Like any coach, Alan Clement has set goals for his team, a particularly talented girls basketball squad at Mahwah High School.
"I hope to have a year like we did last year," he said of the 22-6 campaign. "We lost only one senior to graduation, Casey Doran,"
But there are two memories that stick with Clement and the girls.
"We lost in the second round of the states on a last-second shot for a one-point loss; and we lost again in the second round of the county tournament," he recalled with a wince. "We just can't seem to get past that point."
So any second-round opponent this season should be on alert. The girls are determined to advance further this time.
The team begins with 6-foot-tall senior center Kayla Devine and 5-11 junior forward Sam Haubner.
"Kayla's a scoring machine," Clement said. "Nobody's been able to stop her."
Devine actually is a double-double machine as she had 33 points and 10 rebounds in a win over arch rival Ramsey and went 12 and 15 in a loss to Westwood.
The team stood at 2-1 as Clement spoke, the other win being against DePaul.
"Sam has scored 17 points in each game. She came on really strong last year and led us in scoring over the last 10 games. She's a super-talented girl, very athletic and plays good defense. We put her on the other team's best player."
Haubner teams nicely with Devine, the coach said: "Most teams have one big girl, but we have Kayla and Sam, so it's tough for any team to stop both of them."
Both were all-league first-team selections in the Patriot Division last year as well as Honorable Mention All-Bergen County.
The Thunderbirds deservedly earned a lofty spot in The Record's Preseason Top 25, settling in at No. 9, exactly the same spot where they finished in the Final Top 25 last winter.
"I do see us doing some good things again this year," Clement said as the team looks to reach the third round of the major tournaments and beyond this time around.