Donovan Catholic goes up against Toms River East, winning 46-41. Richard O’Donnell photo
Donovan Catholic goes up against Toms River East, winning 46-41. Richard O’Donnell photo

While cohesiveness is always important in basketball, talent can often be a difference-maker.

Such is the case with the Donovan Catholic girls team this year.

Despite playing with three transfers in the starting lineup – and less than adequate practice time to work the newcomers into the flow due to pandemic restrictions – the Griffins got off to their best start under fourth-year coach Glenn Jansen.

Photo Gallery: Donovan Catholic vs. Toms River East

The Toms River school carried a 4-0 record into their Feb. 9 game at Southern Regional. It marked the first time DC won its first four games since 2016.

Donovan Catholic is led by its two returning senior starters, Jordyn Keating and Olivia Conroy. New to the starting lineup are sophomore Gabriella Ross, and juniors Kya Ross and Shelby Barksdale, who all transferred from other schools.

Ross was the team’s leading scorer with a 17.5 average through four games, while Keating was averaging 10.5 and Conroy and Joseph were just under 10 per game. Their abilities have enabled them to overcome little practice time together during the pandemic.

“It’s just a really good group of girls,” Jansen said, explaining that the team still has “more jelling to do.”

“With the shortened preseason, it’s strenuous at times because it hasn’t become instinctual for them to play together yet. But that’s actually encouraging because when we do come together …”

Jansen didn’t finish the sentence, but didn’t have to. Donovan Catholic is a team that will only get better as the season progresses, and it’s already proven to be pretty good.

“There has been some excitement,” the coach said. “Gabi has added some offensive firepower to our squad. Jordyn is our leader, the heart of the program. She demonstrates leadership to the girls and how to carry yourself and how you prepare for the game.”

Another team leader is captain Alex Gelosi, who comes off the bench with fellow seniors Bella Kenmura, Mackenzie Kopf and Alex Bitetti.

“My philosophy is the first people you bring off the bench should be galvanizing – people who bring their team together and bring a lot of energy,” Jansen said. “They’ve all been with our program, so when we go to them, I know things are going to become more cohesive and consistent because they’ve spent more time together.”

It is a group that hopes to be playing its best basketball by season’s end. This year, the Shore Conference has divided into pods. Donovan Catholic is in Pod 1, and their first goal is to win the pod title. At season’s end, teams will be broken into three groups – teams ranked from 1-8, 9-16 and 17-24 – for three separate three-game post-season tournaments.

“Our goal is to play really good basketball and win our pod. Beyond that, it’s out of our control,” Jansen said.