The Jersey Shore Lightning AAU girls U16 national basketball team has won the NJ AAU state championship for the second year in a row, and the third time in the last four years. They defeated the Lady Patriots of Hudson County, 67-61, in a well-played final. The Lightning are the Shore’s best-kept secret, featuring several of the Shore’s top players. They are coached by Brendan Pierson, a former Fordham University player, and John Brown, a former player at Ramapo College. On the court, the Lightning are led by three All-Conference performers in Shantel Brown and Courtney Calderon (of St. John Vianney) and Jadis Rhodin of Manchester. Brown provides leadership at the point, while Calderon and Rhodin are excellent finishers and rebounders. Tory West of Shore Regional provides consistent outside shooting and defense, and Vanessa Holden of Immaculate Heart Academy, the lone out-of-area player, provides rugged rebounding and an inside presence. The greatest strength of the team, according to the coach, is its depth. “We go two-deep at every position, Pierson said. Mandi Pierson of Wall High School is an excellent three-point shooter and floor leader, while Brianne Moran of Middletown South, a multiple sports star, and Youngor Kehleay of Monmouth Regional, play both guard positions and provide excellent quickness and athleticism in the backcourt. Tranitta Gutridge of Neptune High School, and two newcomers to the team, Nicole Hawkins of Manasquan and Kristine Perez of St. John Vianney, are capable of playing multiple positions as well, and add to the team’s overall athleticism. The Lightning have also recently won the prestigious Deep South Classic, held at the University of North Carolina. They will compete in numerous tournaments this summer, including the AAU national championships in Chattanooga, Tenn. and the US Junior Nationals in Washington, D.C.