Stevens Institute hosts NCAA for first time ever; Bayonne girls win county crown; strong wrestling contingent in AC; top fives

The Bayonne girls captured the Hudson County Tournament championship last week. From left are head coach James Turner, Jade Phillips, Makoye Diawara and Mary Lavin
The Bayonne girls captured the Hudson County Tournament championship last week. From left are head coach James Turner, Jade Phillips, Makoye Diawara and Mary Lavin

For the first time in the school’s history, Stevens Institute of Technology is hosting the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament this weekend.

The Ducks won the MAC Freedom championship recently, also for the first time, and hit the postseason in major stride, having won 10 in a row.

“I think it’s a big accomplishment for our program,” said Bobby Hurley, who is incredibly in his 12th season as the head coach of the Ducks and recently became the school’s all-time win leader. He’s also fortunate to share the same exact name as the Jersey City native, former Duke All-American and currently the head coach at Arizona State.

Hurley believes that his team is battle tested.

“This group has been through some challenges over four years,” said Hurley, whose team is now an unbelievable 23-4 heading into the NCAA, where the Ducks will face Nichols College in the first round. “They finally came together this season. We had high expectations for this group. We challenged them with a tough early season schedule. It’s helped us especially in the second half of the year.”

The Ducks play an exciting brand of basketball, pushing the ball up the floor, passing it quickly around the perimeter and try to take the best and first uncontested 3-point shot they find.

“I really enjoy the way we play,” Hurley said. “We share the ball and if they’re open, we encourage them to shoot it. We get a step on teams in transition and ultimately we’ll get a good shot.”

Senior Spencer Cook is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 19.2 points per game. Cook from Washington Township in south Jersey has bounced back nicely after suffering a serious knee injury last season, missing all but two games.

“We have some good talent,” Hurley said. “This is really exciting for our school. We have a group of guys who are students first and handle the rigors of the curriculum. We really have a special group here. A lot of people don’t realize how difficult it is.”

For several years now, the Ducks played a highly competitive schedule, won their share of games and had nothing to show for it. It’s their reward finally to be able to host the first round of the tournament this weekend. The Ducks face Nichols College at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and if they win, they play at 6:30 again on Saturday…

The Bayonne High School girls played a flawless game last Saturday and defeated Hudson Catholic, 46-36, to win the Hudson County Tournament championship, knocking off the defending county champs in the finals after losing two regular season games to the Hawks.

Senior point guard Eniya Scott scored 17 points, but put on a ball handling clinic in the second half, keeping the Hawks at bay. Scott seemed to take minutes off the clock soon after the Bees (25-3) held the Hawks scoreless in the first quarter. You never see that in high school basketball, posting a shutout in the first quarter. It was a great performance, one for the ages. It was similar to the play of Annie Cossolini of St. Dominic Academy when the Blue Devils won their lone Hudson County championship 20 years ago in 2000. Can that be? It’s 20 years already? That’s just wild. Cossolini then went on to win an HCIAA Seglio Division title as the head coach of McNair Academic eight years later…

There was a strong contingency of local wrestlers competing at the NJSIAA state championships in Atlantic City this weekend. It was a great representation for the St. Peter’s Prep wrestling team, which sent an incredible eight wrestlers to compete in A.C. Not a bad turnout by head coach Anthony Verdi in his return to coaching.

The Prep group consisted of 106-pounder Angelo Pellicci, 113-pounder Donovan Chavis, 120-pounder Patrick Adams, 126-pounder Sean Reindiero, 132-pounder Felix Lettini, 138-pounder Connor Cortese, 145-pounder Alejandro Leon and heavyweight Evan Scribner.

North Bergen had four kids go, namely 138-pounder Joshua Palacio, 220-pounder Mike Sierra, heavyweight Ricky Perez and Amanda Pace in the girls’ tourney. Bayonne was represented by 220-pounder Keith Simon

We will have more on the Bruin wrestlers next week…

Mandy Johnson’s ABC Inc. is hosting a talent showcase March 29 at the Jersey City Armory from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It’s intended for NCAA Division II and NCAA Division III seniors who have not found a home to play collegiately. Many college coaches will be in attendance to see the players in action. For more information, e-mail at abcinckidz@gmail.com

Both the Lincoln boys and girls won two games each in the NJSIAA state playoffs, but in different sections, which is very bizarre. We’ll have more on Lincoln’s plight next week…

Hudson Reporter Boys’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. St. Peter’s Prep (23-3). 2.  Marist (23-5). 3. Hudson Catholic (18-7). 4. North Bergen (18-7). 5. Snyder (20-6)…

Hudson Reporter Girls’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. Bayonne (25-3). 2. Hudson Catholic (22-4) 3. Secaucus (21-3). 4. Marist (19-7). 5. Lincoln (17-7). – Jim Hague

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