The Cedar Creek High School girls basketball team got swept up in the thrill of capping off its 2011-12 season with a state Group I championship.
It was the first state title in any sport for the school, which opened in 2010. But it's back to square one for Cedar Creek as the school moves up to Group II this season.
"We enjoyed what we did last year, but that was last year," Cedar Creek coach Francine Raph said.
The Pirates look forward to another successful season. All five starters return, including senior forward Kristine Miller, the reigning Press Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Miller averaged 18 points per game and was even better in the postseason with a 23.3-point scoring average and 9.3 rebounds per game. She's joined by fellow senior Michelina Hesse, a guard.
Cedar Creek's bench is deeper this season, making the Pirates even more dangerous.
The Pirates play mostly Cape-Atlantic League teams in the early season. They want to win as many games as possible to secure a high seed in their new playoff bracket.
With high expectations, the attitude of the Pirates has not altered. They'll calmly face teams one game at a time.
"Our philosophy doesn't change," Raph said. "All we can do is worry about us."
Contact Brittany Grugan:
League: Cape-Atlantic League United
Group: South Jersey Group II
Coach: Francine Raph (41-18, two seasons)
Last season's record: 26-5
2012-13 prediction: Favorite - The Pirates return all five starters from last year's state championship team. Senior Kristine Miller, a 6-foot forward, will play NCAA Division I basketball for Fairfield University.
Key returnees: Kristine Miller, Sr., 6-0, F; Michelina Hesse, Sr., 5-6, G; Mikila Stefanski, Jr., 5-4, G; Morgan Stefanski, Jr., 5-8, F; Mercina Stefanski, Jr., 5-2, G.
Top newcomers: Casey Thomas, So., Jahneice Jaffe, Jr., 5-2, G; Shannon Fletcher, So., 5-7, F; Maddie Tomasello, So., 5-8, F; Monique Stefanski, Jr., 5-1, G.
5:15 p.m. Sunday at Ocean City
7 p.m. Jan. 26 vs. Gill St. Bernard's (at Holy Spirit)
7 p.m. Feb. 5 at St. Joseph
5:30 p.m. Feb. 11 vs. Sacred Heart