By TOM WILLIAMS
The high school basketball season begins tomorrow in New Jersey but the Dixie Howell Memorial Gymnasium will be empty.
Both John Bruno’s boys and Paul Baruffi’s girls will be on the road Friday night – the boys at Middle Township (7pm) and the girls at Millville (5:30pm) in a pair of crossover games.
Of course,the Dixie Howell Gym will be very busy over the weekend with the 10-game Ocean City PBA Tipoff Weekend which will conclude on Sunday at 5:15 with both Raider teams in a girl-boy doubleheader playing, both Atlantic City in their home openers.
Bruno (391-345) enters his 30th season with the most wins in OCHS history and fourth most in Cape-Atlantic League history. He lost three key players from last season’s 20-8 team – Issac Robertson, Tom Jamison and Jake McQuarrie. But he has a lot back.
Seniors Luke Varallo (11.1) and Donovan Graham (10.6) led the team in scoring last year and senior Joe Sacco (9.0) was third in scoring, led the team in assists and steals and, at 5-foot-9, was the second leading rebounder. Sacco was awarded the Boo Pergament Memorial Award last year as the CAL’s most improved player.
That solid trio has been joined in the pre-season by a pair of sophomores – 6-1 Gannon Brady and 6-5 Mike Rhodes. Brady played well in 18 games last year and has grown a few inches. Rhodes is coming off a strong football season.
Off the bench Bruno can count on seniors Ian Aungst (who also had a pretty strong football season) and Andrew Redmond; junior Ethan Stokes; sophomore Ben Hoag; and 6-5 freshman Tom Finnegan. Another 6-8 junior, Eric Greenling, will not be available at the start of the season. He was second in the CAL in blocked shots last year with 56, despite only averaging 12 minutes per game.
After Friday’s game at Middle and Sunday’s home game with Atlantic City, the Raiders will be off for a week before playing Kingsway on Dec. 22 in a showcase game in the Wildwoods Convention Center. After that, another week goes by before they play Burlington City in the opening round of the Boardwalk Basketball Classic.The Ocean City boys will play their first CAL National Conference game on Jan. 3 at Holy Spirit. The Spartans won the conference last year, finishing one game ahead of the Raiders, and they are expected to be the top two teams again.
Baruffi (377-109) is, like Bruno, Ocean City’s all-time win leader in his sport and is also No. 4 in CAL history. His teams have won 12 CAL championships in 17 years, including five CAL Tournament championships. His teams have won seven South Jersey championships, including the last three, and the only state title in OCHS girls basketball history.
The Raiders lost two players from last year’s 22-9 team – Mickey Baker and Kilie Wyers. Baker was the heart of the team last year and Wyers frequently seemed to be that player who quietly made the big plays.
But a great lineup returns, led by seniors Danielle Donoghue and Tori Rolls. These two talented athletes, who will both play other sports in college, can make history. In the 100 years that Ocean City High School has played basketball, no player – boy or girl – has ever played on a South Jersey championship team all four years of high school. Donoghue and Rolls would do that with another title this year.
Donoghue led the team in scoring, assists and steals last year and was second in rebounds. Rolls was second in steals and second in assists.
The other returning starter is 6-0 junior Emma Finnegan, who was second in scoring a year ago. They will be joined in the starting lineup by seniors Savanna Holt and Molly Hoffman. Both played a lot last year. Holt, a transfer from Holy Spirit, led the team in shooting percentage and was second to Wyers in three-pointers made. Hoffman can score from anywhere on the court.
Baruffi also has a deep rotation – he will go to juniors Abbey Fenton, Delaney Lappin and Lauren Mirsky sophomore Marlee Brestle; and freshman Marin Panico.
After tomorrow night’s game in Millville and the Sunday home opener with Atlantic City, the Raiders will face Mainland next Friday (Dec. 21) in Linwood. The two teams played four times last year – the Mustangs won the first three, all in overtime, but the Raiders won in the South Jersey final. The girls will then get ready to fly to Florida where they will play three games at Walt Disney World. Ocean City is scheduled to play Windermere (FL) High School in the first round. Windermere is currently 6-0 and has won those games by an average of 30 points each.
So, the season will be challenging for the OCHS basketball teams but they have the experienced coaches, plus the talent and depth in the lineup, to make it another good year.
2018-19 OCHS GIRLS ROSTER
1 Danielle Donoghue 5-8 Sr
3 Marin Panico 5-7 Fr
4 Delaney Lappin 5-6 Jr
10 Tori Rolls 5-5 Sr
12 Marlee Brestle 5-3 So
14 Katie Mazzitelli 5-5 Jr
15 Stephanie Carey 5-9 So
20 Lauren Mirsky 5-11 Jr
23 Savanna Holt 5-7 Sr
30 Molly Hoffman 5-9 Sr
35 Abbey Fenton 5-7 Jr
43 Emma Finnegan 6-0 Jr
Head Coach: Paul Baruffi
Assistants: Mike Cappelletti, Tim Kelley, Jeff Sobrinski, Katie Johnson
2018-19 OCHS BOYS ROSTER
3 Tom Finnegan 6-5 Fr
4 Andrew Redmond 6-0 Sr
5 Donovan Graham 6-2 Sr
10 Gannon Brady 6-1 So
11 Joey Sacco 5-10 Sr
21 Ben Hoag 5-8 So
24 Ethan Stokes 6-0 Jr
25 Ian Aungst 6-0 Sr
40 Luke Varallo 5-11 Sr
45 Mike Rhodes 6-5 So
Head Coach: John Bruno
Assistants: Andrew Bristol, Shawn Burke, Tom Ballezzi, Tim Cook, Brett Johnson