SPRINGFIELD, NJ — One of the most consistent basketball programs in Union County, the Jonathan Dayton High School girls basketball team, has routinely produced winning seasons, such as the one last year that concluded with a 16-6 record and a division title.
With all of the key players back in their familiar roles and with another year of experience tucked away, the team has its sights set on making something special out of 2022-2023.
The Bulldogs have wasted no time establishing dominance in the Mountain Division of the Union County Conference. A 4-0 start includes four division victories by an average margin of 16 points.
“We’re off to a good start,” longtime head coach Dave Rennie said.
After capturing another Valley Division title last year with a perfect 11-0 league mark, Jonathan Dayton moved up to the Mountain Division, replacing Hillside High School, which moved down to the Valley Division. Scotch Plains–Fanwood High School, which won the Mountain Division last year, moved up to the Watchung Division, with Union Catholic High School moving down to the Mountain Division.
The seven-school Mountain Division for 2022-2023 consists of Jonathan Dayton, Elizabeth, Governor Livingston, Arthur L. Johnson, Kent Place, Plainfield and Union Catholic high schools.
Elizabeth also got out to a 4-0 start, which included division wins against Arthur L. Johnson, Union Catholic and Plainfield.
Jonathan Dayton’s 4-0 start includes division wins at Arthur L. Johnson 40-36, home against Union Catholic 61-44, at Plainfield 44-35 and home against Kent Place 54-21.
Jonathan Dayton and Elizabeth are first scheduled to clash in division play on Saturday, Jan. 7, at Elizabeth High School’s Thomas G. Dunn Sports Center.
“The Mountain Division offers a more challenging slate of games,” Rennie said. “From the start, our team has been focused on doing what needs to be done against a more rigorous schedule.”
The five starters have returned, which happens every now and then when you coach for almost 30 years, as Rennie has been doing. They are senior forward Samantha Casey, junior guard Molly Martys, junior point guard Caitlyn Del Duca, sophomore guard Angela Gatto and sophomore Amiel Dillard.
Casey and Martys were named co-captains.
Casey was second in scoring last year with 187 points and led in rebounds with 164.
“Sami will play an even larger role this year,” Rennie said.
Martys led Jonathan Dayton in 3-point baskets with 34 and was second in assists with 68.
Gatto paced the Bulldogs in scoring with 201 points, assists with 44 and steals with 123.
“Chemistry, camaraderie and … continuing to improve has been the focus so far,” Rennie said. “The maturity level has risen, and a lot of that has to do with the work the girls put in during the offseason.”
Jonathan Dayton is off to a 4-0 start for the first time since the 2017-2018 squad, which finished 22-4 and won the Valley Division at 9-1, began 5-0 before its first loss.
“Sharing the basketball and getting everyone involved has been working out well so far,” Rennie said. “Communication on defense, which we stress, whether it’s verbal or thinking with one another, is also very important to our success.”
Joe Pepe Classic at Jonathan Dayton HS is back
After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the girls basketball Joe Pepe Tournament at Jonathan Dayton High School has returned.
At the Joe Pepe Classic on Tuesday, Dec. 27, Morristown Beard School was scheduled to play Livingston High School at 10 a.m., followed by Whippany Park High School against Jonathan Dayton at 1 p.m., both games after this newspaper’s press deadline. The third-place game is set for 10 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 29, and the championship game for 1 p.m.
Tuesday, Dec. 27, was to be the first time Rennie was attempting his 400th career victory. Including 27 previous seasons and four games this season, his record was 399-255. This includes two years at Union High School, as well as 25 years at Jonathan Dayton. His record at Jonathan Dayton, including this season’s 4-0 start, is 383-229.
“Last year, we could not host the Joe Pepe Tournament because of COVID-19, so we’re very happy that it has returned,” said Rennie, who is a 1983 graduate of Bloomfield High School.
Notes: For this year’s state playoffs, the Bulldogs will be in North 2, Group 2, meaning the team will no longer have to deal with the power of Newark’s University High School in Group 1. Rennie was hesitant, however, to look at this move as completely beneficial.
“You have to be kind of careful what you wish for,” Rennie said.
After two sectional victories, Jonathan Dayton saw its 2021-2022 season come to an end in the North 2, Group 1 semifinals last year, when the Bulldogs were thumped by the eventual champion and then overall Group 1 champion, University High School, 73-28.
“Although there is no University to deal with, I feel that North 2, Group 2 is a deeper group,” Rennie said.