The 2021 Hudson Reporter All-Area basketball teams might have had only a few games to perform their magic on Hudson County’s hardwoods this season due to COVID-19, but the 30 players named – 15 boys, 15 girls – represent the very finest that the area had to offer in the truncated and wild season that will never be forgotten.
Of the boys’ honorees, four were honored for the third straight season, which is quite an accomplishment. Mark Armstrong of St. Peter’s Prep was named to the First Team for his third straight year and the talented junior will get a good chance to make it four straight next season before he heads off to some major Division I college. Armstrong already has a host of offers sitting on his dining room table.
Maurice Odum of Union City was also honored for the third time. The high-scoring junior, the state’s leading scorer a year ago, only played five games this season, but it was enough for him to be recognized among the county’s best.
Jamling Lama of Secaucus continued his ascent up the ranks among the county’s best, going from a Third Team honoree two years ago, a Second Team honoree last year and now earns his rightful spot as a First Team selection after averaging 21.5 points per game for the 8-2 Patriots this season.
Mike Jackson of Union City, who earned Second Team All-Area honors twice while at Marist, earned First Team honors this season, also only playing five games. Jackson averaged 20.4 points per game for the Soaring Eagles this season.
The last First Team honoree, Toriano Munford of Lincoln, was a Third Team selection last year.
Among the girls, Zanai Jones of Hudson Catholic earns All-Area honors for the third straight year, securing a spot on the First Team all three of her years with the Hawks. The Villanova commit will now try to be one of the very few players to earn First Team All-Area in all four years of high school.
Jones is the lone repeat honoree on the First Team.
Erika Mercedes of Union City made the leap from Second Team last year to First Team this year.
The same can be said of Lyndsey Ross of Secaucus, who was a Second Team selection last year and made the jump up to First Team honors this year.
Kayla Beckford of Hudson Catholic was a Third Team honoree last season and joined teammate Jones on the First Team this year.
The other First Team honoree, Shakira Coar of Lincoln, was the area’s top scorer this season, averaging close to 23 points per game. She earned her first nod to the Reporter All-Area team this season.
Eniya Scott of Bayonne was selected among the county’s best for a third straight year. Scott was a First Team selection the last two seasons and earned Second Team honors this season.
Maddie Branagan of St. Dominic Academy was a Third Team honoree last year and moved up to Second Team this season.
Adiana Pacheco of Hudson Catholic earned All-Area recognition for a second straight season.
The Hudson Reporter Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year is Toriano Munford of Lincoln. The senior averaged a county-best 23.6 points per game and grabbed nearly eight rebounds per contest, leading the Lions to a fine 8-4 record. Munford scored 43 points in a win over Ferris and 36 against Sinai Christian, a game where Munford also grabbed 12 rebounds and had seven steals. Munford will make some college coach very happy next fall when he makes his decision about school final.
The Hudson Reporter Boys’ Basketball Coach of the Year is Tom Curry of Secaucus, who led the Patriots to an 8-2 record and contention in the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference-Division 4 race despite having two lengthy quarantines due to the coronavirus.
For the second straight season, the Hudson Reporter Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year is Zanai Jones of Hudson Catholic. Jones did a little bit of everything once again for the Hawks, who defeated all nine comers in the Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic League and won 11 games overall.
Jones averaged 18 points, seven rebounds, five assists and five steals per game, showing why she’s the premier player in the county and after she’s playing in Villanova in two years, will be forever remembered as one of the best players in the history of Hudson County girls’ basketball.
The Hudson Reporter Girls’ Basketball Coach of the Year is John Sterling of Secaucus, who led the Patriots to an undefeated 11-0 record, including the top mark in the NJIC Division 4. Sterling is one of the best coaches in the state and his recognition gives Secaucus a clean sweep of the local coaching honors this season.
It was definitely the most unique and bizarre season ever witnessed in the history of New Jersey scholastic sports, but it was a season where Hudson County’s finest players shined, despite the obstacles caused by the pandemic. – Jim Hague
2021 HUDSON REPORTER ALL-AREA GIRLS’ BASKETBALL TEAM
Zanai Jones, Hudson Catholic
Erika Mercedes, Union City
Lyndsey Ross, Secaucu
Kayla Beckford, Hudson Catholic
Shakira Coar, Lincoln
Maddie Branigan, St. Dominic Academy
Sydney Williams, Weehawken
Daniela Peschetti, Secaucus
Jah’Nel Lewis, Snyder
Eniya Scott, Bayonne
Adiana Pacheco, Hudson Catholic
Jolyssa Moody, Bayonne
Jaylyn Orefice, Union City
Karine Thomas, Snyder
Brianna Clemente, Memorial
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Zanai Jones, Hudson Catholic
COACH OF THE YEAR: John Sterling, Secaucus
2021 HUDSON REPORTER ALL-AREA BOYS’ BASKETBALL TEAM
Maurice Odum, Union City
Mark Armstrong, St. Peter’s Prep
Jamling Lama, Secaucus
Toriano Munford, Lincoln
Mike Jackson, Marist
Rayshawn Ford, St. Peter’s Prep
Koi Kirk, Bayonne
Malcolm Eley, Hudson Catholic
Jason Blanks, Hoboken
Isaiah Davis, Dickinson
Keith Mency, Hudson Catholic
Shy’heed Jenkins-Floyd, Union City
Keanu Ray, Weehawken
Wendell Moreland, Lincoln
Elijah Gertrude, Hudson Catholic
Player of the Year-Toriano Munford, Lincoln
Coach of the Year-Tom Curry, Secaucus
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com