Chrissy DiCindio has been a part of three good High School North girls basketball teams, but this year’s could be the best.
“Not that we didn’t want it in years past, but we know we can achieve what we want,” said the senior forward. “We can very realistically say that we can win these games, we can beat these teams we haven’t beaten before, we can play however we need to play.”
The Knights took the first stretch of their schedule by storm. North’s 8-0 start included a hard-fought win over Steinert to capture their own War of the Worlds Tournament on Dec. 29. The team’s biggest obstacle yet this season was to come on Jan. 13 in a game against the 9-1 Ewing High School team. The game was expected to be played after the News went to press.
As DiCindio’s senior class has risen through the ranks, the Knights have added other pieces to complement the roster and build expectations. DiCindio, Jasmin Watson and Natalie Everett are seniors that have been cogs in the lineup since they were freshmen.
DiCindio, who is headed to the University of Pennsylvania, and Watson, who will play at Northeastern University, headline a talented pool of players. The Knight seniors have 54 wins together after their 8-0 start. They have seen two 18-10 seasons around an 11-win season. Last year, they reached the Central Jersey, Group IV quarterfinals.
The only weakness that the Knights might have is the drop-off after their first six or seven players, said Kights Head Coach Bob Boyce.
“I think I’m trying to not hype everything up as much just to keep everything in perspective,” DiCindio said. “We know that we have a good team. We know there’s a target on our back. We always play to the level we need to, we always try to keep ourselves consistent. And Boyce tells us we’re the team to beat right now… We’re trying to keep everyone’s minds where they should be and trying to stay consistent with how we play.”
In a 66-38 win over Trenton on Jan. 6, Watson scored all 16 of her points in the first quarter as the Knights raced out to a 26-6 lead. From there, she fed her teammates when Trenton paid all their attention to her, and Everett went for 15 points and sophomore Jordan Brown finished with 13 points.
“She’s my point guard, so she’s like the quarterback out there,” Boyce said of Watson. “She has to run the team. I only get five timeouts a game, so somebody has to be in charge on the court. She’s done that for four years and I would say she is comfortable in her role now. If she wants to score 20-30 points, she’s certainly capable of doing that.”
But since Watson’s teammates are also talented, she doesn’t need to score that many for the team to win, Boyce said.
‘Our chemistry, it grows every day in practice and we keep getting closer.’
The advantage she has this year is the people around her are better. That’s allowing her to get assists more and taken pressure off her.
“She has to make sure the others are doing what they need to do. As my leader of the offense and distributor of the basketball, that’s where she’s taken off. She’s the best point guard I’ve had,” he said.
If Watson is the leader on offense, Boyce said that 6-foot-2-inch DiCindio is the leader on the defensive end.
“She’s the most aggressive, toughest kid I have. She brings that element of toughness and aggression within control that’s contagious to the others. Also, she’s very smart on the court,” he said.
DiCindio has increased her scoring average each year. She has started the season averaging 12.7 points per game. In the War of the Worlds final, she had 14 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocks to make the all-tournament team.
DiCindio invited Watson to her Central Jersey Hawks AAU team when they were in seventh grade, and that connection has deepened each year since then. Together with Everett, they guide the Knights.
“Playing with both of them has been awesome,” DiCindio said. “On the court, we know how we want to play with each other. We know what the team wants to do. We try our hardest to get the girls where they need to be.”
DiCindio couldn’t be happier with the way that her final year with the Knights has begun. Last year’s start was hampered by girls being in and out of the lineup and waiting for Ciahni Hunt to be eligible after 30 days for transferring in. But this year’s unbeaten start has been marked by its consistency. Blowout wins have allowed them also to play some of their less experienced players and start to build some depth.
“Our chemistry, it grows every day in practice and we keep getting closer,” DiCindio said. “We’re really comfortable with each other right now, on and off the court. I’m completely in love with my team. Last year, the season got a little choppy because of the additions that kept going in or people kept going out because of injuries.”
DiCindio said junior Emily Garron is a hard worker who has stepped up this season. She also sees Katie Laresch and Maddie Russell as key additions to the squad.
“I don’t think they always get the recognition that they deserve because we have so many good players. They work so hard all the time,” she said.
DiCindio thinks the team has the potential to go deep in the county and state tournaments. “We may not be very deep, but we’re consistent in what we’re trying to do,” she said. “The girls are all really hard workers and we’d anything for this team, which I think is really important.”
Looming for WW-P North is a trio of opponents that have given them difficulty over the previous three years: Ewing, Allentown and Notre Dame. But this year, there’s a different feeling among the Knights that has them looking even beyond those Mercer County powers.
“This is our year,” said Boyce.