Ever since she was a little girl, around the age of 8, when she first picked up a basketball and started to play, She’Kinah Suber never had a problem dribbling and driving to the basket.
The Lincoln High School junior had to be able to do something, especially if she wanted to keep up with older brothers Thomas, who played at Snyder, and Marlon, who played at St. Anthony.
“They would always work with me and help me,” She’Kinah Suber said. “They made me become better as a basketball player. They made me tougher, because they always would push me around to make me tougher.”
So little She’Kinah (pronounced Shea-Kah-Nah) knew one thing: To dribble the ball and get to the basket as fast as you can.
“That’s what I did,” Suber said.
However, on the high school level, that wasn’t enough. Suber had to become a more rounded player, which meant she had to develop an outside jump shot, a game from the perimeter.
So after her sophomore season at Lincoln, Suber was intent on improving her outside shot.
“My goal was to become a better shooter,” Suber said. “It was toward the end of the season last year that I began to feel comfortable shooting the ball, but I needed to improve.”
Suber went to the prestigious Pocono Invitational Basketball Camp last summer to work on her jump shot. She also spent hours perfecting that shot from the perimeter.
“When she came into high school, she didn’t have a jump shot,” veteran Lincoln head girls’ basketball coach Tommy Best said. “It was all about going to the rim. But she worked very hard on developing a jump shot.”
Little did Suber and Best know that it would take until the Hudson County Tournament championship game for that hard work to eventually pay off.
Last Saturday night, Lincoln and Secaucus squared off for the county championship. It was a meeting of two teams with similar gaudy records, 25-plus wins and only one loss. It was the kind of game that best signifies a county title matchup.
It was an even tougher task for defending champion Lincoln, because sophomore forward Kiante Johnson was knocked out of action with a slight concussion. Johnson is the Lions’ second leading scorer and leading rebounder, averaging 14 points and 12 rebounds per game.
As part of their game strategy, Secaucus head coach John Sterling put two of his players to guard the Lions’ leading scorer, Breana Bey, who had 31 points and eight rebounds in the semifinal win over North Bergen.
The strategy meant that one of the Lions had to be left unguarded.
“They made adjustments to stop Bree,” Best said. “Someone had to be the one to step up and hit the open shots.”
As it turned out, that person was Suber.
With 18 seconds remaining in the game at St. Peter’s University’s Yanitelli Center, Secaucus’ Julia McClure nailed a 3-point shot that gave the Patriots a two-point lead.
“When she [McClure] hit that shot, I thought the game was over,” Best said. “We just tried to get our composure back.”
Suber knew it was time for her to shine.
“Of course, I was nervous, but I knew the game wasn’t over,” Suber said. “I needed to step up. I knew it was my time. We had to keep fighting until the end. I just hoped that if I got a shot, it would go in.”
Sure enough, Suber hit the long outside shot at the buzzer that tied the game and sent it into overtime.
In the second extra session, it was more of the same. Suber was left open twice and she made the Patriots pay.
“I knew I had to hit those shots,” Suber said. “If I didn’t, then the game would have been over.”
Suber scored five points in the second overtime, giving her 17 for the game, and giving the Lions the impetus to secure the 48-43 victory that gave Lincoln its second straight Hudson County Tournament title.
Incredibly, the Lions had not won a county crown since 1981 when they won a year ago. Now, the school has two straight _ thanks to the girl with the outside shooting touch.
“She’Kinah’s contribution was extremely big, because without it, we wouldn’t have had the scoring punch when we needed it to win the game,” said Best, who was a standout player at Lincoln during his heyday before heading off to Lafayette and eventually St. Peter’s College. “It’s great for her. She worked hard on her jump shot and it paid off.”
Remarkably, Suber was the one who hit the key shots to defeat Secaucus in the Hudson County Tournament semifinals last year and she duplicates the feat this year in the title game.
For her efforts, Suber has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
“It was just what we needed, especially without having Kiante,” Best said. “It says a lot about She’Kinah. She’s the one who had to make the shots and she came through. I knew she had the ability to do it.”
Suber said that the Lions wanted to win for a second straight year, although it was going to be a little tougher without Johnson.
“It was our goal from the beginning of the season,” Suber said. “We all wanted to win it again and we knew we could do it again. Everyone on the team felt we could.”
But the Lions defeated North Bergen by a single point in the semifinals and beat Secaucus in double overtime. It was not an easy task at all.
“I knew the final was going to be a low-scoring game,” Suber said. “I knew that every shot was going to be important. I’m just happy my shots went in. I guess I saved the best for last. I knew I could do it. I knew I played a bad game against North Bergen [in the semifinals] and had to bounce back in the finals. It’s a great feeling, pretty amazing that I was the one to make the shots.”
Those days playing with her brothers, then going to a basketball camp, all paid off.
“It was my best game, so it’s a game I’ll always remember,” Suber said.
The Lions defeated Fort Lee in their first round game in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II playoffs and were slated to face Rutherford in the second round. As long as Suber keeps making shots, the Lions have a shot to go pretty far.
And as for next year?
“I’d love to do it again and win three in a row,” said Suber, who returns with a majority of the roster. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.