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Cipriano nearing 400-victory mark

Vince Cipriano is tipping off his 25th season as the girls' basketball coach at Florence, where he has fashioned a record of 384-177.

Over the last quarter century, Cipriano's squads have captured four sectional crowns and a half-dozen divisional titles in the Burlington County League.

Even though the Flashes are coming off a 17-6 campaign, Cipriano may have to turn in one of his most masterly performances to reach the 400-win plateau this season. Graduation cost him a pair of 1,000-point scorers - Caitlin Fitzpatrick and Lauren Jacobsen - along with Carly Blanton. Fitzpatrick is playing at Richard Stockton; Jacobsen and Blanton are suiting up at Mercer County College.

"We are still fairly young and inexperienced," Cipriano said of this season's squad. "The new leaders will take a little time to mesh. They are already showing signs of being able to step in and pick up where we left off last year."

The Flashes will count heavily on three returning letter-winners: senior guard Jessica Foulks, senior forward Kiara Boone, and junior forward Erin Sweeney.

Back for more?

Palmyra bid farewell to the best player in program history, all-time leading scorer and rebounder Lailah Pratt (Quinnipiac), after claiming the school's first sectional title with a 22-7 run last season.

But coach Sean Brady and the Panthers are looking ahead - not back on their accomplishments.

"We lost five seniors who had been with the program for four years, so we did lose some leadership," Brady said. "The question everybody has about us is 'How good are you gonna be without Lailah?'

"But I don't think our kids look at it that way. I thought there would be more reminiscing, but they're pretty grounded. They're moving on and they're worried about this year."

Easing the concern somewhat is the return of Pratt's younger sister, 5-foot-8 junior Javon Pratt, and 5-5 junior Lakiya Artis. The tandem combined to average nearly 26 points, more than 10 rebounds, more than 7 assists and 5 steals per game.

"Obviously, they're going to be our leaders this year," Brady said of Pratt and Artis. "They're both captains because, even though they're juniors, they have the most experience on the team."

Making an impression.

Moorestown's Katrina Kenney, Riverside's Scott Atkinson and Matt Brogan of New Egypt were first-year coaches who experienced some growing pains last season, but each has received the respect of their peers around the league in discussing this year's divisional contenders.

Kenney's Quakers went 10-15, but with returning starters Julie McGrory, Virginia Weber, Charlotte Fuller and Alyssa Ogle, Moorestown is considered a legitimate threat to Liberty Division powers Trenton Catholic and Willingboro.

"We have high expectations," Kenney said. "We plan to work hard, run hard and reinforce fundamentals all year long. We want to win a championship."

Riverside, 9-15 a year ago, has been tabbed as the team to possibly topple defending Freedom Division champ Palmyra. Atkinson has his starting lineup returning intact, led by 5-7 junior guard Erin DiMiero, an all-division first team pick as a sophomore. Joining her will be seniors Caitlin Schultice and Amanda Smith, and juniors Meghan Donnelly and Bridget Rossi.

Atkinson believes that his Rams can "contend for a playoff berth, as well as our division title."

Brogan, emboldened by leading the 11-15 Warriors to the program's first playoff appearance last season, is expecting a better record and another postseason berth.

Returning senior starters Kristie Martino, Robynn Frank and Emily Straniero - who combined to average 23 points and 15 rebounds last season - will need to produce again to make Brogan's wishes come true.

Demotion by subtraction.

Westampton Tech opened some eyes and raised expectations with last season's 17-9 record. But the squad that many of her peers expected to challenge for the Patriot Division crown this season is not the one that showed up for coach Dyette Dillard's first practice.

Nadirah Brown, a 5-10 senior swingman, and 5-6 junior guard JaNaye Ware transferred to Willingboro, while 5-11 junior forward Shakia Canty took her size and talents to Trenton Catholic.

- By Pete Schnatz