TASTY TIDBITS

Former Bruin star Jimenez takes over as girls’ coach; Weehawken gets shiny new floor; Somick out as NB grid coach

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Lauren Jimenez, the all-time leading scorer in girls’ basketball at North Bergen High School, has been named as the new head girls’ basketball coach for this season, replacing Dan Reardon, who stepped aside for medical reasons
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The Weehawken High School new gym floor features a stencil of the New York skyline, as well as championship banners right in the floor
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Lauren Jimenez, the all-time leading scorer in girls’ basketball at North Bergen High School, has been named as the new head girls’ basketball coach for this season, replacing Dan Reardon, who stepped aside for medical reasons
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The Weehawken High School new gym floor features a stencil of the New York skyline, as well as championship banners right in the floor

When Lauren Jimenez was a little girl – and yes, she was once little – growing up in North Bergen, she confided in her father Tony about her hopes and aspirations.

“I told him that I wanted to become the coach at North Bergen one day,” said Jimenez, the four-time Hudson Reporter All-Area selection (2004 through 2007), two-time Reporter Player of the Year (2005 and 2007), and the all-time leading scorer and rebounder in the history of the school with 1,818 points and 1,278 rebounds. “It was everything I always wanted. My Dad said it was his dream as well. Basketball has been our dream together.”

The 6-foot-4 Jimenez earned a scholarship to James Madison University and had a great career there as well. She played professionally one year in Poland before injuries ended her playing career.

After her playing career was done, Jimenez aspired right away to become a coach and teacher. She went to William Paterson University to earn her certification to teach.

“I took basketball as far as I could go,” Jimenez said. “After that, I wanted to bring it back to North Bergen.”

Jimenez was an assistant coach at Rutgers-Newark for one season before joining Dan Reardon’s staff with the Bruins.

A few weeks ago, Reardon decided to step aside from coaching after 31 seasons for this season because of the COVID-19 restrictions and his battles with cancer.

With that, Jimenez received the appointment to become the head coach for at least this season and maybe moving forward, considering Reardon’s health restrictions.

“I didn’t think this was going to happen this year,” Jimenez said. “I learned probably about a week ago. I was all set to be an assistant again and get the girls who want to play.”

But now that she’s the head coach, Jimenez is ready for the challenge.

“I’m excited,” said Jimenez, who also played for Reardon. “Being from here, I think I’m a good example that anything can happen here.”

Sure, as long as you’re 6-foot-4 and could put the ball in the basket nearly a thousand times.

That was in jest. Jimenez has always been a very driven and determined young lady. At 31, she’s ready to make the leap into becoming a head coach – and she’s fortunate to have former Bruins Luz Cortorreal (a former Hudson Reporter All-Area performer)) and Ashley Bellucci on her staff as assistants. Both played basketball played at William Paterson

“It’s come full circle,” Jimenez said. “I have great women with me as assistants and we all played here. A lot of the stuff I’ve done has come natural for me and I’d show what I did. Their verbiage is beautiful, so they can teach it better. The demographics in North Bergen have changed. Basketball is not on everybody’s radar anymore, especially with the little kids.”

So Jimenez plans on working with the North Bergen Recreation Department to address the game at a younger age than middle school.

“If we can work with fundamentals at a young age, we’ll be in better shape by the time they get to high school,” Jimenez said.

As it stands, Jimenez’s first team will be extremely young, featuring a host of sophomores. In fact, four of the top six players are indeed sophomores.

“We will also have a bunch of freshmen,” Jimenez said. “I think that’s great, because we need to be aggressive. We need to run and jump. If we work on our defense, we’ll be fine. We have to be a defensive minded team.”

Leading the returnees is 5-foot-2 senior point guard Ashanti Teran.

“She’s an aggressive workhorse,” Jimenez said of Teran. “She’s feisty. She’ll scrap with anyone. She’s a great defender. She stepped up big for us last year and she’s coming into her own.”

Evanny Ripley is a 5-foot-3 junior guard.

“She’s very focused,” Jimenez said. “She’ll do anything for the team. She wants to be so good. You can’t teach that heart.”

Lyah Baez is a 5-foot-6 sophomore forward.

