Lions battle adversity to begin 2022-23 girls basketball campaign


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JACKSON — There have been some highs and lows for the Jackson Liberty High School girls basketball team and first-year coach Dana Young to begin the 2022-23 season.

The Lions got the season started on a high note with a 54-48 victory over Barnegat High School on Dec. 15. Junior Chelsea Lavezzo led the way by scoring 22 points.

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Unfortunately for the Lions, the victory came at a cost as Lavezzo sustained an injury that has put her status for the rest of the season in question.

The injury bug struck again in a game against Monmouth Regional High School on Dec. 20 in Tinton Falls. The Lions lost senior Jacklyn Capasso to injury during a 49-23 loss to the Falcons.

With two starters out indefinitely, Young said her team’s depth will be tested as the Lions try to fight through the early injuries and rebound from a 1-20 campaign in 2021-22.

“It’s going to be a lot of adversity this year, but I think we are going to be OK,” said Young. “We don’t have a lot of depth on our bench, but we are going to fight with what we have and push through.”

Young, who is also the coach of the girls soccer team, has succeeded Alaina Hearon at the helm of the basketball team. Hearon led the Lions to their first state sectional tournament semifinal game appearance during the 2019-20 season.

Senior Ariana Broughton played in the state sectional tournament semifinal game three years ago. As a junior, she averaged more than 18 points per game, while totaling 211 rebounds and 56 steals.

“She is very confident with the ball and we can have her play anywhere,” Young said of Broughton. “To have a player like that is a good feeling.”

Because of the injuries to Lavezzo and Capasso, Young said the team will rely even more on Broughton for scoring.

Newcomers Sam Grueiro and Stella Simmons, and seniors Mya Rosario, Ashanti Boothe and Jaylene King are expected to step up into bigger roles for the Lions.

Young, a Jackson native, graduated from Jackson Memorial High School in 2010 and was a standout soccer and basketball player for the Jaguars. She played college soccer at Monmouth University.

When Young suited up for the basketball team, she said she learned a lot from playing under long-time coach Rachel Goodale.

Young credits Goodale’s coaching tactics with helping her to become an NCAA Division I athlete and hopes she can use some of the techniques that were employed by her former coach to help the Lions right the ship as the season moves forward.

“If I can sprinkle just a little of what (Goodale) has done, I will be happy,” Young said.

Jackson Liberty (1-2) will participate in the Shore Regional High School Blue Devil Tournament in West Long Branch during the holiday break.

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