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Thoughts & Views: A time for remembrance

Remembrance_web

Do you know anything about the S.S. Leopoldville?

That’s a rhetorical question, because odds are you don’t. As Christmas Eve nears, I wanted to share the story because this Dec. 24th marks the 70th anniversary of a tragedy that cost the lives of 763 American soldiers but was an official secret for many years.

I first learned of it in 1999, from a retired New York City police lieutenant, Allan Andrade, when I was working for the N.Y. Daily News.

The column I wrote then is available online, but also available, and of greater import, is the book Andrade authored, “S.S. Leopoldville Disaster: December 24, 1944.” You can find it on Amazon.

At risk of plagiarizing myself, I’m repeating the story for Observer readers because those 763 men deserve to be remembered.

The U.S. Army troops were members of the 262nd and 264th Regiments of the 66th Infantry Division who were being transported across the English Channel, from Southampton to Cherbourg, for deployment in the Battle of the Bulge. In all, there were 2,235 soldiers, including some British forces, aboard the Leopoldville, a former Belgian passenger liner converted into a troopship.

As the ship approached the French coast, it was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sank. More than 500 of the Americans are believed to have gone down with the vessel. Another 248 died of injuries, drowned or froze to death in the frigid Channel. In all, 493 bodies were never recovered.

Those who were found were piled on a Cherbourg pier. Andrade provided me with a quote from his book, from a Linden man, Robert Hesse, who had witnessed the scene. “Live ones were stacked up with the dead ones. Some were so frozen, they could only move their eyes, but that was enough to save their lives.”

For whatever bureaucratic/ diplomatic reasons, the story of the Leopoldville was kept secret and remained so long after wartime censorship could be used as the explanation. Survivors were ordered not to discuss the sinking. The families of the victims were given scant information. The telegrams sent by the Army read, “Missing in action.” Or, “Killed in action in the European area.”

The U.S. Army records were not declassified until 1959; the British files, not until 1996.

(An interesting sidelight, although it may be apocryphal since the sources have not been verified: As the story goes, for decades, the French Navy used the sunken wreck of the Leopoldville as a training site for divers. This supposedly ended in the late ‘90s when they finally learned the facts about the ship.)

In 1997, a 66th Infantry Leopoldville memorial was finally erected at Fort Benning, Ga. It is inscribed with the names of the dead, including 24 from New Jersey. Among them are two local men: Pfc. Malcolm B. Christopher of Nutley and S.Sgt. Gilbert J. Steuble of Belleville.

For a complete list of the victims — which, coincidentally, was complied by Andrade — visit leopoldville.org.

That’s one of the benefits of the internet. Things that had been lost to history are now being rediscovered. The dead can become, as they should be, the honored dead.

And now, I will deliberately plagiarize myself, paraphrasing the words I used to end the column I wrote for The News:

Come Christmas Eve, you might acknowledge the supreme sacrifice of the Leopoldville victims. With a silent prayer on a holy night.

 – Karen Zautyk 

Union pickets Passaic Ave. mall site

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Members of Local 3, Building Construction Laborers of North Jersey, are picketing a Passaic Ave. mall development site where a new BJ’s is slated as the anchor tenant.

Currently, Danco General Contracting is demolishing the old Congoleum factory on the site to clear the way for construction of new retail outlet stores by DVL Holdings LLC.

Paul Roldan, Local 3 field representative for Hudson and Essex counties, said the union is upset about Danco’s use of non-union labor and about safety at the work site.

Danco, according to a published report, is paying its workers $22 to $25 an hour with no benefits. Roldan said the union scale “area standard” is $54 an hour. And, he said, the benefit of having union labor is that, “all of our people are OSHA (federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration)-trained.”

Aside from that, Rolan said that, “for jobs of this magnitude,” there’s no reason why at least some Kearny area residents shouldn’t be employed. For tax-abated development projects exceeding $20 million, the government permits Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) between the community and the developer, which, he said, would “trigger the use of a [union] apprenticeship program for at least 20% of the work force at the project.”

Asked about that, Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos said that local government “cannot mandate the use of union labor” but they can sign a PLA “which requires the contractor to employ and train apprentices” and “a contractor with non-union workers would have to pay union dues for the length of the project and follow union rules on pensions and work conditions. Kearny does not have a PLA policy.”

Asked if the town would consider implementing such a policy, Santos said: “We would need a cost analysis done before doing so. Unlike Jersey City [which has a PLA], Kearny does not have the same level of developer interest.”

