SUMMIT, NJ - For the better part of the past four seasons, there had been one constant for the Summit High School Girls Varsity Basketball Team -- Cassidy O'Malley.
Need someone to carry the offensive load? O'Malley was there. Need a big bucket in crunch time? O'Malley was there. Need someone to draw double-teams and defensive focus, freeing up other players to create offense and score the basketball? O'Malley was there. Need roughly 20 points a game? O'Malley was there.
Now it's the onset of the 2016-17 season, and Cassidy O'Malley is not there. Graduated. Gone.
But, as the saying goes, 'all good things must come to an end' and, in this case, the all-time leading career scorer in school history -- with 1,439 points -- has gone on to the next level, and Summit Head Coach Tom Kenny is sober in his assessment of how his team will replicate her offensive contributions.
Sober as in, his Hilltoppers likely won't.
However, what The Maroon & White can do is use a group scoring dynamic and a ratcheted-up defensive effort to find "the nearly 700 points" Kenny mentions that walked off the Kent Place Boulevard campus when O'Malley, Caitlin Osmulski, Julia Harkins and others graduated.
Fortunately for Summit, there are players who can put up numbers, most notably junior captain Christina Richson, who can single-handedly sink an opponent with depth charges from beyond the three-point line, and has developed a strong drive to the hoop game as well.
Richson scored more than 250 points herself last season, and this year won't have the chore of handling the majority of the point guard duties -- which Kenny believes "limited some her looks" -- thanks to new arrival junior Mya Thompson, whose family relocation brought her to Summit from Texas.
Fellow captain and senior Anna DiSibio will also be looked to as a source of points, along with juniors Catherine Maloney, Megan Abate, and Grace Keegan.
Still, while the offensive throughput may be more varied than it was in previous seasons, it is likely the offense output will not be as robust, which is why tightening the screws defensively will be key determining factor as to Summit's level of -- and overall -- success.
With height not exactly the roster's strong suit, one might expect Summit to often deploy a zone defense, but Kenny says they will lead with a 'man' defense, mixing up schemes in an attempt to thwart what their opponents are trying to do.
Through practices and scrimmages leading up to the season-opener, Kenny has been "shuffling kids around, playing a lot of kids and looking for successful combinations."
Hilltopper faithful shouldn't be surprised if those combinations are not fully evident right out of the gate, with the Coach moving the pieces around and looking to unlock the right alchemy.
"We are young and inexperienced, but this is not a rebuild," says Kenny, adding, "There's more than one way to get the job done."
2016-17 Summit High School Girls Varsity Basketball Roster
3 - Mary Nelson, junior
4 - Megan Abate, junior
5 - Anna DiSibio, senior (c)
10 - Christina Richson, junior (c)
11 - Bella Cusumano, sophomore
14 - Noelia Todorov, senior (c)
15 - Micaela Nardino, sophomore
20 - Catherine Maloney, junior
21 - Grace Mahoney, sophomore
22 - Grace Keegan, junior
23 - Mya Thompson, junior
24 - Eliza Rustum, junior
Head Coach - Tom Kenny (Third Year - 29-20 Summit career record)
Assistant Coach - Patricia Kaes
Assist Coach - Kyle Dattola
(c) - denotes Team Captain
2016-17 Summit High School Girls Varsity Basketball Schedule
12-16 v. Cranford, 7 p.m.
12-20 @ Scotch Plains-Fanwood, 7 p.m.
12-23 v Union Catholic, 5 p.m.
12-26 @ Columbia, 4 p.m.
12-27 v,. Hunterdon Central, 2 p.m.
12-29 @ Chatham, 6 p.m.
1-3-17 @ TBA, 7 p.m.
1-7 @ Warren Hills Regional, 2:15 p.m.
1-10 @ Rahway, 4 p.m.
1-12 @ Plainfield, 7 p.m.
1-14 v. New Providence, 3:30 p.m.
1-17 v. AL Johnson, 7 p.m.
1-19 v. Scotch Plains-Fanwood, 7 p.m.
1-21 v. Ridge, 5 p.m.
1-27 @ Governor Livingston, 7 p.m.
1-28 v. Rahway, 7 p.m.
1-31 @ Roselle Catholic, 7 p.m.
2-2 v. Plainfield, 7 p.m.
2-4 v. The Patrick School, 7 p.m.
2-7 @ Westfield, 7 p.m.
2-9 @ AL Johnson, 7 p.m.
2-20 v. Governor Livingston, 12:30 p.m.