The Greater Middlesex Conference is about to start girls' basketball again, which means looking at which teams have a shot at leading the conference this year.
Last season, St. Thomas Aquinas was a powerhouse in the GMC, leading with their undefeated conference record (22-7, 13-0). However, they graduated two star players: Nia Clemons, who finished her season with 248 points, 196 rebounds, and 129 assists, and Jessica Cooper, who finished with 365 points and 289 rebounds. They were both dominant shooters and were able to capitalize on offense. The Trojans have also lost junior Leah Crosby, who transferred to Rutgers Prep to finish her high school career. The tough and physical forward, who put up 326 points and had 276 rebounds last year, is a hard loss for St. Thomas Aquinas. Along with Crosby, junior guard Amarillis Shubick left the Trojans for The Perikomen School in Pennsylvania.
This doesn't leave the Trojans without help this season, as they have a strong lineup going into this year. Juniors Gianna Chuffo and Adriana Summersett, two dynamic shooters, will be in huge roles this season. They are also very active on defense and can strategically move the ball up the court. Junior shooting guards Sabrina DeSio and Reese Sebok will be vital perimeter shooters, and sophomore forward Jordan Barnes will give the Trojans an interior presence.
St. Thomas Aquinas finished last season holding a Greater Middlesex Conference title after a close 49-42 game against Colonia and will look to make that happen again this year. Other teams in the conference will be out for a win against this powerhouse, so the Trojans must use their armory to rise to the top again.
The Vikings, who finished 19-8 and 10-4 in the conference last season, graduated Katie Rausch, a powerful shooter who finished last season with 378 points and 118 rebounds and took her talent to Rowan University. South Brunswick will look to fill the void left by their top scorer. Lucky for the Vikings, they return junior guards Alexis Lease-Springer and Leilani Pinder, who are dynamic shooters and active defensive players. Lease-Springer averaged 12.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Pinder averaged 8.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Senior Meher Vig will also be in a prominent role for South Brunswick, as she averaged 10.9 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. The Vikings have a powerful roster filled with strong returning players and should be able to capitalize on that this season.
Monroe and Old Bridge
The Falcons and the Knights finished with an 8-6 GMC conference record last season. Monroe graduated Haley Higgins and Katelyn Louro, who scored 247 and 229 points last year, respectively. The Falcons return senior Halley Cottrell, an excellent heads-up shooter who led her team in three-pointers last year. Along with Cottrell, the Falcons return senior Nicole Turco, who scored 203 points last season, and Junior Evangelina Francisco, who finished with 221 points.
On the other hand, Old Bridge graduated most of their starting lineup, including Leena Tran, who led the Knights in points and rebounds, Malvina Sullivan, Gabrielle Walker, and Zainab Soomro. Old Bridge returns senior Abigail Jazmin, who finished her junior season with 294 points and 118 rebounds and will lead her team this year. Junior Haylee Blackman will be important for the Knights this year as she will be stepping in to fill the void her graduated seniors left for her. They will rely on incoming talent to build their team back up from the players they lost last year.
Colonia and East Brunswick
The Patriots and Bears also finished their last season with an 8-6 conference record. Colonia graduated Mattison Chiera, who finished her senior season with 418 points and 155 rebounds. However, they return University of Massachusetts commit Taylor Derkack, who averaged 21.5 points and 13.6 rebounds per game last season. This tenacious forward will play a massive role for the Patriots and is a player other teams in the GMC will have an eye on. Junior forward Isabel Gidado, who finished last season with 118 points and 109 rebounds, will also be a leader on the team.
East Brunswick graduated many seniors last year, including lead scorer Tamea El, who finished with 338 points and 306 rebounds last season, and Annie Nezaria, who put up 234 points. The Bears also graduated Brooke, Nicole, and Sam Motusesky, who had excellent senior seasons, finishing with 307, 190, and 177 points last season, respectively. East Brunswick will turn to senior Caitlin Gay, freshman Julianna Delos Santos-Branson, and incoming players to continue the Bears' success. Gay will be responsible for scoring close range, and Delos Santos-Branson will look to rebound and defend.
Piscataway finished its season 7-17 and 2-12 in conference, with their only GMC wins against North Brunswick. The Chiefs graduated Autumn John, who finished with 285 points and 184 rebounds. They return seniors Alyssa Rice, who scored 825 points, and Courtney Edmundo, who finished with 190 points last season. The Chiefs also return junior Makayla Williams, who completed her season with 201 points. Piscataway will need some help this season to compete against the other great players and teams in the conference.
The Raiders did not win a single GMC game last year, with their final record being 7-17 and 0-12. They graduated Niyell McCargo, who finished with 472 points and 205 rebounds last year, leading her team. The underclassmen could not get too many points on the board and must step up this season to compete in the conference. North Brunswick will rely on their underclassmen and new talent to build back up a winning team.