 – Ron Leir 

KPD: How sweet it is

On Dec. 1, Officers Tom Sumowski and Steve Hroncich, responding to a 3:30 a.m. report of a disorderly person in the area of Devon and Hoyt Sts., encountered an apparently intoxicated man holding a large black backpack that was “overflowing” with candy bars, KPD Chief John Dowie reported.

Scattered on the sidewalk were at least 10 more candy bars, Dowie said. And the pack reportedly contained parts from a vending machine, including the coin storage unit and a “substantial amount of change”: 53 quarters, 94 dimes and 30 nickels.

After learning that the man worked in the area, Dowie said, Officer John Travelino visited the company and found a damaged candy-vending machine, missing both its coin unit and a lot of candy.

Since no one saw the suspect, Geronimo Ramirez, 24, of Kearny, actually breaking into the machine, he was charged only with possession of the stolen property. However, he was also charged with illegal possession of a prescription drug, due to the 25 Xanax tablets allegedly in the backpack with the candy. And there was more to come.

While housed in a cell at headquarters, Ramirez reportedly broke the handle on a toilet and tore apart a mattress, resulting in a charge of criminal mischief.

• • •

Other recent reports from the Kearny police blotter included the following:

Nov. 24 

On patrol in South Kearny at 8 p.m., Officers Brian Wisely and Rich Pawlowski spotted a Lincoln livery car in the weeds off Central Ave. The driver, Joseph Leon, 22, of Jersey City, who reportedly was seeking a secure place for a rendezvous, instead found a secure place at KPD headquarters after he was arrested on two outstanding Jersey City warrants.

Nov. 25 

Vice officers, patrolling at Kearny and Midland Aves. at 4:30 p.m., saw Joseph Calleja, 24, of Kearny, alight from a bus, did a warrant check and confirmed he was wanted on one each from North Arlington and Newark. He was booked and turned over to the North Arlington PD.

Nov. 26 

At 5 p.m., a man called HQ to report he had been hit in the face with a snowball at Johnston and Passaic Aves. Officer Wisely checked the area for the two suspects and, near ShopRite, reportedly saw one of them hurl a snowball at a passing car, causing the driver to swerve when the auto was hit. Alexander Nekrasow, 32, of Wayne, was arrested on a charge of interfering with transportation.

Nov. 28 

Just before midnight, Officers Jack Corbett and Dean Gasser responded to a two-vehicle accident in South Kearny and found a heavily damaged Mazda on the center divider of Rts. 1/9, where it had ended up after apparently hitting a Freightliner truck. The driver of the car, Shamsunda Singh, 58, of Jersey City, was charged with DWI, careless driving and refusal to take an Alcotest.

Nov. 30 

At midnight, Officer Jordenson Jean was dispatched to investigate a report that a loud party was taking place in an abandoned dwelling on Hillside Ave. Inside, he found a number of juveniles, empty beer cans/ bottles and the strong odor of marijuana. Several of the partiers fled, but he managed to corral seven, all of whom were charged with criminal trespass, underage possession of alcohol and curfew violations. The youths included three 17-year-old males, from Kearny, Harrison and Newark; two 16-year-old males, from Kearny and Harrison, and two 16-yearold Kearny females. All were turned over to their parents or guardians.

Dec. 2 

The KPD — which has increased traffic enforcement near Franklin School following “numerous complaints” of speeding, illegal parking, jaywalking, and parents dropping off kids in the roadway — was on site again at 9 a.m., when Sgt. John Taylor reportedly saw a driver double-park and discharge a child into the street. When approached by the officer, motorist Luis Mayorga, 33, of Hopatcong, was unable to produce a driver’s license and was subsequently charged with driving while suspended and improper discharge of a passenger.

Police said he also had two outstanding warrants from Newark.

Dec. 3 

Officer Damon Pein responded at 9:45 a.m. to a business on the 1200 block of Harrison Ave. and was advised by the manager that the front-gate lock had been cut and the building broken into. Stolen were 2,000 pounds of brass plumbing fixtures and several hundred feet of copper tubing. Also missing, from a trailer parked on the lot, was a substantial amount of work clothes. The total loss was estimated at $13,000. The case is under investigation by Det. Bryant Obie.

– Karen Zautyk 

ShopRite of Lyndhurst hosts healthy-holidays events

ShopRite of Lyndhurst, an Inserra Supermarkets store, 540 New York Ave., has announced its roster of healthy-holidays and wellness events. All programs are free, open to the public, held at the store and do not require advance registration unless otherwise noted.

