WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange girls basketball program scaled previously unattained heights last winter.
This winter, the Mountaineers will face the challenge of establishing a new brand of chemistry with a couple of very talented holdovers from that team, as well as some promising additions to the lineup.
But head coach Caniece Williams will still have to go it without graduated leader Mya Bembry, who headed off to Division 1 Penn State University, as well as other key players who aren't back.
"We lost three key varsity players to other sports in addition to our six seniors, so it will take some time to figure it out without them," said Williams, who last year coached West Orange to a 21-4 record and the first Essex County Tournament championship in the history of the program.
She has a couple of guards returning, however, who are talented, experienced, and both around for more than just this season: junior Mackenzie Dover and sophomore Kiley Capstraw.
Dover averaged 7.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 2.7 assists last year. Capstraw, a 5-11 matchup nightmare for opponents, went for 14 points per game to go with 8.0 rebounds and 2,5 assists.
Junior guard Davionna Phillips saw some action last season, but this year will be stepping into a much more prominent role for West Orange. Senior Shyleea Ryan transferred in to the school and is also expected to play a big part in the Mountaineers' season.
"We should be pretty quick and athletic, but we lack varsity experience from the majority of the team," said Williams.
West Orange gets thrown right into the fire with its schedule: The Mountaineers open the regular season Friday, Dec. 20 at home against East Orange, the same team that ended the Mountaineers' season in the quarterfinal round of the Section 1, Group 4 state tournament.
At the end of the month, the Mountaineers will participate in a three-game holiday tournament at Lincoln High School in Jersey City before resuming their regular-season schedule Jan. 3 against always formidable University High School.