By BRIAN CUNNIFF
Things are a bit different around the Wildwood High School girls basketball team.
For the first time in quite a while, the Lady Warriors go into a season without featuring a dominant scorer. From Jess Freeman to Leishly Reyes to Mackenzie McCracken to Maddie McCracken, for quite a few seasons in a row Wildwood could count on getting 18, 20 points or more from a star player in just about every game.
The lack of a true scoring assassin doesn’t mean the Lady Warriors will suffer, though.
Wildwood graduated just one senior in Maddie McCracken. It’s a big loss, considering she is just the third female basketball player in Cape May County high school basketball history to surpass 2,000 career points. She also played in two South Jersey title games, including last season, when Wildwood finished an excellent 21-9 season with a loss to Haddon Township.
But with all of the other players back, plus a couple of talented additions, Wildwood is keen on spreading its production among a multitude of players.
Senior Gabby Keoughan (5-6 F), juniors Jenna Hans (5-8 F) and Leah Benichou (5-4 G) and sophomore Imene Fathi (5-2 G) are returning starters. Hans and Fathi both proved last season they could score. Both are above-average outside shooters. Benichou is also a three-point threat who has shown improvement in other parts of her game during the preseason. And Keoughan is a hustler who adds quite a few intangible qualities to go along with the occasional basket or two.
Other returnees who contributed last season include sophomores Torence Gallo (5-4 G) and Ava Troiano (5-5 G).
There are two major additions. Senior Winter Favre (5-7 G/F) transferred in from Lower Cape May. Favre has dealt with injury issues throughout much of her career but she’s more than a capable scorer and ball handler when healthy. And freshman Maya Benichou (5-6 G/F) is expected to log significant minutes and add some offense in her debut season.
Other newcomers include freshmen Abby Pruszinski (5-7 F), Ava Figueroa (5-3 G) and Paige Springer (5-4 G).
Wildwood has a lack of size but hopes to make up for it with its athleticism, depth and scoring balance.
The Lady Warriors should emerge as one of the better teams in the Tri-County Conference and could make a run at their third South Jersey title appearance in four seasons.
Wildwood opens the season Friday with a Tri-County Conference crossover game at home against Woodstown at 4:30 p.m.
Wildwood is led by third-year head coach Teresa Cunniff. Her assistants are Jim Clarke, Rich Hans and Fred Daniel.