“She’s a slasher,” Jimenez said. “She’s also always smiling. She’s funny, but when she gets into a zone, watch out.”

Kayla Dupoux is a 5-foot-6 sophomore forward.

“She’s one of our post players,” Jimenez said. “She’s shown such huge growth as a player from freshman to sophomore year. I wanted her to learn how to be a post player and she’s learning.”

Lumi Ortega is a 5-foot-7 sophomore forward, another player to move around down low.

“She’s also becoming a good post player,” Jimenez said. “She’s determined and she’s doing really well.”

Sophomore Tatianna Nunez is a sophomore swing player. Nunez is coming off an excellent soccer season.

“She actually reminds me of Luz [Cortorreal],” Jimenez said. “She’s so agile and athletic. She has a lot of raw talent. She can play any position from one through four. I can’t wait to see how good she can be.”

Jimenez feels that there isn’t a huge generational gap between the coaching staff and the players.

“I think it helps that they feel we’ve done this before and it wasn’t that long ago,” Jimenez said. “They trust us and buy into it. I think they can definitely relate to us.”…

Speaking of North Bergen, it has been learned that head football coach Ed Somick has resigned.

“I was giving up a lot of time to the job,” said Somick, who is a vice principal in the district. “It definitely became a job thing. After 33 years of coaching, maybe it’s time for a younger guy to step in. It was a great run, but maybe it’s time for a change. I wanted to go out on my own terms. My family, my three kids, never see me in October. I never wanted go out after a season like the one we had.”

The Bruins suffered through a 2-4 record in 2020, the second straight year that the Bruins had an unconventional record, posting a 4-4 mark in 2019. Somick had a 20-14 record over four seasons. He was named The Hudson Reporter Coach of the Year his rookie campaign in 2017.

The Bruins have not been the same since the passing of the legendary Vince Ascolese, who won the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV state title in 2011, a title that was removed by the NJSIAA when it was revealed that the Bruins recruited players illegally.

Since Ascolese’s passing, the Bruins have posted a 46-38 record over nine seasons…

No word about a possible replacement for Somick…

Over the summer, Weehawken’s gym floor suffered some severe water damage due to heavy rains. There were some concerns about the wood floor becoming warped. When the floor was partially lifted, there were even bigger worries.

“Water had seepage in under the floor for quite a while,” said Weehawken principal Robert Ferullo. “The damage was pretty extensive. We couldn’t tell how long it was going on. It was a much larger problem than we realized. Repairing the floor was not an option.”

So the powers-that-be, under Ferullo’s guidance, decided to purchase a new floor, courtesy of Classic Sports Floors of West Berlin.

Ferullo wanted to focus the attention of the floor to the biggest draw Weehawken owns – namely the panoramic picturesque views of the Manhattan skyline.

“The Empire State Building is in the center of town,” Ferullo said. “We wanted to make sure that the floor represented the views. It’s the first thing that people see when they come to Weehawken.”

So Ferullo worked with project manager Gabe Smith on the design for the floor. Classic Sports Floors does hardwood gym floors all over with different artistic looks put into the floor. But none had the New York skyline.

“The people at the school did a great job in drawing the design,” Smith said. “All of the ideas came from them. We just came up with a plan and followed it. It was a lot of fun putting it together. The principal [Ferullo] was great to work with. They gave us the guidelines and we put together an artist’s proof with a stencil and worked off that.”

Another interesting aspect of the floor is the basketball championship banners that adorn the sidelines.

“People have told me that our legends deserve recognition, so that’s why we put the banners in the floor,” Ferullo said. “From 1928 to 1959, we had seven state and 14 county champions. We wanted to dignify the accomplishments.”

And get this? The cost of the $180,000 masterpiece was covered almost entirely by insurance.

“It was very therapeutic for me to walk down to the gym and see the work being done,” said Ferullo.

Smith said the work took about six weeks.

“I love the way it came out,” said Ferullo, who planned to christen the floor this week, when the Indians open their season against Lyndhurst. “I’m very proud of it.”

“We’re really happy with the way it came out,” Smith said. “It’s one of the best ones we did this year.”

It really is a unique work of art and in a non-pandemic year, it would something for everyone to see firsthand. Maybe next year. – Jim Hague

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