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Breaking news & local stories from Camden City, Berlin, Laurel Springs and more

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    New Jersey has plenty of beautiful spots, but here are the top 15 posted on Instagram.


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    The incident occurred around 5 p.m. Saturday. A third woman was hospitalized after the stabbings.

    A man is in custody after allegedly stabbing two women to death and attempting to kill a third at a house in Collingswood Saturday, the Camden County Prosecutor's office said in a statement.

    The man, Mark Lyczak, 44, was charged with the murders of Collingswood residents Colleen Brownell, 48, and Alysia McCloskey, 41.

    Brownell and McCloskey were pronounced dead at the scene on the 100 block of East Narberth Terrace yesterday. A third woman, from Burlington County, was transported to a hospital. The statement described her as "seriously wounded" in the incident.

    Collingswood Police arrived after neighbors called 911 in response to reports of screaming coming from a house on the block.

    Lyczak was arrested at the scene and is being held at the Camden County Correctional Facility pending a detention hearing.

    Joe Brandt can be reached at jbrandt@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Bill Duhart contributed reporting.


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    A new year to find homes for dogs and cats throughout New Jersey.

    What can responsible pet owners do to make sure they are keeping their pets safe from frostbite and other winter dangers?

    Here are some tips from BluePearl Veterinary Partners to help pet owners protect dogs and cats in winter.

    * Limit time outside for your dog or cat. A dog might spend all day in a doghouse or the backyard on some spring or fall days, but definitely not in the freezing cold. Animals can experience hypothermia; they also can get frostbite.

    * It's fine to let your dog outside to do his business, or to go on a walk, even in the snow. But don't make it an 8-hour hike, even if you're up for it yourself. And don't let a dog run off a hiking trail into the snow; you never know how deep the snow is going to be.

    * When pets are outside, make sure to give them plenty water. Staying well hydrated is important to circulation, and good circulation helps keep the body warm.

    * If a de-icer is used on your driveway or the sidewalk outside your apartment, make sure it is a pet-friendly variety. Many types are toxic to dogs, who will lick the salt from between their toes after getting back inside. Talk to your landlord about this if necessary.

    * Winter creates a range of hazards for pets. Cats love to find a warm auto engine to curl up in - which can be tragic when starting the car. Antifreeze, which sometimes pools on the garage floor, seems tasty to pets but is deadly. If possible, don't leave pets unattended in the garage.


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    From Sussex to Atlantic Counties, New Jersey's newest residents arrive within the first few hours of 2018.


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    There was a shakeup from our preseason selections.


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    Where is your favorite team in NJ.com's latest rankings?


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    Who's in the top eight?


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    The 28-year-old was found in his car, suffering from gunshot wounds.

    Authorities are investigating a fatal shooting that left a Camden man dead on New Year's Eve. 

    Camden County Police responded to Woodland Street just before 10 p.m. Sunday, where they found a man suffering from multiple gunshot wounds inside of his vehicle, according to the Camden County Prosecutor's Office. 

    He was taken to Cooper University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead just a half hour later, according to the prosecutor's office. Authorities identified him as 28-year-old Joshua Hernandez. 

    The prosecutor's office said the investigation is ongoing, and that no arrests had been made as of Monday afternoon. They ask anyone with more information to contact the prosecutor's office at 856-225-8640. 

     Amanda Hoover can be reached at ahoover@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandahoovernj. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    Friends said Colleen Brownell left her long-time fiance this summer, but he continued to harass her.

    Friends said that Colleen Brownell, 48, and her sister, Alysia McCloskey, 41, were "super-close" and supportive of each other.

    So, it was no surprise last summer when Brownell broke up with her fiance, Mark Lyczak, and didn't want to live alone, she moved in with her sister and McCloskey's two sons, friends said Tuesday.

    Lyczak, 44, of Burlington, is accused of going to McCloskey's Collingswood home Saturday afternoon and allegedly stabbing the sisters to death, according to the Camden County Prosecutor's Office.

    "No one ever thinks this is going to happen," Eileen McCay, who called Brownell a close friend since high school, said in an interview Tuesday.

    Lyczak is also charged with stabbing a third woman, whom authorities identified only as a 45-year-old Burlington County woman, at the same East Narberth Terrace home.

    NJPen reported that the woman was Lyczak's girlfriend, and a woman by the same name was listed in fair condition at Cooper University Hospital Tuesday, a spokeswoman said.

    Lyczak was arrested when police discovered him at the scene, prosecutors said. A judge will determine whether to hold him in jail or set bail at a detention hearing Wednesday morning in Superior Court in Camden.

