleen Sullivan (So. G 5-4); Mikayla Madigan (So. G 5-2); Kelly Goodall (So. F 5-10).
Key losses: Kamryn Lister, Adriana Hart.
Strengths: Experience, speed, defense.
College commitments: Jordyn Madigan (Stockton)

Player to watch: Jordyn Madigan

Jordyn Madigan of Toms River East (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Madigan (11.0 ppg., 3.8 spg., 3.5 rpg.) works both ends of the floor and sets the hustle meter for the Raiders at a high level through her tireless rate of activity. She spends as much time diving on the floor for loose balls as she does upright, establishing the pace of the offense. A hounding defender, she is on the verge of becoming the program’s all-time leader in career steals and sits 269 points shy of 1,000.

Beware of…: The backcourt

Lizzie Gillen of Toms River East (Photo by Paula Lopez)

There is a little bit of everything residing within the Raiders' guard platoon. Senior Nicole Platten (6.0 ppg., 2.3 rpg., 42 3-pointers) has pop from the arc, sophomore Lizzie Gillen is poised and explosive, junior Sydney Lorentzen can attack off the bounce and sophomores Kelleen Sullivan and Mikayla Madigan anxiously await to offer depth.

By the numbers: 11-3

Let us remind you that the Raiders finished tied with Jackson Memorial for second behind Toms River North behind an 11-3 performance that might not have been as trumpeted as it deserved. A good portion of the credit belongs to East's 2-3 zone, one that surrendered 39.2 points a game.

Don't overlook the...: The frontcourt

While the Raiders may opt to play a bit quicker than last year, they can pump the brakes and set up in the halfcourt to get their forwards involved. Emily Maire and Natalie Dudar have a unique way of sliding into space and converting down low with Dudar adding an element of surprise by stepping out to test her range on occasion. They'll have some reinforcement to carry some of the load inside in 5-10 sophomore Kelly Goodall.

TOMS RIVER SOUTH INDIANS

Head coach: Kim Peto, 3rd season (23-30)
‘18-’19 Record: 12-15 (7-7 in A South)
Potential starting 5: Madison Braun (Sr. G 5-10); Kelle Anwander (Jr. F 6-2); Brianna Weltner (Sr. F 5-9); Sarah Kukfa (sr. G/F 5-9); Emma Wagner (Fr. G).
Key reserves: Jenny Hearne (Sr. G 5-5); Erin Maguire (Jr. F 5-10); Caitlyn Fall (Jr. G 5-6); Sam Pataky (Jr. G/F 5-8); Abbey Olexa (Fr. G/F 5-8); Ryanne Gethard (Fr. G 5-6); Janelle Blaszka (So. G 5-5); Emma Klina (Fr. G 5-5); Cara Cribbin (Fr. F 5-8); Sam Kohlhepp (Jr. G 5-6).
Key losses: Caitlin Carroll, Shiloh Williams, Ashlee Pataky, Molly LeGrand, Aliya Canfield.
Strengths: Athletic, speed, offensive balance, future development.

Player to watch: Madison Braun

The Indians got hit hard by graduation but Braun represents a bright spot among a quaint collection of returning players. The 5-10 guard was the second leading scoring for Toms River South last season, netting 7.1 points per game, and topped the Indians with 27 3-pointers.

Beware of …: Kelle Anwander

Anwander was just getting started when her sophomore campaign was cut short by injury. The 6-2 forward showed plenty of promise in the paint, with 19 points and eight rebounds in her last outing, a 46-40 decsion against Brick. South will point a lot of its interior offensive intentions in her direction to balance what she offers on the boards and defensively on the blocks.

By the numbers: 1.7

The scoring margin differential between Toms River South (37.0 ppg.) and its opponents (38.7 ppg.). The Indians lived on a razor's edge, dropping seven games by nine points or less.

Interesting blend

Coach Kim Peto has a rather intriguing dynamic to work with. The roster includes four seniors, five juniors, one sophomore and five freshmen. While three of the seniors - Braun, 5-9 forward Brianna Weltner and 5-9 senior swing Sarah Kufka - could land starting gigs, they will join Anwander and, perhaps, freshman guard Emma Wagner to form the starting five on Opening Night.

