TASTY TIDBITS Fine season for Hudson hoops Dabal’s state hopes dashed; strange letters received over wrestling coach in South Jersey

Not only did Lincoln and St. Anthony both win NJSIAA state basketball championships, marking the first time since 1990 that Hudson County and Jersey City had two basketball state champs simultaneously, but the area also crowned a state sectional champion in the Marist girls and had another team, the Secaucus girls, make it to a state sectional finale.

The Marist girls won the NJSIAA Non-Public B North title last week when the Royal Knights defeated Gill St. Bernard’s, 64-61, advancing Bill DeFazio’s team to the state title game against Trenton Catholic.

Unfortunately, the dream died there in the Ritacco Center in Toms River, because the Royal Knights dropped a 54-42 decision to Trenton Catholic, which won for the second straight year.

Trenton Catholic defeated St. Anthony’s girls in the state title game a year ago.

But it was still a great run for the Marist girls, who won the HCIAA Coviello and the NJSIAA state sectional title in the same year for the first time since 2002.

Incredibly, the Marist girls played in the state finale at Ritacco Center right after St. Anthony’s boys played in its Non-Public B state title game.

Which meant that two coaches who grew up on the same block in the Greenville section of Jersey City and started their respective coaching careers at the same grammar school, the now-defunct St. Paul’s of Greenville, coached in consecutive NJSIAA title games that same day.

DeFazio and St. Anthony’s legendary coach Bob Hurley lived on Linden Avenue in the Greenville section of Jersey City since childhood and the two were childhood friends. It’s pretty remarkable that the two were coaching back-to-back, both trying to win state titles at their respective schools…

Secaucus’ girls, under the direction of first-year head coach John Sterling (no, not the Yankee announcer), won two NJSIAA state playoff games and made it to the North Jersey Section 2, Group I finale, where the Patriots ran into a buzz saw known as University High of Newark, one of the top-ranked teams in the state.

But the Patriots have nothing to be ashamed of, considering that they went further than any other Secaucus girls basketball team had gone in the state playoffs. Senior do-everything Jenna Totaro was a main reason why the Patriots were so successful this season and she will leave Secaucus with a legacy of greatness…

The high school wrestling season came to an end last week as well and unfortunately, it did not end well for the local contingent that headed to Atlantic City for the NJSIAA state championships.

The best local finisher was North Bergen’s whirlwind 130-pounder Bobby Dabal, who went to the state’s gambling capital as a favorite to win the entire tournament and an unblemished record.

Unfortunately, Dabal’s string of luck ran out in the state quarterfinals, where he was upset by eventual state champion Derek Valenti of Kittatinny in a 1-0 heartbreaker.

From there, Dabal’s tournament went downhill and he lost twice more, finishing eighth in the state. It was definitely not the way the talented Bruin grappler wanted to have his season and his career end.

Although Dabal ends his career with three NJSIAA state medals, including a third-place finish a year ago, he has to be upset with himself with the eighth place medal he received this year…

Secaucus’ 160-pounder Bobby Roesing and Bayonne’s heavyweight Jerome Otis-Harris were both eliminated in the second round of wrestleback consolations…

Speaking of wrestling, I received two letters from anonymous readers who were upset and angry how I could be involved with putting something into the drink of a high school wrestler in South Jersey.

Attached to one of the letters was an article written by the Associated Press that was printed in the local paper, which read that “two wrestling coaches at Vineland High School had been fired after being accused of spiking a team member’s Gatorade with a potentially dangerous chemical.”

One of those charged was named James Hague. He was the head coach at Vineland.

Now, if anyone truly believes that the accused James Hague and this writer are one and the same, you need to have your heads examined.

First of all, the arrested coach was 35 years old. I’m flattered to think people think I’m still 35.

Secondly, it would be a little bit of a miracle for me to travel back and forth to Vineland to coach on a daily basis. According to Google maps, Vineland is 121 miles from Hudson County. One way. Now, that’s a commute to coach.

For your information, the accused coach used to wrestle at the College of New Jersey and I once covered the NCAA Division III championships where I had to interview him. I approached him and said, “Jim Hague, nice to meet you, I’m Jim Hague.” There was also one other major difference. The accused Jim Hague weighs 125 pounds. I weighed more at birth.

Just so there’s no confusion, I’m not the lacrosse coach at Ramapo High School either. He’s also Jim Hague.

In Hudson County circles, thank God there’s only one…

My good friend Eddie Lucas received a nice gift for the St. Joseph’s School of the Blind, the Jersey City school where Lucas has worked for ages when he’s not out doing reports about New York baseball, especially the Yankees.

The Italian-American Civic Association of Hillside, which used to have the late Phil Rizzuto as a member, recently made a donation to St. Joseph’s School in memory of “The Scooter.” It was a nice gesture.

Lucas has a great Web site now, www.edlucas.org, which has a variety of interesting pictures and tidbits about Lucas’ career as a blind reporter. The greeting on the Web site comes from the immortal Bob Sheppard, the Yankees’ beloved public address announcer.

“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Ed Lucas Online,” Sheppard bellows as you enter the site. It’s a classic… – Jim Hague


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