    On Tuesday, Brownell's long-time friends recalled the slain sisters as warm, loving women.

    Brownell's friends said they didn't know McCloskey well, but found her to be nice, devoted to her children and very supportive of her sister. McCloskey, 41, was a mother of two boys, Zak and Riley, according to a Gofundme campaign that says it is raising money for the children.

    "Anyone who knew Alysia, knows her children were her life, love, and whole heart," wrote Lauren Sellers, who started the campaign.

    The friends described Brownell, 48, as fun, outgoing, adventurous, and compassionate. "She'd light up any room," said one friend who did not want her name used. "She was one of the best friends all of us have ever had."

    She was smart, strong and independent, they said, and worked for several different mortgage companies.

    Brownell loved the beach and spent many summers at the shore, including weekend trips to Wildwood while she was a student at Camden Catholic High School. She was planning to move to Florida and was interviewing for jobs there, McCay said.

    McCay said Brownell wanted to move south to be closer to her 26-year-old son, whom she had given up for adoption decades ago. They reconnected just over a year ago when he "showed up on her doorstep," McCay said, and Brownell was excited to get to know him better.

    Friends said that after Brownell broke up with Lyczak this summer, she told them that she was afraid and needed to "get away from him." She had a restraining order against him, they said.

    "I was so proud of her for having the courage to get away," McCay said.

    McCay said Brownell told her she decided to leave her home in Cherry Hill to live with McCloskey because she didn't want to live alone out of fear of Lyczak.

    One friend said she had witnessed Lyczak verbally abuse Brownell but never saw him be violent toward her. After they broke up, she said she witnessed Lyczak continue to text Brownell, including an incident in December when Brownell received distraught texts and called to comfort him.

    "She was such a good person, when they split up she said, 'I'll help him get back on his feet,'" she recalled of Brownell.

    Lyczak was charged with violating a restraining order in August when he showed up at a Cherry Hill home, court records show. The prosecutor's office redacted the document to remove the victim's name.

    He pleaded guilty to simple assault in 1994, and to a traffic violation in Pennsylvania in 2012, records show.

    As Brownell reclaimed her independence, reconnected with friends and made plans to move, she seemed very happy, her friends said.

    "She wanted her life back, and she was there. She was getting there," a friend said.

    brownell-friends.jpgColleen Brownell, 48, second from left in the back row, and friends celebrate their 30th reunion for Camden Catholic High School in November. (Photo provided)
     

    In the days after the deaths, Brownell's friends have gathered together to look at old photographs and trade stories, including about the last times they saw her. McCay recalled Tuesday how "ready" Brownell was to move when she saw her Dec. 26. Another friend said Brownell was supposed to come over to her home Saturday afternoon.

    The last text Brownell sent just minutes before the attack said, "Okey dokey, see you soon," the friend recalled.

    She assumed Brownell had just fallen asleep, she said, until a friend called her with the news on New Year's Eve.

    "She didn't deserve this," her friend said.

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at reverett@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    The first boys ice hockey Top 20 of 2018 is here.


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    The incident occurred in Gloucester Township.

    Firefighters battled a two-alarm fire in sub-freezing temperatures early Wednesday morning that destroyed several unoccupied townhouses under construction near Iron Gate Road in the Sicklerville section of Gloucester Township.

    No injuries were reported in the 3:51 a.m. blaze, police said. Early reports said a waterline was more than a mile away and the fire may have been fueled by an exposed gas line. Utility crews were requested and the fire was reported under control in 30 minutes.

    The inferno gutted several residences, including the second floor and attic of one of the dwellings, according to early reports from the scene.

    Fire departments from Gloucester Township, Pine Hill, Winslow, Lindenwold and Cherry Hill responded.

    Officials said the fire is considered "suspicious" and will be investigated by the local fire marshal and the Camden County Prosecutor's Office.

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    Here are the players standing out through the first two weeks of the season.


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    A pair of bills set forth by New Jersey legislation could dramatically alter the landscape of high school sports.

    Get ready, New Jersey — a high school “super team” could soon be coming to a district near you.

    A pair of companion bills that critics say could dramatically alter the landscape of high school sports in the Garden State are on the brink of final passage by the state legislature this week and next.

    The bill would allow public high schools in the same district facing low participation numbers, financial constraints or safety concerns — regardless of sport or enrollment size — to merge teams at the varsity level without any oversight or review by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association.

    The change would instantly give multi-school districts a potential advantage over single-school districts, and potentially shift the balance of power by providing the chance for multi-school districts to build “super teams” comprised of athletes from multiple schools.