SOUTHERN RAMS

Head coach: Tom Bucci, 6th season (97-55)
‘18-’19 Record: 12-15 (7-7 in A South)
Potential starting 5: Kaela Curtin (Sr. G/F 5-10); Alex Mattner (Sr. G 5-7); Kylie Conner (Sr. F 5-10); Sam Del Rio (Sr. G/F 5-9); Sarah Lally (So. G/F 5-9).
Key reserves: Catherine Walker (Sr. 5-11, F/C); Molly Ciliberto (Jr. G 5-8); Ashley Altman (Jr. G 5-8); Kacey Kubarewicz (Jr. G 5-8); Casey McBride (So. G 5-8); Corrine Spina (Jr. G/F 5-9); Summer Davis (So. G 5-7).
Key losses: Jacqueline Ward.
Strengths: Chemistry, trust, senior leadership.

Player to watch: Kaela Curtin 

The senior swing matured into a reliable outlet (11.3 ppg.) inside for the Rams. She finished inside with polish and consistency to top Southern in scoring, the same route she takes when commanding the boards (7.4 rpg.). Curtin dropped nine double-doubles as a junior, highlighted by 22 points and 12 rebounds in a 55-47 triumph against Lacey and 15 points as well as 19 carons when the Rams topped Brick, 50-37.

Beware of…: The backcourt

Southern has to fill the high tops of Jacqueline Ward, especially at the point, where she strategically put everything in place. Luckily for the Rams, 5-7 Alex Mattner and 5-9 senior Sam Del Rio were two thirds of the backcourt last season. Mattner moves the basketball crisply and gets into the rebounding mix while Del Rio (10.2 ppg.) can penetrate into the heart of a defense. Both have something rare and invaluable in common...sticking a mid-range jumper.

By the numbers: 11-8

The Rams stood at 11-8 on Feb. 2 and gave Jackson Memorial all it could handle before bowing, 42-35. The loss was one of seven over the final eight games suffered by Southern. Prior to the untimely spiral, the Rams were conceding 42.1 points per game, yet surrendered 42 or more in six of those closing contests. Defense has always been a signature of Southern. The offense delivered 40.7 points a night, an output they will concentrate on elevating.

CENTRAL GOLDEN EAGLES

Head coach: Doug Shaw, 1st season at Central (6th overall) (156-129)

‘18-’19 Record: 8-17 (4-10 in A South)
Potential starting 5: Mercedes Corbin (Sr. G 5-6); Julia Altieri (Jr. G 5-6); Jadelynn Smith (Jr. G/F 5-9); Martine Chevalier (So. G 5-4); Kayla Krzyzkowski (So. F 6-2).
Key reserves: Allison Bentley (Jr. G); Taylor Fifield (Jr. F); Nahmeera Johnson (So. F); Angelina Ruscitti (Jr. G); Ava Cino (Jr. G); Camryn Fields (Jr. G).
Key losses:
Kristi Truhan.
Strengths: Atheltic, experience, defense.

Player to watch: Mercedes Corbin

Corbin is an explosive scorer (14.1 ppg.) who netted 20 or more seven times as a junior. Quick and powerful off the dribble, she's rarely denied where she wants to go but balances her penetrating virtues with touch from the perimeter (12 3-pointers). Corbin is also extremely difficult to keep off the boards.

Beware of...: Jadelynn Smith

As a sophomore, the 5-9 swing showed flashes of brilliance on the offensive end, repeatedly finding avenues to the basket. Coupled with with Corbin, the two can play off each other's strengths and tax a defense by attacking it from various angles.

By the numbers: 6

The Golden Eagles have the potential to be heard from within the division and, for that matter, beyond its borders. There is a strong returning nucleus that forms a solid foundation. Corbin, Smith, junior guard Allison Bentley, 6-2 sophomore Kayla Krzyzkowski and sophomore guard Martine Chevalier each scored in double figures on multiple occasions last season. By spacing the floor and freely moving the ball, each may have the opportunity to do it more frequently and in conjuction with one another, a formula that could breed success. Factor in the playmaking of Julia Altieri, a 5-6 junior, in the backcourt, and Central has the trimmings to be a surprise in the division.

