As we entered a new century and new millennium in 2000, it was only fitting that the Hudson County sports scene would feature a host of events that were the first of their kind. The calendar year 2000 featured teams reaching new heights and coaches attaining new plateaus. There were some unexpected turns and some sad moments. All in all, the Sports Year 2000 represented a lot to remember, so without further adieu, here are the Hudson Reporter’s top 10 sports stories for 2000.
1. Hudson Catholic wins state hockey championship
For the first time ever, Hudson County crowned a state champion in hockey. We’ve had our share of football, basketball and baseball state title winners, but there had never been a state champion on the ice until Hudson Catholic made its mystical and magical run through the NJSIAA state tournament last March.
Led by the brilliant play of the New Jersey Player of the Year, goaltender Joe Aliseo, and an opportunistic offensive attack, the Hawks, guided by coach Cory Robinson, first captured the Parochial state title by upsetting favorite Seton Hall Prep, then came back two nights later to defeat Bayonne in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions finale at the Continental Airlines Arena.
2. Casey arrested, then charges later dropped
In May, the shocking headlines blared the tale of Penn State quarterback and Hoboken native Rashard Casey being arrested and charged with the assault of an off-duty Hoboken police officer after an incident outside a Hoboken night spot. Casey was first charged with the assault on Officer Patrick Fitzsimmons, but maintained his innocence at his arraignment hearing.
Months of speculation followed. Casey and Penn State head coach Joe Paterno were under nationwide scrutiny. Hoboken Police Chief Carmen LaBruno levied accusations of the attack being racially-biased. (Fitzsimmons, a white man, was out with a black woman that night.) Casey went back to Penn State and tried to concentrate on his senior year as the starting signal caller for the Nittany Lions. He played in the Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium, just six miles from his hometown, but was sheltered from the media because of the pending charges. Casey didn’t exactly enjoy a fine senior year, as Penn State lost seven games.
In November, a grand jury decided that there was insufficient evidence to indict Casey on the charges, so they were subsequently dropped. Casey was vindicated, but a civil suit, as well as possible charges in federal court, still loom. His former Hoboken High School teammate Desmond Miller was indicted on assault charges.
3. Emerson’s magical basketball run earns county final, state sectional title
In late February, the Emerson boys’ basketball coach, under the guidance of first-year head coach Drew Morano, the son of coaching legend and former Emerson coach Hank Morano, was leading his team through a very mediocre 8-8 season and appeared headed out of any post-season contention.
However, a strange turn of events occurred when Marist was forced to forfeit all of its games for using an ineligible player. Because of the ruling, Emerson gained a win for its regular season game against Marist, which enabled the Bulldogs to qualify for both the HCIAA and NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group III playoffs. Emerson then made the most of its second life, earning two upset victories in the county playoffs to advance to the finals for the first time in a decade, only to fall to Dickinson. In the state playoffs, Morano guided the Bulldogs to four straight wins and the school’s first state sectional championship in 20 years – ever since his father was the coach.
4. Secaucus volleyball team wins sixth straight Group I state title
After seeing their 60-match winning streak go by the wayside in October, things didn’t look good for the Secaucus volleyball team in the Patriots’ pursuit of an unprecedented sixth straight NJSIAA Group I state championship. But the Patriots, led by veteran coach Maria Nolan, collected themselves after the loss to North Arlington, then motored their way through the Hudson County playoffs, then the state playoffs. Led by All-State performer Tiffany Aciz and standout seniors Jessie Lunapiena and Diana Totaro, the Patriots first defeated North Arlington in the state semifinals, then defeated Bogota, both in come-from-behind fashion, to win the state title in November, becoming the first team in state history to win six straight championships.
5. St. Peter’s College women’s basketball team heads to NCAAs again
For the second straight year, the Peahens of St. Peter’s College headed to the Grand Dance known as the NCAA Tournament in March. The Peahens, guided by veteran coach Mike Granelli, won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament to earn the berth to the NCAAs, where the Peahens traveled to Oregon to face Mississippi State. Although the Peahens fell short in the first round of the tournament, being one of the 64 teams to earn a trip to the Grand Dance is no small accomplishment. Achieving the pinnacle for two straight years is even a greater feat.