    Supporters of the bill say it’s a necessary change during a time when some sports are facing declining participation numbers and districts are facing greater financial constraints.

    NJSIAA member schools typically vote on significant rule changes, but the current movement in the legislature is believed to be the first time lawmakers have attempted to pass to a bill that directly impacts NJSIAA bylaws.

    “For a hundred years the member schools have written the rules,” NJSIAA assistant director Kim DeGraw-Cole said Wednesday. “This would be the first time — unprecedented — where the legislature would actually change those rules, alter those rules and then we’d be left to deal with them without any input or conversation.”

    As currently constituted by the NJSIAA, cooperative sports programs — combined teams from different schools — are prohibited in basketball, baseball, softball and outdoor track. New Jersey currently has 116 schools that are involved in a co-op program, with some even being tri-ops, according to NJSIAA officials.

    “We have had co-ops and have had them for 30 years,” DeGraw-Cole said. “We have tri-ops in ice hockey. So, it’s an evolution that have met the needs. Why do we need to have basically someone else tell our member schools how to write the rules and regulations when we’re already expanding opportunities for kids?”

    The bills, already passed 30-0 by the Senate committee and 11-0 by the Assembly committee, are expected to be placed before a vote of the full Assembly and full Senate this week and could potentially be signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie before Jan. 16. The bills were sponsored by Daniel R. Benson and Annette Quijano in the Assembly, and Shirley Turner and Linda Greenstein in the Senate.

    More than 20 school districts in New Jersey have more than a single high school, with Newark having 12 high schools, NJSIAA officials said.

    The creation of the bill can be traced to last year, when several voting bodies denied a request from the West Windsor-Plainsboro district to merge its two high school football programs due to low participation numbers. Group 4 West Windsor-Plainsboro North High ended up playing a junior varsity schedule, while neighboring Group 4 West Windsor-Plainsboro South High finished with a 1-8 varsity record.

    NJSIAA officials believed the issue was resolved last month when member schools approved a proposal from West Windsor-Plainsboro that allows larger schools to enter co-op programs in football under specified conditions. DeGraw-Cole and NJSIAA project manager Mike Zapicchi were critical of the legislature for pushing a state law without more discussion with the association or member schools.

    “Any member school could propose this exact legislation and then it would be debated, examined and voted on and it could pass in the same fashion,” Zapicchi said. “This way, it takes the decision making of the member schools completely out of the situation. What they’re saying is, they know best.”

    Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester) — a past critic of the NJSIAA — said the legislation was necessary after the West Windsor-Plainsboro situation “didn’t get resolved fast enough through their process.”

    “There’s a growing sense of frustration of members of both chambers with the NJSIAA and these kinds of issues that keep rising up from time to time,” Burzichelli said. “The state legislature is about to act. That’s what happens when lawmakers get involved. It becomes a different process.”

    The NJSIAA issued a press release recently expressing fear over the impact the new law could have on the state’s sports scene.

    “Fewer teams means fewer opportunities for students to experience education-based athletics,” incoming NJSIAA Executive Director Larry White said. “Removing any oversight or review will give districts the green light to create all-star teams from a combined school district talent pool.

    “Every student, parent, administrator and coach should be very, very concerned.”

    Meanwhile, the bill is receiving mixed reviews from across the state. Many athletic officials are skeptical that so-called “super teams” would ever come to fruition. West Windsor-Plainsboro superintendent Dave Aderhold said he doesn’t think districts will ever merge sports programs simply for competitive advantage should the new bill pass.

    The NJSIAA is “just spewing nonsense to try and cloud the conversation,” Aderhold said. “Super teams will not happen at big schools. You think a big school in a big district will stand up to the community and say, even with three teams, three quarterbacks, 15 linemen, that we’re going to make one team now because we want a state title? No way. What will happen is when there’s a budgetary crisis that maybe schools will consolidate. When the reality is a lack of enrollment and there are safety concerns is when teams will go co-op.”

    Demarest athletic director Greg Butler operates in a multi-school district in Northern Valley with Old Tappan -- a state champion football team in 2017 -- and agrees that districts will be wary of purposely creating a super team due to the reaction it would generate in the community.

    “Any district looking to combine teams simply for a competitive edge would get backlash from parents,” said Butler, whose ice hockey team already does co-op with Old Tappan due to low participation numbers at Demarest. “No one wants to lose a program or the identity associated with a program. That said, with our ice hockey, there weren’t enough participants for our athletes to compete, so co-oping with Old Tappan was a no-brainer. Now we have Northern Valley ice hockey. At least it gives those kids an opportunity to play.”

