Weehawken girls continue to blaze trail; Secaucus’ Ulrich gets 2,000; Prep wrestling fares well; former NJCU administrator Alvarez passes

The Weehawken girls’ basketball team is enjoying a stellar 16-1 season. From left are Erin Purcell, Sahiba Satara, Alexsa Ruiz, head coach Chris Hernandez, Nicole Molano, Allish DeLeon and Brianna Mera
The Weehawken girls’ basketball team is enjoying a stellar 16-1 season. From left are Erin Purcell, Sahiba Satara, Alexsa Ruiz, head coach Chris Hernandez, Nicole Molano, Allish DeLeon and Brianna Mera

Veteran Weehawken High School girls’ basketball coach Chris Hernandez will be the first one to admit that his team’s performance thus far this season is nothing short of remarkable.

At press time Feb. 7, the Indians had a stellar 16-1 record, just having disposed of Wallington by a whopping 50-10 final score. Ouch.

“I’m not going to lie,” Hernandez said. “I didn’t expect this. I knew that we returned a decent group and we had some good freshmen come in. But I had no idea. It’s turning into a pretty special season.”

One of the top players for the Indians is Hernandez’s step-daughter Alexsa Ruiz. The 5-foot-6 senior is developing into a fine point guard.

“It’s pretty exciting to see her play,” Hernandez said. “I always said that I would never coach my own kid, but I got thrown into this one. She’s turned into a player. It’s awesome coaching her. We’re able to separate home life and basketball pretty well. She’s like an extension of me. She works her butt off. She’s like the vocal leader. She’s never going to light up the score sheet, but she does all the little things. She goes and gets rebounds with the bigs. She’s in the middle of everything we do.”

Another top player is senior shooting guard Nicole Molano, whose older brother, Oliver, became a football player at Kean University after a fine three-sport career at Weehawken. Milano is the Indians’ leading scorer, averaging 14 points per game.

“She’s a renegade,” Hernandez said. “She’s willing to take chances. She goes to the basket well. She’s also a streaky shooter, but also been a more consistent shooter. She’s our main outside threat.”

Sahiba Satara is a 5-foot-6 junior guard.

“She’s pretty good from behind the line,” Hernandez said. “She just came to us this year and has been a good addition.”

Senior Erin Purcell is a 6-foot senior forward.

“She controls the paint,” Hernandez said. “She rebounds well and defends. She works her tail off.”

Freshman Sofia Mendez is a 6-foot forward with a lot of promise. She also comes from good bloodlines. Her older brother Sal was a standout athlete at Weehawken and is currently a pitcher in the Texas Rangers’ organization.

“Sofia is a special talent,” Hernandez said. “She’s taken over the role of being the girl in the middle and she’s going to be good there for a while. She stretches the floor and has the ability to shoot the ball.”
Hernandez is so confident in Mendez’s talents as a shooter that he’s working on her 3-point shot.

“She can make them,” Hernandez said. “She’s really going to be fun to watch develop and grow as a player.”

Junior Marie Eid is a 5-foot-9 swing player.

“She plays big when we have a smaller lineup and she plays small forward with the bigger girls on the floor,” Hernandez said. “She does a little bit of everything.”

Senior Allish DeLeon is a 5-foot-5 guard.

“She’s our lock down defender,” Hernandez said of DeLeon. “She matches up against the other team’s best player. She bought in because she wanted to be a part of the team and now she’s playing a lot. I wanted her to be a part of the team because she wanted it so much.”

Sophomore Zionna Loftin is a 5-foot-6 swing player.

“She’s fast and athletic,” Hernandez said. “She’s much improved.”

Morgan Tomlinson is a 5-foot-4 freshman who is making her mark.

“She’s the backup point guard and she allows Alexsa to play off the ball a little,” Hernandez said. “She helps to give us a nice little lineup.”

Senior Brianna Mera is a 5-foot-5 jack-of-all-trades who plays anywhere she’s needed.

“She’s a program kid who’s been with us for a while,” Hernandez said.

The Indians are sitting pretty in the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference-Meadowlands Division race. At press time, they had a two-game lead with three league games to play

“If we win, it will be our third straight league championship,” Hernandez said. “The girls set the goal this year to have a little Weehawken ‘three-peat.’”

