1. Gloucester Catholic (26-4 last season)
A year after winning the South Jersey Invitational Basketball Tournament and advancing to the Non-Public South A title game, Gloucester Catholic brings back the area's most balanced team. Junior forward Mary Gedaka could be South Jersey's most dominant player. She's joined in the frontcourt by a fellow Division I recruit, senior forward Kennedi Thompson. The two are complemented by junior guard Maggie McIntyre, perhaps the area's best three-point shooter. Sophomore guard Naiyana Sabb and sophomore forward Danielle Sanderlin, transfers from Wildwood Catholic, will bolster an already deep rotation.
2. Camden Catholic (24-5)
Last season, Camden Catholic was a young, up-and-coming team. The Irish showed flashes of brilliance, including handing area powerhouse Gloucester Catholic one of its four losses. The nucleus is back and, led by veteran coach Chris Palladino, Camden Catholic should take its place among South Jersey's elite. Three junior guards - Sierra Taylor, Julia Braungart, and Taiah Thornton - starred as underclassmen and should only improve this season.
3. Shawnee (26-5)
Last season was a banner one for the Renegades. The team won its first sectional title since 1999 and advanced to the state championship game. Though it must overcome the graduation of sharpshooter Olivia Askin, one of the area's top offensive threats. Shawnee returns four starters - an experienced core poised for another run at a state title. Senior forward Nikola Williams, who averaged a team-best 16 points per game as a junior, is a physical, athletic presence on both ends of the floor.
4. Cherokee (14-11)
A young Cherokee team improved through every stage of last season, culminating in a narrow loss to eventual champion Shawnee in the sectional Group 4 quarterfinals. Six-foot forward Isabella Therien enjoyed a breakout freshman season, averaging 14 points per game. She, and a host of returning players, should continue to take steps forward.
5. Woodrow Wilson (24-9)
The biggest question surrounding the Tigers is how they overcome the loss of Chanelle Perry - last year's Inquirer player of the year and the heart and soul of a team that won the state Group 3 championship and made a Cinderella run to the semifinals of the Tournament of Champions. With Perry now starring at Clemson, the spotlight is on her supporting cast. Fortunately for Woodrow Wilson, those players shined in the postseason a year ago. Senior guards Tamara Sellers, Ciarah Bennett, and Lyayshia Stevens are athletic and confident and can beat teams with strong inside and outside games.
6. Haddon Township (28-3)
All five starters return for Haddon Township, a finalist in last year's Group 1 state tournament. A unique matchup problem for teams, Haddon Township features a supremely balanced, team-oriented lineup. Starters Bella Preziosi, Alayxiah Carr, Katie Burns, Sarah Getzinger, and Morgan Lenahan are all capable scorers and tough defenders. With so much time on the floor together, the team - again one of the top small-school programs in the state - also has as much chemistry as any in South Jersey.
7. Timber Creek (19-10)
Senior guard Brittany Martin is one of South Jersey's truly elite players and on the short list of preseason favorites to be Inquirer player of the year. A dangerous and tough all-around leader and floor general, Martin led Timber Creek to a South Jersey Group 3 title-game appearance last season, an overtime loss to eventual state champion Woodrow Wilson. Alexis Riif, one of the area's top shooters, graduated, but the Chargers, led by Martin, should again be one of the top teams in Group 3.
8. Williamstown (17-10)
Perennially among the area's top teams, Williamstown will have a largely different look from a year ago when they advanced to the sectional Group 4 semifinals. The team graduated three starters, all playing college basketball. But the Braves return an elite player in senior guard/forward Taylor Bynoe - a force in South Jersey since her freshman year. Bynoe, who averaged 14.6 points and 10 rebounds last season, is complemented by point guard Ciani Carter, who averaged 9.3 points and 3.4 assists.
9. Lower Cape May (18-10)
Senior point guard and Fordham recruit Lauren Holden - who averaged 28 points per game last year - is a bona fide superstar and, alone, would be enough to elevate Lower Cape May to one of the area's top teams. But the Tigers return all five starters this season, including Maddie Gibson, who averaged 10.5 points per game last season.
10. Lenape (20-7)
The Indians were hit hard by graduation, particularly with the loss of 6-foot-3 center Alexis Sears. But, on the heels of their advance to the South Jersey Group 4 title game, depth continues to be a strength for Lenape. Six-foot-2 senior forward Maddie Sims, who averaged 12.5 points as a junior, is one of the area's top inside forces.
- Chris MelchiorreEndText