    Still, NJSIAA officials see potential trouble looming down the road should these bills be turned into law.

    “Successful programs [in multi-school districts] will continue to flourish, but what’s to say the program or two where the sports aren’t flourishing, ‘You know what? We can save a little money here or there and let’s just have one softball team because we haven’t been successful, it’s not a big sport here,’” DeGraw-Cole said. “And again, your freshman, your JV at both schools — all of that wanes and goes by the wayside. The biggest key is it gets an unfair advantage because now those single-school districts don’t have the opportunities that these multiple school districts have.”

    Aderhold, however, still disagrees with the NJSIAA’s stance that the newly proposed bills are bad for high school sports.

    “You have an athletic association saying they are trying to save sports… by restricting students from participating in sports,” Aderhold said. “They are absolutely blind to the fact that this is already being allowed in other districts. Look at Elizabeth. How many high schools do they have? Six. How many football teams do they have? One. That’s 5,400 students, and that’s allowed under the academy concept. Tell me anywhere in code how that is defined.

    “The hypocrisy is they turn a blind eye when it’s convenient for them, but when a district is trying to keep a program alive, they shut down and turn a blind eye. This is their own doing. … We went to them asking for consideration under their own rules for exemption and they said no, and they’re surprised at the movement that took place to change the rules. … Now they’re scrambling and sending out press releases all in this effort to ‘save sports.’ But what was the reason it even started? Because they excluded kids. They brought this upon themselves."

    JJ Conrad may be reached at jconrad@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @jj_conrad. Like NJ.com High School Sports on Facebook.

    NJ Advance Media's Matthew Stanmyre contributed to this report.


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    Cherry Hill nonprofit has national reach and support from celebrities.

    Joanie Balderstone calls 2017 the year of the celebrity for Distributing Dignity, a nonprofit dedicated to providing indigent women in 19 states and 56 cities with new bras and feminine hygiene products.

    Saturday Night Live star Michael Che and former Daily Show contributor and current talk-show host Samantha Bee both hosted fundraisers for the group in New York this year and helped raise its profile nationwide. Other A-listers who joined Che included Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah, Amy Schumer, Leslie Jones and Colin Farrell.

    Balderstone and her partner, Rebecca McIntire, still only have about 20 hours a week to devote to acquiring and distributing boxes of undergarments, tampons and menstrual pads for needy women while both hold down day jobs. They still make daily trips to the regional UPS facility to drop off van loads of boxes on the way to social service agencies around the nation.

    But they also just renewed a lease to a 1,600-foot warehouse in Cherry Hill that allows them to receive pallet-sized deliveries by truck in which they can arrange a suitable time to be on hand to receive a delivery. Money raised from the New York events and the higher profile helped seal the new lease.

    Add it all up and Balderstone and McIntire handed out 3,000 bras and 273,000 feminine hygiene products like tampons, pads and liners this past year.

    "Bras are really expensive," Balderstone said. "If you're given a choice between eating and getting a bra, those are the choices you have to make."

    Balderstone said they did an outreach project last Mother's Day and distributed products to women near the corner of Kingston and Allegheny, a gritty neighborhood dissected by elevated train tracks in North Philadelphia, riddled with drugs and prostitution.

    "It's humbling, it's really humbling," Bladerstone said. "We took bras to women on the street there. It was very emotional -- many of them struggling with heroin addiction. They were very grateful. I've never experienced so much gratitude as I did that day."

    Karen Talarico is the executive director of Cathedral Kitchen, a Camden soup kitchen and job-training facility. It is one of 16 organizations in New Jersey and 73 nationwide in that partner with Distributing Dignity.

    "They found a need that's been overlooked in the community," Talarico said. "Everyone wants to collect clothes for people going back to work, but no one thinks about this, what's underneath the clothes."

    Balderstone said her late mother is also a big inspiration for what they do. Now she and McIntire are carrying on.

    "We started working out of our home, in a guest room closet," Balderstone said. "And that grew into a guest room and that grew into the living room and through a foyer and through the dining room. No one wants to come and have dinner at your house when there's tampons in your dining room."

    Balderstone said their philosophy is that the woman who benefit from their products are in a place of transition "some at the lowest point they've ever been."

    "It's most important they receive something brand new and they know it's theirs," she said. "It's about dignity. It's about sending a message to that woman that she's worth a brand-new bra."

    Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    She was last seen Tuesday at Audubon High School.

    Police in Audubon are searching for a young woman who has been missing since Tuesday. 

    Emily O'Connor was last seen Tuesday at Audubon High School, according to a release from Audubon police.

