By Jimmy Allinder
The John P. Stevens High School boys’ basketball team could face a difficult task topping last year’s 15-9 record.
Five players were lost to graduation, including leading scorers Mike Lionikis and Alex Corrigan. In addition, the Hawks have been elevated to the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) largest school Red Division after being members of the White Division.
J.P. Stevens (1-1) opened with a 40-39 victory over Monroe Township High School, which also made its debut in the Red Division. The Hawks then dropped a 39-26 decision to East Brunswick High School and met South Brunswick High School Dec. 22.
J.P. Stevens is participating in the Anthony J. Cotoia Tournament at South Plainfield High School and faced North Plainfield High School in the first round Dec. 27. The championship game is the following day against the winner of the South Plainfield vs. Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School contest.
“We’ll miss the scoring from those who graduated,” said Bobby Jones, who is in his eighth campaign as head coach. “But we were honored by the [GMC] coaches as defensive team of the year, and we plan to build around our defense this season.”
The starting lineup includes senior Rishay Ghosh, the conference sixth man of the year, and juniors Javon Scott, Frank DiSerio, Tyrese Conover and Elijah Smith.
Juniors Jared Baptist (a transfer from Mater Dei Prep), Dylan Zamora, Rohan Rao and Jesse Shiluli and sophomores Jamar Williamson and Naysean Burch could join the rotation.
The Edison High School girls’ basketball team (1-1) has high hopes it will finish with a winning record even though the Eagles play a predominantly Red Division schedule.
Edison lost to East Brunswick, 49-35, in the season opener but rebounded with a dominant 60-38 victory over traditional power Piscataway Township High School. Before the holiday break, the Eagles met Monroe (1-2) Dec. 22.
Edison played in the Bulldog Holiday Tournament at Metuchen High School that began Dec. 27 and continues Dec. 28 and 30.
“Our success will be predicated on doing the simple things,” second-year head coach Frank Eckert said. “We will play hard and with heart. Good things will happen if we stick to that.”
Eckert said the Eagles will also focus on strong guard play with an emphasis on a quicker transition. Bianca Newsome is the only returning senior starter, but Edison has received quality minutes from underclassmen, including sophomore Samira Sargent, who scored 24 points in the Piscataway win. Sophomores Daniella Marmol and Kenisha Chester have also made contributions.
New to the rotation are senior Tasia Crosson, sophomore Lourdes Marasigan and freshman Madison Ruddy. The roster also includes sophomores Kara Guno, Gabrielle Moreno and Victoria Nelson.
The Metuchen girls’ basketball team entered this season needing to replace eight letter-winners from a team that finished 15-11 a year ago.
That apparently will not be a problem since the Bulldogs were off to a 3-0 start with wins against Dunellen High School, 46-36; Middlesex High School, 48-47; and South River High School, 50-44.
Metuchen visited Spotswood High School (2-1) Dec. 23 and hosted the Bulldog Holiday Tournament Dec. 27 and Dec. 28 and 30.
A major reason why the Bulldogs are off to a strong start is the play of freshman Brynn Farrell, who has averaged 23.3 points.
“She is very talented and will play an important role in our success even though she’s a freshman,” second-year head coach Max Wexler said.
In addition to Brynn Farrell, the Bulldogs will lean on her older sister, junior Kerri Farrell, who averaged 7.2 points and 11.2 rebounds last season and was All-GMC Blue Division. She is joined by senior guards Valentina and Victoria Czochanski, who bring leadership and experience, and sophomore forward Bridget O’Connor.
Other newcomers include junior Lydia Lepinski, sophomore Rachel Wyetzner and freshmen Sam Antin, Jordan Perez, Grace Wetzel and Julia Fenton.
“We’re hoping the addition of Brynn, Sam and Jordan, plus our returning players will enable us to improve our record,” Wexler said.
Perhaps the Bulldogs will do more than that.