The 2018-19 high school girls’ basketball season is approaching.
And one of the premier scholastic teams in the region is Toms River High School North.
A winter ago, Toms River North advanced to the Group 4 state tournament championship game.
Toms River North was defeated in the Group 4 title game by Franklin High School, 70-30. Franklin eventually lost in the Tournament of Champions state final to Manasquan High School, 72-60.
The Mariners finished the 2017-18 season with a 28-4 record overall and they posted a 14-1 record in the Shore Conference’s A South Division.
But five seniors who sparked last season’s strong effort have been graduated —- starters Amanda Johnson, Lindsey Cabey and reserves Khamyia Spence, Krystal Hund and Heather Cheslock.
“Losing five seniors, you lose a lot of experience. All of our seniors last season were contributors to our team. We are really curious to see how our three returning varsity starters mesh with the new girls. We have had a lot of different girls come in and out during the summer. This team has a lot of questions that need to be answered, hopefully earlier than later,” Toms River North’s coach, Vicki Gillen, said.
However, Gillen does welcome back some key veterans.
Senior Jena Paul, a 5-10 guard/forward, was the leading scorer with 17.5 points a game last winter. Meanwhile, senior Brielle Bisogno, a 5-5 guard averaged 12.5 points per game in 2017-18, and junior Kristina Johnson, a 5-9 guard/forward who averaged 6.6 points per game last season.
The team will also have junior Paige Farley a 5-6 guard/forward returning. She was one of the key reserves from the 2017-18 season.
“To be honest, spots are open this year for newcomers. That is why I think we are curious to see how the team comes together when practicing our more systematic schemes,” Gillen said.
She said it will take a couple of weeks to truly figure out the offense and defensive style for this team.
“We just have a lot more questions this year than we have had in the past couple years,” Gillen said.
For the 2018-19 season inexperience will be the challenge for Toms River North. Gillen said a lot of the girls who will play with the returners do not have a lot of varsity experience.
“After our scrimmage season we will have clearer answers. We have six scrimmages. We will play all of our girls in the scrimmage games,” Gillen said.
Toms River North’s first scrimmage will certainly tell a lot.
The defending Tournament of Champions winner, Manasquan, will square off with Toms River North on Dec. 3 in Toms River.
Gillen said that for the 2018-19 season this team will be tested and have to rely more on defense to get the team offense.
“It will be a process, but I am excited to get back into the gym with the girls again,” Gillen said.