This season, the Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic League decided to scrap a two-division format and clump all of the league’s teams in one division.
Such a move was thoroughly unfair to a small school like McNair Academic, which sits at the absolute basement of the league with an 0-8 league record and 4-11 overall.
When the move was voted upon at the year-end meeting last spring, McNair athletic director Hugh Dwyer couldn’t believe it.
“My head exploded,” Dwyer said. “I knew it right away that it was trouble for us. I knew it and so did everyone else in the room.”
It meant that the league was calling for little McNair, a Group I school in the eyes of the NJSIAA’s enrollment breakdown, was forced to play the powerful Group IV schools in the league.
In fact, McNair’s first four losses this season were to Bayonne, Union City, Dickinson, and North Bergen – all four Group IV schools, some of whom have enrollments 10 times the size of McNair.
McNair Academic boys’ basketball coach Dave Masciale could have predicted what was going to happen this season.
“I kind of knew it was coming,” said Masciale, the former Bayonne High and Long Island University standout guard. “We were sitting around with a bunch of coaches and someone said, ‘Hey, let’s all go one league.’ I said right away that wasn’t fair.”
Masciale said that he was just getting the Cougars to a competitive state in the other two-division format.
“We were 8-13 last year, but we lost five games by a total of seven points,” Masciale said. “The kids were buying into what we were doing. Before that, no one wanted to play. We were able to compete, then we were thrown into the one league and that was that. It’s tough. It’s really tough.”
The same goes for University Charter, which has a 1-6 league record and a 4-8 record overall. University’s lone HCIAL win came at the hands of McNair last week.
“It wouldn’t be bad if we were in the other league,” Masciale said.
The Cougars are simply not competitive at all in the one-divisional format. But because they agreed to a two-year contract, they have to survive this year and next year.
“Over the last 13 years, we’ve gone through different schedules and formats,” said HCIAL president Jerry Maietta, the North Bergen athletic director. “We’re not trying to invent the wheel here. We have 17 schools in the league. We don’t know what to do with the smaller schools. It’s not the most perfect decision, but it was a decision we felt we needed to make. This is what the coaches wanted and voted upon. We understood there would be some inequity.”
Dwyer said that he asked the HCIAL to let McNair out of its contract so the Cougars could play a more competitive independent schedule.
“We asked to get out,” Dwyer said. “St. Anthony is out for boys’ basketball, yet in for all the other sports. But I was told that they were grandfathered in. Our request was denied. I don’t know what we’re going to do. We have to be in it for the two-year contract.”
“I know I could find independent games in a Group I schedule,” Masciale said. “I know there are schools who would play us. I’m just trying to teach the game of basketball. I can’t do it this way.”
And it’s only going to get worse, because Dwyer believes that the same format will be in place for baseball as well this spring.
“It’s really going to impact baseball,” Dwyer said. “I’m afraid of somebody going to get hurt. The way we had baseball [with the two divisions] was awesome. Every game was competitive. Now? Who knows?”
Maietta said that the league vows to “take a look at things” after the contract expires.
“After this two-year cycle, we’ll see about making changes,” Maietta said. “But once we start letting schools out [of the league and the schedule], then everyone will want out. We know it’s not perfect, but it’s the best we could do.”…
Speaking of University Charter, senior Chika Wosu, Jr. has been a dominant force for the Generals. Last week, Wosu had games of 21 points and 19 rebounds, 34 points and 17 rebounds and 19 points and 17 rebounds. If not for the efforts of Bayonne’s Pat Strzala, Wosu clearly would have been Athlete of the Week material. Wosu also had consecutive games earlier this season against Ferris and North Bergen where he grabbed 20 rebounds. In the Ferris game, Wosu had 31 points. He’s been a workhorse all season…
St. Peter’s Prep junior Brendan Thiele had a phenomenal game in a win over Hoboken, scoring 31 points, including two monstrous two-handed slam dunks…
On the girls’ side, Secaucus’ Amanda Ulrich threw in 33 points in one game and teammate Lindsey Mack had 27. That’s about as solid of a 1-2 scoring punch we have in the county…
And people in Hoboken have to be excited about the play of freshman Zoe Mattessich, who has all the makings of being a very good one before she’s done. Mattessich is a forward with guard skills, shooting, dribbling, passing…
Two local wrestlers have made their way into the top eight in the state in their respective weight classes. North Bergen’s “Quiet Man,” Yousef Salem is ranked seventh at 120 pounds and St. Peter’s Prep’s Nick Santos is seventh at 145 pounds, according to NJ.com…
It was sad to learn of the passing of former Jersey City Recreation Director Joan Earls last week. Earls was a tough-as-nails lady in a man’s world who commanded respect from everyone in her department. She had to be tough in order to get things done and done properly. Her demeanor certainly ruffled some feathers in the city, but she was always there for more than 30 years. Most of the workers that Earls tormented are now gone themselves, but she stuck to her guns and deserves credit and praise for that….
McNair Academic’s indoor track team won two gold medals at the NJSIAA Group I relays at the Bennett Center in Toms River, winning the distance medley relay and the 4×800-meter relay. It marked the first time ever that the Cougars earned a gold medal at the state relays.
Younass Barkouch, Haig Rickerby, Marcus Hardy and Fahd Nasser were the participants in both winning relays for the Cougars…
Hudson Reporter Boys’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. St. Anthony (11-2). 2. Hudson Catholic (14-2). 3. North Bergen (14-1). 4. St. Peter’s Prep (9-4). 5. Lincoln (11-3)…
Hudson Reporter Girls’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. Marist (13-0). 2. Bayonne (11-3). 3. Lincoln (10-3). 4. Secaucus (12-2). 5. Hoboken (10-4)…–Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com