The Lyndhurst High School girls’ basketball team won 15 games a year ago.
That total is leaps and bounds better than what it was when John Cousins took over as head coach five years ago.
Now, as he enters his fifth season with the Golden Bears, Cousins expects even more improvement this year.
“We expect to win ever more this year,” Cousins said. “We want to be in the running for the NJIC (North Jersey Interscholastic Conference) Tournament and have expectations in the (NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II) state tournament. We would love to be fighting for the NJIC championship.”
The Golden Bears own a 3-2 record in the early going after the Bruce Bartlett Holiday Tournament at Lyndhurst, defeating Paterson Charter in the first round before falling to Bergen Tech in the title game.
But that mark isn’t good enough in Cousins’ eyes.
“We still have a long way to go,” Cousins said. “We have to get better. We have expectations and want to be playing for championships. We have a lot of things to fix. We haven’t done a good job yet offensively. We haven’t done a good job rebounding. I need to see some improvement.”
Cousins is pleased with the recent play of junior forward Angelina DeCoro. The 5-foot-11 inside presence had 20 points and 16 rebounds in the win over Paterson Charter and added 13 points and nine rebounds in the loss to Bergen Tech.
“She’s done a really good job,” Cousins said of DeCoro. “She’s playing well. It’s taken some time for her to grow into her body. Hopefully she will continue to develop and play well. We just need her to be a little more consistent. We’re working on that.”
Senior Grace Cappiello is a 5-foot-4 point guard.
“She’s a three-year starter for us,” Cousins said of Cappiello. “She’s not the type of kid who wears her emotions on her sleeve. She’s just a steady kid who plays with composure. She does a lot for us. She’s handling the ball and plays good defense. She’s an intelligent player. She also rebounds the ball very well. She has a lot of unsung qualities.”
Makenzie McMillan is another 5-foot-4 senior guard.
“She’s an inspirational kid,” Cousins said.
That’s because McMillan is managing to play with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her knee while wearing a bulky brace.
“She’s as tough as nails,” Cousins said of McMillan. “She plays so hard. I wish I had about 10 more like her. I’m excited to have both seniors back.”
Angela Downey is a 5-foot-6 junior guard.
Downey has scored in double figures in four of the five Golden Bear contests, including a team-high 16 points against Bergen Tech. She also nailed four three-pointers in a loss to Chatham.
“She has one of the prettiest jump shots in northern New Jersey,” Cousins said. “She’s tremendous out there.”
Junior Jamie Connors is a 5-foot-7 forward.
“We’re using her at the three (small forward),” Cousins said. “She’s an excellent athlete. She is strong. She doesn’t even know how strong she is. She defends the ball well. She can shoot pretty well. She just needs a little more confidence.”
Junior Gabriela Schnur is a 5-foot-4 guard.
“She can flat out shoot,” Cousins said. “She works hard. We have a bunch of kids that are two and three-sport athletes and that helps us. Gabriela brings that prowess to our game. She’s also a good defender.”
Carley Martin is a 5-foot-5 freshman guard.
“She has a lot of promise,” Cousins said. “She handles the ball well. She’s also very athletic. She’s the point guard in-waiting. She’s also a good shooter and defends her position well. She’s tough and takes advantage of that.”
The Golden Bears return to action on Saturday at Park Ridge at noon.
Count on the Golden Bears to be in the hunt for the postseason as the season progresses. Cousins has done a fine job of building the program back to respectability.
The Lyndhurst girls’ basketball team will rely heavily on its senior leadership. From left are Juliann Catalano, Makenzie McMillan, head coach John Cousins and Grace Cappiello. Photo by Jim Hague