Julie Harrington, R.D., instore registered dietitian, leads each program and provides easy-to-implement nutrition and wellness advice.

• Walking Club – Join this weekly club for a one-mile trek through the store on Thursdays, Dec. 11 and 18, starting at 8 a.m. at the Dietitian’s Corner.

Membership cards and prizes are awarded to all participants.

• Julie’s Produce Pick – Harrington will mix the week’s produce pick into a delicious new dish on Wednesday, Dec. 10, from 1 to 3 p.m. Stop by for samples and recipe cards.

• Healthy Freezer Finds – Drop by the Dietitian’s Corner on Thursday, Dec. 11, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., for samplings of ShopRite’s wide variety of nutritious items in the frozen food section.

• Healthy Holiday Brunch – Participants learn how to prepare a healthy brunch Monday, Dec. 15, from 2 to 3 p.m. or 5 to 6 p.m. Space is limited, and registration is required.

LiveRight with ShopRite Kids’ Day Cooking Class – Youngsters ages 6 and up can create and try new things while preparing a simple, healthy snack on Saturday, Dec. 20, from 11 a.m. to noon. Space is limited, and registration is required.

“Soup-er” Sunday – As the temperatures dips, warm up with satisfying soup recipes on Dec. 21, from noon to 2 p.m.

ShopRite’s dietitians can serve as guest speakers/instructors at wellness events hosted by local organizations. For more information or to pre-register for a program, contact Harrington at 201- 419-9154 or email Julie.harrington@wakefern.com.

Back home & giving ‘Maximum’ effort

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By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent

NORTH ARLINGTON – 

It’s one thing when a brother and sister get on very well. It’s even more unique, perhaps, when they go to college for the same major and then open a business together.

And that’s exactly what happened with Paige and James Van Dien, both North Arlington natives and co-owners of Maximum Performance Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Center.

Both Van Diens got their master’s degrees in physical therapy from Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa. It all happened by chance, Paige says, that the duo shared a mutual love for physical therapy. After getting their graduate degrees, they both went on to practice their craft at various venues.

But their dream was to open their own PT business — and that’s exactly what they did in January 2013.

“It was something James and I wanted to do for a while,” Paige said. “Having worked at other facilities, we knew what we liked, what we didn’t like, and so we finally decided we had nothing to lose since we’re both still young. We looked around at different locations, and ultimately decided that because we’re originally from North Arlington, that this would be a great place to settle the business.

“This is our town, so it all worked out well.”

Indeed it did.

When they first opened the business, the Van Diens made arrangements with numerous local doctors who deal with patients in need of PT and rehabilitation. They’d take them out to lunch, explain what they had to offer — and ask the doctors to give them a chance by referring patients.

And from there, the rest is history.

Maximum Performance’s clientele has grown exponentially since January 2013.

But it hasn’t just been physician referrals that have helped.

“Since we’re from North Arlington, we do know a lot of people — and a lot of people know our family,” Paige said. “So with that and through word of mouth, we’ve grown nicely.”

Typically, for insurance purposes, patients who need PT and rehab are written prescriptions by their doctors, who then refer them to a PT center. Paige says it’s surprising how many insurance policies actually cover physical therapy.

“That’s why we always tell our patients to call us first with insurance information so our receptionist can verify what is or isn’t covered,” she said. “But we will work with patients whose insurance doesn’t cover physical therapy — or with patients who are uninsured.”

When finances are a challenge, there’s little to worry about. They’ll work with you on a payment plan if that’s a needed option.

So what are the injuries most commonly seen at Maximum Performance?

“We definitely see a lot of orthopedic injuries,” Paige said. “From muscle sprains, to joint sprains, to post-op care, back and neck surgeries from injuries and spinal injuries, we do see a variety.”

Many of the patients are also athletes, Paige said. And not too long ago, she treated a fairly well-known athlete in this neck of the woods.

“We’ve taped Brandon Jacobs, [formerly] of the New York Giants prior to his games,” Paige said. “It was great having him here.”

Not all physical therapy and rehabilitation centers are alike, Paige says, and what sets Maximum Performance apart is this: “When you’re with us, you’ll only deal with us — my brother or me — and never an aide. In many other practices, a patient will work with a therapist for around 10 minutes, and then get handed off to an aide. Here, that never happens. We never pass anyone off. For around 30 minutes, you’ll work with us and us alone.”

So it’s the personal attention and care that stands out. “It means there are long hours, but it’s well worth it,” she said. “Whether it’s a young child, or a 95-year-old person, we want our clients to get only the very best.”

