A young Barnegat High School boys basketball team struggled in big games last season.
Several players on the Bengals' current roster were members of the school's football team, which went to the South Jersey Group III championship, earlier this month.
Barnegat coach Erik Mazur hopes that the combination of a year of basketball and a the playoff football experience will help the team dramatically.
"We've grown a ton. A lot of our kids were involved with football and went to a sectional championship," Mazur said. "Going through that process can only help us."
Eight players return, including four starters.
Among the football and basketball players is 6-foot-4 junior Kyle Morris, a forward who paced the Bengals with 11 points and 7.3 rebounds per game last winter. Xavier Young, a 6-3 center, developed his size and athleticism as an offensive lineman.
Mazur expects the Bengals to be much improved from last year, but the team is comprised of mainly underclassmen.
"We have to pay attention to all the little things," he said. "We're focusing on improving what we do defensively, being able to run multiple defenses.
The Bengals may not be a favorite to win a tough Shore Conference Division B South. But they are not a team to be overlooked.
"I feel if we play the way we should play, we're capable of hanging in with anybody," Mazur said.
League: Shore Conference B South
Group: South Jersey Group II
Coach: Erik Mazur (56-111, seven seasons)
2012-13 record: 5-20
2013-14 prediction: Spoiler - The Bengals are still a relatively young team but have tremendously athletes and return their leading scorer in Morris.
Key returnees: Kyle Morris, Jr., F, 6-4; Xavier Young, Jr., C, 6-3; Bennie Bivens, Jr., G; Nick Camarota, So., G.
Top newcomers: Ricky Gerena, Jr., G; Jason Groome, So., F; Ryan Ulrich, Sr., G.