Pascack Valley girls’ basketball starts with a ‘blank slate’

Indians look to inexperienced players after loss of four starters


David Harnett

Coach Jeff Jasper gives instructions to Brianna Smith during a break in the action.

Josh DeLuca, Sports Editor

Coach: Jeff Jasper (46th Season)

Last year’s record: 28-3

Key Returners: Brianna Smith (Sr.), Sofia Battista (Jr.), Olivia Jones (Jr.)

Key Losses: Kelly Petro, Brianna Wong, Toriana Tabasco, Kelly Smith, Lindsay Rhode, Nicole Arden, Cerina Dunkel

Key Newcomers: Paige Skene (Jr.), Juliana Vassallo (Fr.), Kelly Andreasen (So.), Colleen Coyle (Sr.), Kayla Creagh (Sr.)

Strengths of Team: Starting with a “blank slate.” With the stars of the past two seasons now off in college, the Indians will get a chance to start fresh and build the next generation of PV basketball talent.

“We can improve everyday and we can improve in the most simple of terms,” Jasper said. “We can go in tiny baby steps everyday.”

Areas that Need Improvement: Experience and basketball fundamentals.  For the past two seasons, Pascack Valley’s lineup was dominated by talented upperclassmen. However, now that the Indians have lost four starters and many key role players to graduation, Valley returns an inexperienced lineup. PV will look to players who are new to varsity to fill the voids.

“The unfortunate part of having that group that was our core group [is that] this underling group didn’t get that experience, because those kids dominated the floor,” Jasper said. “But the downside is that [we] didn’t get a chance to develop these kids as much as they could’ve been.”

PV will need their new players to “learn on the fly” and gain better understandings of how the game is played at this level. 

“They have become better players,” Jasper said. “That’s my job, my responsibility to get them to be more fundamentally sound and have a better understanding as to how to play.”

Outlook: Pascack Valley has had a lot of talent and done a lot of winning during the 45 year history of its girls’ basketball program.  In June, the latest generation of PV stars – which brought the program’s sixth Group 3 sectional title back to Hillsdale in 2017 – were lost to graduation.

Now, as the Indians’ enter what many would describe as a “rebuilding year,” Jasper will write many new names into the Indians’ starting five. Senior guard Smith, a Bloomsburg University commit, is the only Indian with starting varsity experience.  A year ago, Smith – now a member of the 1,000 point club – averaged 16 points per game, while draining 115 shots from behind the arc.

Jasper expects the Indians have a rotation of “about 10 kids” through the course of a particular game. Pascack Valley will start Vassallo and Skene along with Smith, Battista, and Jones.

“I think it will take them time to learn what the pressure of playing at this level is all about,” Jasper said. “So I would expect that our early season is going to be a learning experience with the hopes that we are a much better team tomorrow than we are today.”

The Indians, who are ranked No. 6 in the region by, will open up their season on Friday as they host Ramapo at 4 p.m.

Jasper knows that PV has “a long way to go” if it hopes to return to the championship level of years past.

Coach’s comment: “My expectations are always very high. I want us to be the best team that we can possibly be,” Jasper said. “People have high expectations for us, but that doesn’t affect me at all. I have my own expectations. Other people’s’ expectations are immaterial.”

“I have never determined success by winning and losing,” Jasper said. “I always put it as ‘are we better today than we were yesterday.”