Hoboken’s girls start off strong; METS Charter loses Lee; Gonzalez to stay at Penn State; top fives

Hoboken’s girls’ basketball team is off to an 8-0 start. From left are assistant coach Ashley Roskowski, Janelle Frazier, Aiyana Peoples, Kaitlin Perez, Tori Bravo, Briana Crandell and head coach Ryan Sorafine.
Hoboken’s girls’ basketball team is off to an 8-0 start. From left are assistant coach Ashley Roskowski, Janelle Frazier, Aiyana Peoples, Kaitlin Perez, Tori Bravo, Briana Crandell and head coach Ryan Sorafine.

After losing Hudson Reporter Female Athlete of the Year Nyasia Mixson to graduation in June, one would figure that the Hoboken High School girls’ basketball team would struggle to find a new identity this season.

However, that’s not the case at all. The Lady Redwings have started off the 2018-19 season with eight straight wins, even without the team’s leading scorer from a year ago.

“She was our best player, no question,” said Hoboken head coach Ryan Sorafine. “But Aiyana Peoples has stepped it up.”

Five-foot-8 senior guard Peoples has become the go-to player for the Redwings, evidenced by the 23-point performance she posted in a clutch 52-45 win over St. Dominic Academy to push the record to 8-0.

“She’s done more than I expected,” Sorafine said of Peoples, who is averaging 16.5 points per game, up from 7.5 points per contest last year. “I think she’s more confident now. She worked extremely hard in the offseason. Aiyana had that leadership quality you need with a senior. She was a typical point guard last year, handling the ball and giving it to others. But once she had a little success this season, she found out that she was good shooting the ball.”

Before the season started, Sorafine told Peoples that she had to become more of a scorer than a facilitator.

“We had a conversation that she had to produce for us,” Sorafine said. “I give her 100 percent of the credit. She’s out there on her own, practicing her shot. She spent a lot of time playing with the guys and you can see the improvement. It’s 100 percent on her effort and her desire to play at the next level.”

Another key to the Redwings’ success is 5-foot-11 junior forward Zoe Mattessich, a Hudson Reporter All-Area Third Team selection last year as a sophomore. Mattessich is averaging 14/6 points per game this season, up from 10 points per contest last year.

“She’s the complete package,” Sorafine said of Mattessich. “She has risen to the occasion. She can shoot well. She sees the court well. She understands the game of basketball well. She’s also very coachable.”

Mattessich has all the tools to be a college basketball player, but she may want to play softball instead on the next level.

“It’s something we discuss all the time,” Sorafine said. “I think if it’s something she wants to do, she can do it.”

Another key player for the Redwings is 5-foot-9 senior Briana Crandell, who is averaging nine points per game.

“She’s the one,” Sorafine said. “If she has a strong game, we usually win. She can change the whole tempo of the game. She’s our X-factor. If she’s confident and shooting well, we’re a different team.”

Freshman Ayana Crandell, the younger sister of Briana, has emerged as a player to watch. The younger Crandell is averaging six points per game.

“She has natural raw ability,” Sorafine said. “She’s long and can shoot the ball. She’s been a pleasant surprise.”

Senior guard Janelle Frazier is another key contributor.

“She’s a great leader,” Sorafine said. “She can change the momentum in games.”

Senior Tori Bravo, who has made a name for herself by playing varsity baseball in the spring, has returned from a hand injury.

“It’s great to have Tori back,” Sorafine said. “She knows what we’re supposed to do. She dives for loose balls and makes the hustle plays.”

So Sorafine isn’t shocked by his team’s early success.

“I could see that we could have some success in the beginning of the season,” Sorafine said. “We’re definitely playing well.”…

When Hoboken faced METS Charter last week, the Redwings did not see the Mustangs’ standout guard Briana Lee, who was a Hudson Reporter All-Area Second Team honoree last year. Lee has left METS Charter and has decided to transfer. It’s a crushing blow for that school’s program, which had hopes of contending for local and state honors this season….

It was encouraging to see that Union City’s native son Steven Gonzalez has decided against applying for the NFL Draft and will return to Penn State for his final season of eligibility with the Nittany Lions. Gonzalez has been projected by some to be a mid-round draft selection, but Gonzalez decided to return for another year and maybe enhance his draft status a year from now. Gonzalez has already earned his degree from Penn State and will remain as a graduate student…

Another local product who has already earned his impressive college degree is Brandon Wimbush, who has graduated from Notre Dame. But unlike Gonzalez, the former St. Peter’s Prep All-State quarterback will leave Notre Dame and transfer to another school for his final year of college eligibility…

Weehawken head football coach Nick DeStefano has resigned his position as football coach of the Indians, but will remain on as the school’s vice-principal and athletic director…

Hudson Reporter Boys’ H.S. Basketball Top Five: 1. St. Peter’s Prep (7-2). 2. Hudson Catholic (9-3). 3. Lincoln (7-3). 4. Union City (6-3). 5. Snyder (6-2).

Hudson Reporter Girls’ H.S. Basketball Top Five: 1. Bayonne (11-0). 2. Lincoln (8-2). 3. Secaucus (8-1). 4. Hudson Catholic (8-3). 5. Hoboken (8-0). – Jim Hague

Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com