6. Subway Series: Yankees vs. Mets
Although the event didn’t directly involve anyone from Hudson County, it’s hard to believe that there wasn’t a single local resident who wasn’t somehow affected by the 2000 World Series, which featured the first Subway Series in 44 years, pitting the two-time defending World Champion Yankees against the upstart Mets. In the end, the Yankees won their third straight Series, taking the title in five games, but for seven days in October, the entire area was gripped in Subway Series fever, pitting family members against each other in a show of loyalty to their respective favorite baseball teams.
7. Hurley wins 705th game, becomes No. 2 all-time Although it was a less than memorable season for the Friars of St. Anthony, posting a 17-8 record, head coach Bob Hurley earned the 705th win of his prestigious career, which catapulted him past Dick O’Connell of Rutgers Prep into the no. 2 position for coaching victories all-time for New Jersey high school coaches. Hurley now only trails Hudson County legend Jerry Molloy, who had more than 850 victories in his coaching career, but gained the wins coaching as many as four different high school teams at the same time. Hurley has obviously attained all of his coaching victories at one school. Hurley was also inducted into the New Jersey Sports Hall of Fame in May.
8. Hoboken’s winning streak, state title streak both end
All good things have to eventually come to an end, so when Passaic County Tech defeated Hoboken, 20-14, in October, it marked the end of the Red Wings’ impressive 29-game winning streak, dating back to the 1997 North Jersey Section 1, Group III championship game against Ramapo.
In November, the Red Wings’ streak of state championship seasons ended at two when Pompton Lakes defeated Hoboken, 27-10, in the Group II semifinals. Two weeks later, the Red Wings’ streak of 54 consecutive wins in Hudson County came to an end when the Red Wings fell to St. Peter’s Prep, 20-17, in overtime. The three losses signified the end of a remarkable run for the Red Wings, winners of five of six state titles and winners of 67 of 68 games (before the loss to Passaic County Tech) during a six-year stretch.
9. Dickinson wins HCIAA and state hoop titles under cloud of controversy
It should have been a time to remember for the Dickinson boys’ basketball team, which won the school’s first HCIAA championship in 25 years and captured the school’s first-ever North Jersey Section 1, Group IV sectional championship last February and March. Seniors Rashawn Wilson and Steve Richardson played brilliantly down the stretch of the season, carrying the Rams to both championships.
However, the championships were clouded by the arrest of senior guard Chinamese “Chi-Chi” Nwadike on drug possession charges. The controversy came when it was learned that both athletic director Roddy Maffia and head coach William “Red” Drennan knew of Nwadike’s arrest, yet allowed him to play in the county playoffs and the first two games of the state tournament. The Jersey City Board of Education suspended Nwadike from playing when news of his arrest became known. Nwadike was arrested again on drug charges a month later. Maffia was removed as athletic director because of the incident.
10. St. Dominic wins first-ever HCIAA girls’ basketball title in convincing fashion
In only his second season as the head coach at St. Dominic Academy, Mike Delaney assembled an accomplished group of dedicated players that emerged as solid contenders for the HCIAA championship. In February, the Blue Devils put together a fine run and won three games in the HCIAA playoffs. Led by the smallest player on the court, freshman point guard Annie Cossolini, as well as powerful center Sophia Vucetaj, the Blue Devils totally dismantled Bayonne in the county finale, winning by a 30-point margin. It marked the first HCIAA championship in the school’s history.
There were other stories of note that transpired in the past year. Long-time St. Joseph of the Palisades athletic director, coach and father figure Marty Seglio passed away, just months after seeing the school’s gym dedicated in his honor. The professional basketball careers ended for three former St. Anthony players, Bobby Hurley, Terry Dehere and Rodrick Rhodes. St. Peter’s Prep won the HCIAA baseball title and the American Conference football title. Jersey City natives Brian Ellerson and George Gallagher led Montclair State to the NCAA Division 3 Baseball World Series title. Jersey City’s John Valentin suffered a severe knee injury while playing for the Boston Red Sox, putting his career in jeopardy.