The Indians received the No. 8 seed for the Hudson County Tournament and will more than likely face Union City in the quarterfinal round in a home game for the Indians. If that takes place, it would be Hernandez squaring off against his former mentor and long-time friend Carlos Cueto, the head coach at Union City.

The two know each other well from their days in the St. Michael’s CYO program in Union City and Hernandez was an assistant coach to Cueto when the two were coaching the boys at the now-defunct Union Hill High School.

Imagine that? Weehawken is playing a home game in the county tournament. It’s not even a play-in game. Maybe it’s a sign that the Weehawken girls’ basketball is for real.

“Just to have that conversation is a sign,” Hernandez said. “I love to hear that. We’re a school with 350 kids going up against schools much larger. We’ve done some good things and made girls’ basketball relevant in Weehawken once again.”

But to be 16-1? Even Hernandez is at a loss for words.
“Not me, I didn’t believe that,” Hernandez said. “They’re beginning to make me change my thoughts. They’ve exceeded expectations.”…

Secaucus’ Amanda Ulrich, featured two weeks ago as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week, became only the seventh girl in Hudson County basketball history to eclipse the 2,000-point plateau. Ulrich is the first Hudson County player to reach 2,000 points since 2001. She recently became the school’s all-time leading scorer as well…

Congrats to the St. Peter’s Prep wrestling team. The Marauders captured the Hudson County Duals for an astounding 11th straight season, defeating Kearny, 38-24, in the finals.

Two days after winning the county crown, the Marauders toppled rival Seton Hall Prep in the opening round of the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 4 North state sectionals, then fell to the state’s No. 4-ranked team Delbarton in the semifinals.

In that match against the Green Wave, Prep’s Connor Cortese took an 8-5 decision at 132 pounds, while heavyweight Esquire Boyce (is there a better name around than that?) won via a pin in 2:32.

But two of the Marauders’ top wrestlers suffered hard luck setbacks. James Cruz dropped a 3-2 decision (via tie breaking criteria) against the Green Wave’s talented A.J. Lonski at 170 pounds, while Prep’s Niccolo Colucci suffered a tough 2-1 setback against Peter Casale at 220 pounds.

Just how good were the Delbarton wrestlers? Well, Lonski improved to 14-0 with his win and Casale moved to 11-0, so the Marauder grapplers merely lost to unbeaten opponents…

As mentioned above, the Hudson County Basketball Tournament seeds were determined recently and seven-time defending county champ Hudson Catholic secured the top seed in the boys’ bracket, followed in order by Marist, St. Peter’s Prep, Union City, Dickinson, Lincoln, Snyder and Hoboken.

The girls’ bracket features Secaucus at the top, followed by Bayonne, Hudson Catholic, defending champ Lincoln fourth, then Marist and Hoboken.

The semifinals and finals will all be played at the new High Tech High School in Secaucus, with the girls’ semifinals set for Tuesday, Feb. 19 and the boys’ semifinals set for Wednesday, Feb. 20. The championship games will also be played at High Tech on Saturday afternoon Feb. 23 beginning at 1 p.m.

It’s great to have a new facility to be showcased for the county championship games, but there’s something lost when the big games are not played at St. Peter’s University. Every other county in New Jersey holds its championship games at a college facility except Hudson County. Let’s see how this all unfolds…

Local sports lost a true gentleman recently when current Rutgers-Newark assistant athletic director Mike Alvarez passed away after a brief illness. Alvarez, a native of the Greenville section of Jersey City and a graduate of Snyder High, spent a good portion of his athletic administration career at New Jersey City University and then for the last 15 years was the facility director at Rutgers-Newark, watching fort over the Golden Dome on R-N’s campus.

Mike was a gentle soul who truly cared for the athletes at both NJCU and R-N, as well as South Plainfield High School, where he was a proud member of the booster club. He was a fixture at the championship outdoor track meets in South Plainfield, giving of his time. He had incredible energy and dedication, unparalleled in local circles. He will be so sorely missed…

Hudson Reporter Boys’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. Hudson Catholic (17-4). 2. St. Peter’s Prep (12-6). 3. Marist (16-4). 4. Lincoln (13-6). 5. Snyder (12-5)….

Hudson Reporter Girls’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. Bayonne (19-1). 2. Secaucus (14-1). 3. Hudson Catholic (14-4). 4. Lincoln (14-4). 5. Hoboken (12-2). – Jim Hague

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