BRICK GREEN DRAGONS

Head coach: Kevin Stockoff, 5th season (23-77)
‘18-’19 Record: 9-16 (3-9 in A South)
Potential starting 5: Sonja Anderson (Sr. F 5-9); Lauren Washco (Sr. G 5-6); Angelina Jones (Sr. G 5-5); Emma Carpino (Sr. F 5-10); Emily Rossini (Sr. G 5-4).
Key reserves: Erika Cameron (Sr. F 5-8); Savannah Eichert (So. G 5-7); Nicole Kuhl (Fr. C 5-9); Rian Stainton (Fr. G 5-4).
Key losses: Danielle Christ.
Strengths: Senior leadership, chemistry.
College commitments: Erika Cameron (Rutgers Camden for soccer)

Player to watch: Angelina Jones

Jones (6.4 ppg.) is a lethal streak shooter who knocked down 42 3-pointers as a junior. When she heats up, look out. She sank five triples and totaled a season-high 19 in a loss to Jackson Memorial and had seven outings in which to sank three or more jumpers from behind the arc. 

Beware of…: Emma Carpino

Carpino  (7.8 ppg.) is the perfect complement to Jones, an interior finisher who only got better as her junior year progressed. Besides scoring around the rim, the 5-10 forward competes on the boards and defends in the paint.

By the numbers: 7-9

Not a bad closing effort by the Green Dragons over their final 16 outings in ‘18-’19. Their growth was marked by two wins over crosstown rival Brick Memorial, the first a 36-30 decision and the second a comfortable 51-31 outcome. 

Plenty in return

If Brick makes a move in the A South, it may have to do with its returning ensemble. Jones, Carpino, 5-8 forward Erika Cameron and 5-6 guard Lauren Washco (5.5 ppg.) all logged notable playing time a year ago and showed steady growth over the course of the campaign. The chemistry they struck will be utlized at both ends of the court as the Green Dragons look to cut down on what opponents get (48.4 ppg.) while building on what they reap (38.8 ppg.).

BRICK MEMORIAL MUSTANGS

Head coach: Tom Lecorchik, 7th season (74-83)
‘18-’19 Record: 3-22 (0-14 in A South)
Potential starting 5: Karina Roettger (Sr. G 5-8); Jenn Schiessl (Sr. G 5-5); Jordan Viggiano (Sr. G 5-5); Alexis Voorhees (Jr. G 5-7); Ella Moore (So. F).
Key reserves: Ava Rendon (So. G); Kaitlyn Barry (So. F); Mel Hiotis (So. C); Summer Castiglione (So. G).
Key losses: Angel Hernandez, Haley Dietz, Nicole Chick.
Strengths: Motivation, work ethic, chemistry, shooting depth.

Player to watch: Alexis Voorhees

Confidence began to ooze from the dangerous guard over the final month of her sophomore season. Voorhess (9.2 ppg.) established her prowess as a perimeter threat, highlighted by the six threes she hit in scoring a career-high 31 in a 60-53 loss to Wall. She averaged 15.0 points a game in the six games that capped last winter’s schedule. 

Beware of…: Jenna Schiessl

The Mustangs have a solid backcourt rotation and the 5-5 senior will be in the heart of that mix. Schiessl will team with Voorhees to form a 1-2 punch along the arc, where she dropped 29 3-pointers a year ago, and seeks to build on the strong conclusion to her junior year, when she scored in double figures in each of the last three contests. 

By the numbers: 16.1

That was the average margin of victory for opponents, who outscored Brick Memorial, 53.0 to 36.9. The Mustangs forged a bond as well as a nucleus during a trying ‘18-’19 campaign but are back as one of the more senior-laden crews in the A South. A jump in scoring, coupled with more cohesive defensive play, will be the two primary ingredients necessary for Brick Memorial to taste victory a little more often. 

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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