NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — The West Essex girls basketball team has had a hot start to 2020, in part due to the performance of star point guard Halle Aschenbach.

The sophomore has been phenomenal entering her second stint on the varsity squad, averaging 16 points per game so far this season as the teams leading scorer.

“[We want] to get farther in the state tournament” said Aschenbach. “Last year, we got pretty far, and I just want to keep that up.”

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Aschenbach explained that she has been working more on inside-the-paint scoring this year in practice after focusing on shooting last season.

“That had to improve because I’m short and small and couldn’t get in farther, but this year I’m dribbling further through people, being more aggressive and taking the hits,” she said.

Aschenbach possesses a rare combination of shooting and ball skills that make her tough to defend for opposing squads. The often-selfless player has learned the benefits of being able to take over a game, as she’s scored in double digits every game this season.

“Last year, as a freshman, I wouldn’t really take the ball myself as much,” said Aschenbach. “So I’m working on driving and shooting more.”

Perhaps the biggest addition to the skill set that the sophomore now possesses is mental toughness.

Even when she’s on a cold streak, Aschenbach knows she is able to heat up at any time and change the narrative of a contest. This was on display during the recent Holiday Tournament against Caldwell, where she collected 15 second-half points after a slow start.

“I just felt like my heart was most in that game because they are our biggest rivals,” she said. “I knew it was a big game and a lot of people were going to be there.”

Aschenbach has also developed a short memory in order to continue to produce for her team on both ends of the court.

“I get frustrated very quickly; but after our halftime talk, I realized I just have to get out of my head and just play,” said Aschenbach.

Although West Essex ultimately fell to Caldwell in a thrilling last-second game, Aschenbach finished with a game-high 23 points on the evening. Several Caldwell parents were even boasting to the Caldwell coaching staff of her ability.

At this point in the season, West Essex stands at 4-1 with the help of Aschenbach and a number of returning key starters.

While Aschenbach stands out as a key player on the squad, she still maintains a big-picture approach as to why the squad is so successful.

“We have a lot of camaraderie as a team,” said Aschenbach. “Our chemistry is really good.”

As the season moves onward with the county tournament and a number of key conference games on the way, the future is bright for both Aschenbach and the West Essex girls basketball team.

“I expect our chemistry to get even better and for us as a team to keep going because it’s still the start of our season,” the sophomore said. “Not that we’re rusty, but we’re still working on little skills; and once we finish that stuff up, we’ll be good.”

The Knights will take on Nutley on their home court on Jan. 10 at 7 p.m.