Ryan Sorafine knew that the way his Hoboken High School girls’ basketball season ended the 2016-17 season last March would be beneficial to his team’s fortunes this year.
“I think it absolutely helped our confidence coming into this year,” Sorafine said about the Redwings’ 20-win campaign and a trip to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I semifinals last season.
“We had four or five starters who had a lot of playing time together last year,” Sorafine said. “They were very familiar with each other. I knew that we could compete with teams in the county this year. It definitely could be our strongest season to date.”
Sure looks that way.
After emerging with a one-point overtime victory over Kearny last Tuesday, the Redwings’ record now stands at a lofty 8-2.
“We play everyone in the county, so that makes it a very difficult schedule,” Sorafine said.
It should be noted that the Redwings are a Group I school facing mostly Group IV schools in the county. For example, Kearny is a Group IV in enrollment, so Hoboken is a little overmatched when it comes to competition.
However, the Redwings are obviously overcoming that disadvantage, evidenced by the huge 43-42 win over Kearny.
Sorafine worked with his team over the summer months in terms of conditioning.
“We found out what was best for us,” Sorafine said.
Although the Redwings were missing the Henriquez twins, namely Jaeda and Alizea, who are now playing soccer at Goldey-Beacom College in Wilmington, Delaware, Sorafine was certain that this team could be extremely competitive this season.
“The Henriquez sisters were great defenders for us, so we had to work a little harder on that end,” Sorafine said. “But we felt we could do a good job if we had everyone contributing.”
Sorafine realized that if the Redwings were going to be a competitive force, he needed a big year from senior guard Nyasia Mixson.
“I expected it from her,” Sorafine said of the 5-foot-7 leader of the Redwings. “Over the years, I just felt like her confidence needed to grow. She needed to take control of the team and show some leadership on the court.”
Mixson has been nothing short of a godsend for the Redwings, averaging 13.7 points per game. But in the last four games, Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic League wins over Bayonne, Union City, Memorial and Kearny, Mixson is averaging 21 points per game.
Mixson had 23 in a win over Union City and 20 in a win over Memorial.
“She had the ability to do it,” Sorafine said. “She just needed the confidence. Now she knows she can do it. She’s where she needs to be now.”
Where Mixson stands is among the very best players in the HCIAL. Mixson was a Hudson Reporter All-Area Third Team honoree last season and she’s well on her way to moving up those ranks this season.
Another key contributor to the Redwings’ success is 5-foot-8 junior forward Aiyana Peoples, who is averaging eight points and five rebounds per contest.
“She knew she needed to step up this year,” Sorafine said. “She has all the ability in the world. I think she’s now growing into her own. She’s developing her skills and understands what it takes to be a good player. It’s good that she’s found some success.”
Sophomore forward Zoe Mattessich, another Hudson Reporter All-Area Third Team honoree from last season, is showing signs of breaking out in a big way. The 5-foot-10 Mattessich had 13 points in the win over Memorial and tallied 15 points in the win over Kearny.
“She’s done a great job defensively,” Sorafine said. “She’s matched up against every team’s big player and done a fantastic job. She plays bigger than she is. She doesn’t get the credit she deserves. She’s probably the most diverse player we have. It’s going to be nice to see what kind of player she’ll become.”
Junior Tori Bravo is another Redwing starter. The 5-foot-2 Bravo is a bundle of energy who just does not quit.
“She’s given me more this year than I could have ever expected,” Sorafine said. “She’s stronger and faster than she was. She plays great defense. She does everything that’s asked of her and more.”
Junior Briana Crandell is a 5-foot-9 forward.
“She was on the JV [junior varsity] last year,” Sorafine said. “So she’s stepped up to the varsity this year. She has the ability to score. She’s good around the basket. She’s just a good all-around player.”
Junior Janelle Frazier is a 5-foot-8 junior guard.
“When she gets out there, she is ready to make things happen,” Sorafine said. “She has the ability to rebound. She has the potential to be a good scorer for us.”
Junior Xiara Melendez is a 5-foot-10 forward.
“She had no varsity experience at all before this year,” Sorafine said. “This is her first year playing basketball, so she’s very inexperienced. But she’s getting better every day. She’s a pretty good rebounder.”
Senior Denise Anderson is a 5-foot-6 guard.
“She’s a great teammate,” Sorafine said. “She’s a nice kid. She works hard and brings the team up with her play. She gets the team ready to play and she’s a great team player.”
Needless to say, Sorafine is pleased with the team’s start after 10 games. He has no reason not to be overjoyed.
“I think we are where we need to be,” Sorafine said. “At this point, we’re contenders and that’s what I hoped we would be. We can contend for a playoff spot in the county and the states and we want to continue to do what we’re doing.”
What the Redwings are doing is opening a lot of eyes. At 8-2 and in the middle of the pack in the HCIAL standings as a Group I school, the Redwings are legit and definitely a team to watch.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com, as Jim this week becomes a movie critic, giving his take on the new Steven Spielberg film, “The Post.”.