CLARK, NJ -  As the 2016 fall sports season winds down at Arthur L. Johnson High School, the Johnson girls’ varsity basketball team started up practices, looking to build success as they begin a new season.

To add to that, there is a new voice leading the way for the Crusaders as the season gets underway.

Joe Marino was named the girls varsity basketball head coach on Tuesday, November 15 at a special board of education meeting.

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“I am extremely excited, we have a lot of talent here,” Marino said. “I feel honored to work with a bunch of girls like this group. I’m hoping that we can do very well in our conference, in the counties and be very competitive in the states.”

Marino, who also coaches the Crusaders’ freshman football team in the fall, replaces Michele Sharp.

Also joining the girls’ basketball coaching staff is Marjana Banic.  Banic, an ALJ graduate, was the school’s shot put record holder from 1997 until 2015 and still holds the school record in the discus throw.

Joe Sortino, who also coaches freshman football with Marino, will assist the team in a volunteer role.

Last year, the team finished with a 9-14 record, losing the Union County Tournament First Round matchup to Summit HS. They played in the NJSIAA Central, Group 2 state playoffs, but lost to Point Pleasant Boro HS in the first round.

The teams’ first practice, on Nov. 21, consisted of ball-handling drills, cross-pass rushing drills and layups at each basket in the gym, along with conditioning drills before the practice came to an end. 

Team members were enthusiastic about the season ahead.

“I’m definitely really excited,” ALJ junior Amy Wysocki said. “I think a new coach this season is going to bring a fresh start to the team. The difference in coaching style will bring a good vibe to our team and hopefully, we’ll be able to play well this season.”

Last year, Wysocki played in 19 games, making 41 baskets, 11 three-point baskets, and averaged 6.2 points per game.

Seniors on this year’s team include Sabrina Parin, Callie Readie, Meaghan Gallagher and Jessica Gannon. Gallagher and Gannon last played on the team in the 2014-15 season.

The seniors are looking forward to a leadership role, and hope to leave their mark on the school’s basketball legacy.

“I expect nothing but positive energy with a new coach this season,” Parin said. “I feel like we want to work hard for [Coach Marino], so I think there’s nothing but success in our future.”

Juniors on this year’s team include Wysocki, Danielle Hartzler, Kellie Bonaccorso and Kristina Palella.

“I’m pretty excited because we have a new coach, some players that come back this season, whether they’ve previously played before or are new,” Bonaccorso said. “I think it’s going to be a good season, we’re all going to do good, we’re going to work hard and win.”

The underclassmen from last year’s team include sophomores Bailey Rosenmeier and Victoria Zatko.

“I love basketball, so I am very excited for the season to start,” Rosenmeier said. “I think we have a good group of girls coming back, plus we have some girls returning to the program. Coach Marino has made a great first impression, and everyone is excited about the prospects for this year.”

Rosenmeier played in 16 games last year, making 15 baskets, averaging 2.7 points per game for the Crusaders last year.

The regular season for the girls’ varsity basketball team starts on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 11:00 a.m., a home game against New Providence HS.

With returning players at the core, and new players joining in, Crusaders girls’ basketball is looking to achieve great things in the 2016-2017 season, with deep runs into the county and state tournaments.  But first, they turn their attention to a winning season with a new coach at the helm.

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