The tough practices and challenging scrimmages that they participated in during the preseason may pay off for the Vernon High School basketball programs this season.
The Vikings boys and girls teams appear to well-positioned to take on the formidable opponents they will face on the court.
The boys team opened the regular season with a 70-52 victory over Wallkill Valley at home Dec. 17.
Alex Fessel led all scorers with 20 points, including four 3-point buckets. Elijah Gaskin added 15 points, with a two 3-pointers for the Vikings.
On Tuesday, Dec. 27, Vernon is scheduled to begin participating in a Christmas tournament at Lakeland High School.
“We try to focus on improving as a player and teammate each day at practice,’’ head coach Connor Healy said. “We are looking to compete for our division championship and compete at a high level in the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex and (NJSIAA) state tournaments.’’
Among the student athletes on the varsity roster are senior Elijah Gaskin (guard), senior Jayden McCann (guard), junior Ernest Mack (guard), junior Dhamir Morfe-Chess (guard and forward), senior Josh Coughlin (forward), senior Robert Nathan (guard and forward), junior Ben Jurewicz (forward), junior Franco Luna (forward) and sophmore Alex Fessel (guard).
“All five of our seniors as well as Ben Jurewicz and Alex Fessel” will be considered leaders, Healy said.
Vernon tallied a solid 13-11 overall record last season and advanced to the NJSIAA North 1 Group 2 sectional tournament, where the team was defeated by Mahwah.
It competed in the NJAC Colonial Division along with Kittatinny, High Point, Morris Tech, Sussex Tech and North Warren.
“We view ourselves as a contender within our division,’’ Healy said. “Each team is going to be tough to beat and we need to be ready to play each night.’’
The girls team was scheduled for a regular-season opener with a Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Colonial Division game at Lenape Valley on Dec. 15. But that game was postponed until Jan. 31 because of the weather.
Vernon is scheduled to host High Point on Friday, Dec. 23. The Vikings then are slated to take part in a Christmas tournament at Wallkill Valley High School on Tuesday, Dec. 27 and Wednesday, Dec. 28.
They are scheduled to begin 2023 with a home match-up against Morris County Tech on Jan. 4.
Key returning varsity-tested student athletes include senior Jessica LeFort (center), senior Lauren Waschek (guard), senior Danica Williams (guard), junior Jonnah Castillo (point guard) and senior Alexandra Castillo (center).
Newcomers hoping to make a positive impression on the varsity roster include sophomore Grace Dobrzynski and freshman Monica Curry.
Leadership will be important for the Vikings this winter.
“Jonnah Castillo is returning as our point guard,’’ head coach Stephanie DePiano said. “Jessica LeFort and Danica Williams are strong communicators for the team. (We want to) continue good communication, working towards being more competitive.’’
The Vikings play in the NJAC Colonial Division along with Lenape Valley, Hopatcong, Newton, Sussex Tech and Morris Tech.
The team would like to improve on their win total from the 2021-22 season.
“I think anything can happen for our team this year,’’ DePiano said. “We have a lot of raw talent, and if we can put the right pieces together, we will have a chance to be competitive in our division.’’
“We view ourselves as a contender within our division. Each team is going to be tough to beat and we need to be ready to play each night.’’ - Vernon High School head boys basketball coach Connor Healy