When the girls’ high school basketball season began, veteran North Bergen head coach Dan Reardon knew that he had two proven players – and a bunch of question marks.
Sure, Reardon had a proven inside scorer and rebounder in 6-foot-1 sophomore Icies Hammer, who earned Hudson Reporter Second Team All-Area honors last season. He also had senior do-everything Doris Ilic, who has been a consistent performer for the last two years.
“I thought by being a senior, Doris could be more of a leader this year,” said Reardon, who is in his 26th season as the Bruins head coach. “She has a great basketball IQ. She is also extremely coachable. You tell her something once and she adapts. Sometimes, there are things I told her years ago and I remind her and she gets right to it. She’s able to do those things.”
The 5-foot-9 Ilic, who is playing small forward now, had 19 points and 10 rebounds in a crucial win over state-ranked Bayonne last week.
“She helped to break Bayonne’s press by seeing over the top of it and making the play,” Reardon said. “With her height and ball handling skills, she’s a major plus.”
The other player is Hammer, who averaged 14 points last year and is almost at 16 this season. Hammer has also been helped by a special tutor – all-time Bruin great Lauren Jimenez, who has returned after playing at James Madison and a stint in pro basketball overseas to coach part-time with the Bruins this season.
“Lauren is home now and she’s a substitute teacher,” Reardon said of Jimenez, who earned three Hudson Reporter Player of the Year recognition during her days with the Bruins. “Lauren has been working with Icies quite a bit. In fact, she’s almost adopted Icies. She’s doing stuff that I’m not even familiar with. Lauren just tells Icies like it is and Icies listens. It’s great to see.”
So between Ilic’s 13 points per game and Hammer’s 16, the Bruins had a good start.
“I figured we had a couple of kids who could put the ball in the basket,” Reardon said.
But it’s the rest of the Bruins’ roster that has contributed to the team’s fine 9-2 start.
Senior forward Nerylix Cerda has emerged as a scoring threat. The 5-foot-7 small forward had 13 points and 11 rebounds in the win over Bayonne. Cerda, who is a standout softball player and three-time All-Area honoree, hadn’t scored much and Reardon had to pull out a softball reference to give Cerda a kick start.
“I told her it’s like she was the cleanup hitter in softball and she never swung the bat,” Reardon said. “She’s just a very good athlete and has been tremendous for us this season.”
Amanda Rivera is a 5-foot-5 senior guard who just fills out the statistical sheet.
“She gets like 10 points, five steals and four assists,” Reardon said. “She’s very athletic.”
The point guard is the Bruins’ resident mighty mite, freshman Jillian Jover, who stands all of 4-foot-10, but don’t let that size fool you.
“She’s the real deal,” Reardon said of Jover. “She goes one speed. She goes fast. For me to start a freshman is big, unless she’s 6-foot-4 [referring to Jimenez]. She’s just a good basketball player.”
Jover is a main reason why the Bruins are playing at a high level.
The Bruins are also receiving contributions from junior Stephanie Corella, a 5-foot-7 guard, Alyssa Marrero, a 5-foot-8 forward, and sophomore Vayla Johnson, a 5-foot-9 forward.
“I think we’re a little better than we thought we’d be,” Reardon said. “We had two tough losses to Glen Rock and Fair Lawn, games that got away that we should have won. We weren’t ready and that’s my fault.”
But now, Reardon feels good about his team’s chances to compete for the county title.
“I absolutely think there will be four teams at the end,” Reardon said. “Lincoln, Bayonne, Secaucus and us. It’s difficult to win a championship, but now it’s just a matter of getting everyone on the same page. We’re doing things much better now.”
And that can only spell doom for Bruin opponents – and brings excitement to what could be a wide-open playoff run…
Incredibly, former Bayonne and Rutgers receiver Kenny Britt, now of the Tennessee Titans, has found a new way to be wanted by the law. It was reported this week that Britt was at a Jersey City party where a person was allegedly stabbed and Britt drove the victim to the Jersey City Medical Center and dropped him off there.
The Jersey City police wanted to question Britt about that night, but Britt was reluctant to cooperate.
Britt has had a world of troubles with the law since he became an NFL player. He posted bail for a friend who was wanted for murder. He has had many motor vehicle stops, both locally and in Tennessee, ranging in a variety of charges. He also had an incident in Hoboken last year where he was first arrested in connection with marijuana, but later had that charge dropped.
Can Britt keep his name out of the headlines for his off-the-field antics? Sure doesn’t appear that way…
The St. Anthony boys’ basketball winning streak now stands at an astounding 76 straight games. Of the fabulous Friars’ recent victories, they’ve held opponents to 15, 22 and 24 points. That’s just insane. The Friars will participate in the SNY Invitational, which has been revived this year after being abruptly cancelled last year…
Congratulations to North Bergen native Greg Herenda, who recently won the 100th game of his collegiate head coaching career. Herenda, the head coach at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, achieved the milestone with a win over Felician in Rutherford, so many of his family and friends could join in the celebration. Herenda was a fine player at St. Peter’s Prep, then at Merrimack before becoming a coach…
Hudson Reporter Boys’ H.S. Basketball Top Five: 1. St. Anthony (11-0). 2. Hudson Catholic (14-1). 3. St. Peter’s Prep (8-4). 4. Marist (9-2). 5. Snyder (9-2)….
Hudson Reporter Girls’ H.S. Basketball Top Five: 1. Lincoln (11-0). 2. North Bergen (9-2). 3. Bayonne (9-3). 4. Secaucus (12-1). 5. St. Dominic Academy (9-3)….-Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.