One might think that the basketball season is over for all of the local teams.
Well, think again.
It’s not over for the Peacocks of St. Peter’s University, who defeated Albany, 59-55, last week to advance to the quarterfinals of the College Insider Tournament (CIT).
The CIT is a post-season tourney set aside for the mid-major NCAA Division I programs who did not receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament or an invitation to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).
St. Peter’s received a bid in the CIT after losing to Iona in the semifinals of the MAAC (Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) Tournament two weeks ago.
After the Peacocks lost to Iona, head coach John Dunne didn’t know if it was time to collect the uniforms and put the basketballs away for another season.
“I wasn’t sure,” said Dunne, whose team had won 19 games prior to the CIT. “I thought it could go either way. We had such a disappointment after losing to Iona. We didn’t discuss any possibilities beforehand.”
But after the loss, Dunne received word that the Peacocks were under consideration for the CIT.
“Right after the Iona game, I didn’t know if they wanted to continue to play,” Dunne said. “I wasn’t going to convince them to play. If they wanted their season to be over, I could understand that.”
There’s another catch to the CIT. The participating teams have to pay to play – and have to pay handsomely to host a home game in the tourney.
“I spoke with [acting athletic director] Dave Bryngil and he said that we could go for it,” Dunne said. “So I asked the players and they agreed to play.”
Sure enough, the Peacocks won the game against Albany and it became the first time since 1980 that the Peacocks won a game in a postseason tournament.
That year, under the tutelage of the late Bob Dukiet, the Peacocks won two games in the NIT, defeating UConn and Duquesne on the road before falling to UNLV in the quarterfinals.
With the win last week, the Peacocks will now face Texas State in Texas in the quarterfinals of the CIT this weekend.
Dunne was elated that his season had been extended.
“I’ve had so much joy coaching these guys,” said Dunne, whose team reached the 20-win mark for the first time since making the NCAA Tournament in 2011. “They all sacrificed so much. It’s good that I didn’t have to say goodbye to them. There’s definitely a different vibe having a few more practices with them.”
Because the Peacocks didn’t know their next opponent for over a week, Dunne said that the Peacocks had a “relaxed vibe” in their practices.
“We just played a lot,” Dunne said. “I’m just glad that the CIT is around, because we did have a successful season and we got invited to play. The fact that we did get over the disappointment of losing, then come back and win on the road says a lot about the character of your team. Winning the game didn’t surprise me.”
Dunne said that there was a sense of excitement around campus that the Peacocks’ season is still going.
“Sure, the ultimate goal is to make the NCAA Tournament,” Dunne said. “But if you don’t win the MAAC Tournament, you don’t get in. What we said to our team is that there are not a lot of teams still playing.”
No, there is the Sweet 16 still alive in the NCAA March Madness and there’s eight still playing in the NIT and eight in the CIT and four in another tourney called the CBI. So of the 354 Division I programs in the nation, only 36 have not collected the uniforms and are still practicing and preparing to play games. And the Peacocks are one of those 36 teams.
“Not a lot of teams can get a chance to finish the season on a win,” Dunne said. “We have a chance to do that. We’re grateful for the opportunity and we’re going to make the most out of it.”…
The Hoboken High School softball team won 17 games last season, but lost in the games that meant the most. The Redwings fell to Kearny in the Hudson County Tournament finals and lost 2-0 to Roselle Park in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I semifinals.
Head coach Vinnie Johnson is certain that the same disappointment won’t happen this season.
“I definitely feel good about this team,” Johnson said. “The twins (Jaeda and Alizea Henriquez) are both chasing 100 hits for their careers. They’ve been close in everything they do.”
While the Redwings will be without ace hurler Natalie Viton for the first month of the season due to academic ineligibility, Johnson will count on sophomore Javenus McLean to carry the load.
“It’s Natalie’s work to prove to us that she deserves to come back,” Johnson said of the Hudson Reporter All-Area hurler the last two seasons. “Hopefully, this pushes Natalie to take school more seriously.”
Alizea Henriquez is the team’s catcher. Jaeda Henriquez plays third. Both have started all four years of high school and both are looking to earn Hudson Reporter All-Area for the fourth straight time.
“Ali is a good leader,” Johnson said. “I leave it up to her to call pitches. Jaeda started at third the last two years, but I’ve been putting her all over the place. She gets work at every position.”
And that includes pitcher. Don’t be surprised to see Jaeda toeing the rubber this spring.
First base duties are currently being shared by senior Kayla Fermaint, junior Samantha Champion and freshman Zoe Mattessich, who will play somewhere.
Junior Nyasia Mixson is the second baseman. Mixson had the big clutch hits in the two wins over North Bergen last season.
Senior Rayza Lopez moves from second base to shortstop this season.
Sophomores Victoria Bravo, Elyse Santiago and Anaya Peoples are in the outfield along with senior Alea Lyons. Santiago was an infielder last year, but moved to centerfield to capitalize on her speed.
Junior Naiya Walker is a power bat off the bench.
“Our senior girls want to win more than anything else,” Johnson said. “We’re very hungry after last year. We have a great cast. It’s now up to us.”
The Redwings open their season April 1 against Marist…
Hudson Catholic junior Jahvon Quinerly can add another honor to his litany of postseason honors, as the brilliant Quinerly was named last week as the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of New Jersey. Quite an honor indeed. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com