    She is described as 5 feet, 4 inches tall, weighing approximately 125 pounds. She has blonde hair and blue eyes.

    An Audubon police officer declined to give O'Connor's age Wednesday afternoon, referring comment to the public information officer who was unavailable.

    Anyone with information about her whereabouts is asked to call the Audubon Police Department at 856-547-1171.

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at reverett@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    The storm is expected to dump 3 to 8 inches in the area.

    Your commute to work Thursday will likely be slowed if you take a PATCO train, as the rail line will operate on a limited snow schedule starting at midnight Thursday due to the snowstorm bearing down on Philadelphia and New Jersey.

    The storm is projected to dump 3 to 8 inches of snow in the area, with coastal regions seeing blizzard-like conditions with snowfall of up to 12 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

    During the snow schedule, all trains will be slowed and local, which will add time to commutes. PATCO said in a release Tuesday that a typical 26-minute trip from Lindenwold to Philadelphia will take about 30 minutes.

    Map: How much snow will you get?

    PATCO will resume a regular weekday schedule whenever conditions allow it.

    During the morning rush hours, westbound trains will be every 6 to 10 minutes, with eastbound trains every 10 to 12 minutes. Daytime trains will operate every 15 minutes.

    Afternoon rush hour trains will be every 4 to 10 minutes eastbound and every 8 to 14 minutes westbound. Evening trains will be every 12 to 20 minutes, PATCO said.

    A full snow schedule is available here.

    More information and updates will be available on PATCO's Twitter and Facebook accounts. 

    Rebecca Everett may be reached at reverett@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccajeverett. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    The list will be updated as more information becomes available, so please check back often.

    With a powerful nor'easter on its way, bringing high winds and snow to our region, administrators have announced school closings and delayed openings in Camden County. 

    Here's a list of schools that have already announced they will either open later or not at all on Tuesday. Additional schools will be added as districts announce closures and delayed openings.

    CLOSED

    • Acelero Learning - Camden
    • The Arc of Camden County
    • Camden's Promise Charter School
    • Crescent Hill Academy
    • KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy
    • King's Christian School
    • Hope Community Charter School
    • Mastery Schools of Camden
    Caitlyn Stulpin may be reached at cstulpin@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @caitstulpin. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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    Making money off wintery white stuff isn't confined to snow removal..

    Although snow blowers have put plenty of kids out of business, there are still some industrious youngsters who trudge door-to-door through freshly fallen snow, shovels over their shoulders, looking to make a little money clearing people's walks and driveways.

    Many contractors who make the lion's share of their income when it's warm in New Jersey hook plows to their construction vehicles when the forecast calls for snow to make the most of the slow season. These guys work long hours to clear roads, driveways and parking lots so guys like me aren't snowed in. They earn every penny they make, I'd say.

    But making money off the wintery white stuff isn't confined to snow removal.

    I have written about the invention of the Flexible Flyer by Samuel Leeds Allen of Cinnaminson (click here). Once Allen began marketing his sled to toy stores around 1915, sales took off and he and his family made quite a bit of money for years to come. Just so you know, the family sold the S.L. Allen Co. in 1968; rights to the sled changed hands several times, and as of 2012, Flexible Flyers are mostly made in China and some are made in South Paris, Maine, by Paricon Inc.

    As noted on geek.com, "If you look at the 8,011,991th U.S. Patent, you will see the "Apparatus for Facilitating the Construction of a Snow Man/Woman," granted to inventor Ignacio Marc Asperas of Melville, N.Y. The patent was filed on Jan. 31, 2006, and was granted on Sept. 6, 2011.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    And U.S. Patent #5,497,974A is for a "Geodesic Igloo Constructor," which, according to its abstract, consists of "a pair of molds or forms for constructing a geodesic igloo. One of the molds forms a hexagonal

    block of snow; the other, a pentagonal block. An icosahedron igloo with frequency 3 or 6 is constructed by shoveling snow into the molds, compacting such snow, and then carefully placing the compacted block of snow onto the igloo being constructed."

    This gallery is for those who make money when it snows, those who hop on a Flexible Flyer and enjoy it and even the folks who prefer to watch it fall from the comfort of their living room.

    Here's a gallery of winter scenes in New Jersey. And here are links to more galleries on the same theme.

    Vintage photos of N.J. in the wintertime

    More vintage photos of N.J. in the wintertime

    Vintage photos of winter in N.J.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at ghatala@starledger.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.


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    The new girls basketball Top 20 has three new teams in and a new look near the top.


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    Who had the top performances from December?


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