Florence High girls’ basketball team is crowned division champion

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Florence Township Memorial High School's Gabby Loftin gets air for a layup score against Asbury Park High School in a Jan. 29 game in Florence. PHOTO BY THOMAS WIEDMANN/ STAFF
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Florence Township Memorial's Gabby Loftin goes to the rim for a score against Asbury Park High School in a Jan. 29 home game. PHOTO BY THOMAS WIEDMANN/ STAFF
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Florence Township Memorial's Olivia Smith looks to pass to a teammate against Asbury Park High School in a Jan. 29 home game.
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Florence Township Memorial High School's Gabby Loftin gets air for a layup score against Asbury Park High School in a Jan. 29 game in Florence. PHOTO BY THOMAS WIEDMANN/ STAFF
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Florence Township Memorial's Gabby Loftin goes to the rim for a score against Asbury Park High School in a Jan. 29 home game. PHOTO BY THOMAS WIEDMANN/ STAFF
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Florence Township Memorial's Olivia Smith looks to pass to a teammate against Asbury Park High School in a Jan. 29 home game.

Just two years removed from a winless season, the Florence Township Memorial High School girls’ basketball team celebrated a division championship this winter.

After Florence earned a share of the Burlington County Scholastic League’s Independence Division championship this season with rival Bordentown Regional High School, the Flashes secured a visit to the first round of the Central Jersey, Group 1 state sectional tournament.

Fifth-seed Florence opened the tournament on March 2 with a  victory at home over 12th-seed Henry Hudson Regional High School, 37-23.

The Flashes advanced to the quarterfinal round of the state tournament on March 4 for a road game against fourth-seed Point Pleasant Beach High School. Florence’s playoff run ended with a 60-48 loss to Point Pleasant Beach.

Although Florence’s season finished just short of a visit to the sectional semifinal, the girls’ basketball program has taken tremendous strides in the last two seasons.

Two years ago, Florence finished its season with a 0-23 record.

This winter, Florence posted an overall record of 16-10 and ended 9-1 in the division. Bordentown also finished 9-1 in the division.

The Flashes improved last season when they qualified for a berth in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 1 sectional tournament. Florence finished 9-16 overall and 4-4 in the Burlington County Scholastic League’s Independence Division last year.

This year, Florence found itself competing for a division title and earned a successful playoff run.

Headed by coach Gina Smith, the young squad consisted of two seniors this year and was led by top scorers Gabby Loftin, Alexa Taylor, Olivia Smith, Toni Jones and Chi Chi Nwagbaraji. The seniors were Bella Dunphy and Sophia Smith.

Loftin paced the offense this season with 362 points. Taylor finished her 2019-20 campaign with 236 points. Olivia Smith raked in 195 points. Jones scored 151 points, and Nwagbaraji put up 111 points.

Florence’s dynamic squad showcased its abilities multiple times this season, particularly in a road game against Doane Academy on Jan. 24 when it earned a 48-45 victory. Led by freshmen Loftin and Taylor, the duo combined for 33 points in the game to help the Flashes seal the victory.

The versatile scoring pair connected again in a Jan. 29 home game against Asbury Park High School when Loftin and Taylor scored a combined 45 points. Florence went on to defeat Asbury Park, 59 -37.