TASTY TIDBITS North Bergen girls’ hoop group off to solid start

Fitzpatrick wins national title with Crimson Tide; top fives

Dan Reardon is officially the granddaddy of all Hudson County girls’ basketball coaches.
The North Bergen head coach is currently in the 29th year of his coaching career and Reardon collected the 400th win of his career last season.
It means one thing: Reardon has been around the game of girls’ basketball for quite a long time now. It seems like yesterday when he took over for the ubiquitous Mike Spina, who was also a well known sportswriter for the old Hudson Dispatch and later Jersey Journal. It’s hard to believe that was almost 30 years ago.
Reardon’s best player from a year ago, Icies Hammer, is currently playing at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, taking the 1,700-plus points she scored as a Bruin with her.
When practices started last month for this season, Reardon had to face life without Hammer for the first time in four years.
“You realize that it’s not that easy to put the ball in the basket,” Reardon said. “You realize that you just can’t get the big kid the ball and let her score. That’s the biggest difference. There’s a big adjustment. You get a kid like Icies once every 10 years or so, if you’re lucky.”
Despite losing Hammer, Reardon thinks that this year’s team could be the best rebounding team he’s ever had.
“These kids work hard on the glass and they can jump,” Reardon said.
Something has worked, because the Bruins have jumped out to an impressive 6-3 start, even after losing Hammer and most of the starters from a year ago.
The Bruins, who suffered a hard-fought 38-32 loss to still-undefeated Lincoln last Tuesday night, are featuring more of a guard-dominated approach this season, featuring the skills of diminutive point guard Jillian Jover.
The senior Jover, who barely stands 5-feet tall, is a whirlwind with the basketball. She is all over the place with the ball in her hands and absolutely fun to watch.
“No one tries to press us and no one plays us man-to-man, because she goes right through it,” Reardon said of his four-year point guard Jover. “I tell her in practice that she has to shoot the ball. She has to do right things with the ball, be the coach on the floor. With no Icies, she has a lot more responsibility.”
Jover has already had games where she scored 24 in a win over Fair Lawn and 20 in a loss to Bayonne. She’s averaging 13.5 points and five assists per game.
“This may be the smallest team I’ve had,” Reardon said. “But they’re very athletic. They rebound and play defense. That’s what we have to do. We have to play defense, then rebound and get out on the fast break. If we can do that, we can win games.”
Katelyn Andres is a 5-foot-4 junior guard who is versatile.
“She can shoot the ball and she can take the ball to the hole,” Reardon said of Andres, who is averaging 9.3 points per game. “She’s had a couple games where she’s our leading scorer.”
Andres had 14 in a win over Snyder and 13 in a win against Kearny earlier this week.
Senior Destiny Cabreja is a 5-foot-8 forward.
“She’s been amazing off the glass, averaging 12 rebounds per game,” Reardon said. “She plays good defense. She’s our most improved player. I don’t have to tell her to rebound. She just does it. She’s also a very hard worker.”
Cabreja is averaging nine points per game to go along with her collection of rebounds.
Junior Nohelia Olivas is a 5-foot-7 forward who missed all of last season with a knee injury, a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) that required surgery.
“She’s come back well and does a little bit of everything,” Reardon said. “She’s probably the best athlete on the team.”
Leslie Hernandez is a 5-foot-7 junior forward.
“She’s our power forward,” Reardon said. “She’s a good finisher. She’s strong.”
Sophomores Kayori Hanna, a 5-foot-7 forward, and Carolyn Galvez, a 5-foot-3 guard, are the top players off the bench.
Reardon credited the developmental youth program, spearheaded by his assistant coach Betty Mendieta, for being able to continue to compete with the county’s best year after year.
“Betty has these kids playing from the fifth grade up through the eighth,” Reardon said. “Some of these kids have been playing with us for six years. That really helps.”
Reardon believes – especially after battling Lincoln – that the Bruins will compete through the Hudson County Tournament.
“I think we can absolutely contend,” Reardon said. “I’m not just saying that. I told the girls that they could get to St. Peter’s College [meaning the Hudson County Tournament semifinals at St. Peter’s University’s Yanitelli Center]. I really mean it.”…
Congrats to St. Peter’s Prep graduate Minkah Fitzpatrick for helping the University of Alabama win the college football national championship against Clemson Monday night. As a freshman defensive back starting in the game, Clemson looked to pick on Fitzpatrick and was targeted early, but he made some key stops and pass breakups throughout the game.
It means that Fitzpatrick won the overall New Jersey state championship with Prep as a senior in high school in 2014 and won the college football national title as a freshman with the Crimson Tide. Not a lot of guys could lay claim to having that much success in their football career…
Other than this week’s Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week Isiah Dasher of Ferris, who is currently 13th in the state in scoring, Troy Lopez of Dickinson is in the top 25. Lopez’s 23 point per game average is good for 22nd in the state…
Union City improved to 8-1 overall with a huge 61-53 win over St. Peter’s Prep Tuesday. Abraham Felix had 16 points and Anthony Gomez had 13 in the win. Up next for the Soaring Eagles? A test against high-flying Hudson Catholic. Not easy…
Union City girls’ basketball standout Nellasia Cedeno is averaging 21.1 points per game, which is good for No. 13 among state scoring leaders…
Hudson Reporter Boys’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. St. Anthony (8-0). 2. Hudson Catholic (5-3). 3. Union City (8-1). 4. St. Peter’s Prep (4-3). 5. Dickinson (6-3)…
Hudson Reporter Girls’ High School Basketball Top Five: 1. Lincoln (8-0). 2. Bayonne (8-2). 3. Secaucus (7-3). 4. North Bergen (6-3). 5. Marist (6-4)…-Jim Hague

Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.

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