Tough task replacing Kristine Miller

Mikila Stefanski attempts a shot against Holy Spirit last season. Stefanski is 39 points away from 1,000.

The goals for the Cedar Creek High School girls basketball team are the same as they've always been.

"Win as many games as possible," Pirates coach Fran Raph said. "The goal is to get the best seed we can in the state tournament so that we can be at home."

The Pirates lost two vital players to graduation. Forward Kristine Miller, a former Press Player of the Year, and guard Michelina Hesse, were crucial in Cedar Creek's run to a state Group I title in March 2012.

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But the Pirates return every other player, including Mikila and Morgan Stefanski, who both recently committed to NCAA Division II Goldy-Beacom College in Delaware. Cedar Creek is a very well-rounded team with skilled players at shooting guard, point guard, small forward and post players.

"We have a complete team in that way," Raph said.

Mikila Stefanski averaged 13.6 points last season, second on the team in scoring behind Miller, who plays for Division I Fairfield University. The 5-foot-5 guard is 39 points away from 1,000 for her career.

Replacing Miller is a tough task. But the Pirates have two viable players to step in at the post.

Junior Casey Thomas, who is 6-feet, saw considerable minutes last season and can shoot from the outside. Sophomore Fatima Blackwell, 6-1, will also contribute.

Cedar Creek's chemistry will be an advantage in a season where many of the area's perennial powers are experiencing roster turnover.

"They spend a ton of time together. They just love playing with each other," Raph said. "They respect each other's game.

"I think they feel extremely comfortable with each other. Everyone pulls their own weight."


League: Cape-Atlantic League United

Group: South Jersey Group II

Coach: Fran Raph (59-23, three seasons)

2012-13 record: 19-5

2013-14 prediction: Contender - The Pirates have remarkable team chemistry and a well-balanced attack, making them a dangerous opponent for any team.

Key players: Mikila Stefanski, Sr., G, 5-5; Morgan Stefanski, Sr., F, 5-8; Mercina Stefanski, Sr., G, 5-2; Jahniece Jaffe, Sr., G, 5-1; Casey Thomas, Jr., F, 6-0; Monique Stefanski, Sr., G, 5-0.

Top newcomers: Fatima Blackwell, So., F, 6-1; Amanda Tanko, Jr., G, 5-6; Shannon Fletcher, Jr., F, 5-8; Alissa Reeves, Jr., G, 5-7.


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