BLOOMFIELD – Coming off a strong 17-8 campaign in 2014-2015, the Bloomfield High School girls’ varsity basketball team has a solid returning nucleus this season.
Under third-year head coach Dana Morton, the Lady Bengals, who graduated just three players – forward Anaiah Hodge and twin guards Zenndayah and Taniyah Austin – return senior forward/center Aniyah Allen, junior guards Genesis Collins and Grace Cannon, senior guard/forward Sam Corio, senior forward Gracielle Richards, junior guard/forward Jalia Santos, junior forward/center Kasey Coury, sophomore guard Raquel Plata and sophomore forward Aicha Naouai.
The Bengals will tip off the season Friday, Dec. 18, against Verona at BHS at 7 p.m. in a Super Essex Conference-Colonial Division game.
Leading the Bengals will be Cannon, Allen and Collins. Cannon averaged 14 points, 2.4 assists and 4.7 rebounds and Allen averaged 9.5 points and 7.8 rebounds to both earn All-SEC-Colonial Division first-team honors last year. Collins made second team all-conference.
Allen is overall the team’s most athletic player who can score from mid range to around the basket, noted coach Morton. Collins’ quickness and shooting ability make her difficult to guard one-on-one, while Cannon is the team’s three-point threat and best free-throw shooter who is approaching 1,000 points for her career, added Morton.
Corio, Santos and Richards are the team’s lockdown defenders who bring high intensity on the defensive side, said Morton. Naouai is also developing into a solid defender, the coach added.
Camrynn Referente, a freshman guard, also will see quality minutes.
The Bengals’ strength is their strong chemistry and quickness on the court.
“These kids have been playing with one another since middle school and know each other very well on the court,” Morton said. “We are also a very quick team and will look to push the tempo of the game to try and wear other teams out.”
The Bengals’ goals for the season include winning the divisional title and going far in both the Essex County Tournament and state tournament.
Teamwork will go a long way toward achieving their goals.
“The keys always remain the same: to play as one cohesive unit with no player more important than the next, to play as a team, to always work hard and leave everything on the floor,” said Morton.
The BHS assistant coaches are Zac Dearwater, Casey Newman and Mike Simms.
Following the season opener, the Lady Bengals will visit divisional foe Irvington on Dec. 22 at 4 p.m.