Only the very best, indeed. Maximum Performance Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation is located at 170 Schuyler Ave., Suite 3, North Arlington. Hours of operation are: Monday and Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday, 2 to 8 p.m.; and Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Find out more about the practice by visiting www.Maximum Performance Physical Therapy.com at any time or by calling 201-991- 3800 during business hours.

around town

Belleville 

Belleville Public Library and Information Center, 221 Washington Ave., holds a Saturday craft program, open to all ages, Dec. 13 at 3 p.m.

Belleville High School’s Music Department presents its 2014 winter concert series, starting with the instrumental music program, featuring the BHS Wind Ensemble and Orchestra, on Thursday, Dec. 11, and the vocal music program, with the BHS Concert Choir and Acapella Chorus, on Tuesday, Dec. 16.

Both concerts start at 7 p.m. in the Connie Francis Theatre at the high school. Doors open at 6:45 p.m. Admission is free but donations are accepted at the door.

For more information, email band director Anthony Gotto at Anthony.gotto@belleville.k12.nj.us or vocal music director Carol Lombardi at carol. lombardi@belleville.k12.nj.us.

Bloomfield 

Bloomfield Public Library, 90 Broad St., announces the following:

  • The Book Club meets Monday, Jan. 5, 6:45 to 7:45 p.m., to discuss “Riders of the Purple Sage” by Zane Grey. For more information or for help in locating a copy of the selection, call the reference desk at 973-566-6200, ext. 219 or 220.
  • Food for Fines will be collected Dec. 15-31. Bring in a can or box of non-perishable food and each donation will reduce up to $1 in fines, no matter how old, but cannot be applied to pay for lost books. Food products must not be expired.

Harrison 

On Sunday Dec. 14, the Harrison Lions Club will hold its annual Winter Wonderland shopping bazaar from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Community Center, 401 Warren St. Over 30 vendors will offer their merchandise for area residents to start their holiday shopping. Admission is free. First 50 shoppers will get a special gift. Former NFL quarterback Ray Lucas will be signing and selling copies of his book “Under Pressure” from 10 a.m. to noon. Children will have an opportunity to visit with Santa and have their picture taken from noon to 3 p.m. Lions Club members will be available at different stations to help children with writing letters to Santa Claus and assist in the making of their own personalized stockings, ornaments, and holiday hats. For more information, go to http://eclubhouse. org/sites/harrisonnj/ or visit them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ harrisonlionsclub.

Kearny

A cat food drive is being conducted through Dec. 12 for Kearny’s TNR (Trap, Neuter and Return) program. Drop off cat food donations at K-9 Corner, 169 Midland Ave. at Elm St.

Trinity Episcopal Church of Kearny and Christ Church of Harrison will co-sponsor their monthly flea market at 575 Kearny Ave., Dec. 13, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Doors open at 8 a.m. for set-ups. Vendors are invited. Tables are one for $15 and two for $25. Call Trinity Church at 201-991-5894 to schedule your table or call Annamarie at 201-998-2368 after 5:30 pm. Walk-ins and new vendors are welcome.

Grace United Methodist Church, 380 Kearny Ave., hosts a Christmas spree and supper Dec. 12, 5 to 8 p.m. The sale includes handcrafted Christmas ornaments and decorations, candies, cookies and more. The $7 cost for the meal includes soup, sandwich and dessert. For more information, call the church at 201-991-1132.

Kearny Public Library, 318 Kearny Ave., hosts a holiday marbleizing workshop Saturday, Dec. 13, at 10 a.m.

Marbleizing is the preparation and finishing of a surface to imitate the appearance of polished marble.

Using silk scarves, instructor Renee Johnson will lead participants in this ancient art, widely used in Pompeii and in Europe during the Renaissance.

Just in time for the holidays, the finished product, free to all registered attendees, will make a beautiful gift. This program will only be open to a limited number of adults. Call the library at 201-998-2666 for a reservation.

Lyndhurst 

The Lyndhurst Historical Society is showcasing a sampling of the many businesses that contributed to the community and beyond in its newest exhibit, “Lyndhurst Business: Building a Community,” which runs through August 2015 at The Little Red Schoolhouse, 400 Riverside Ave.

The exhibit is free and open to the public, but a small donation to the Society is appreciated. The Little Red Schoolhouse Museum is open on the second and fourth Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m. For more information, leave a message at 201-804-2513 and your call will be returned.

For more information about the Lyndhurst Historical Society, readers can visit www.lyndhursthistoricalsociety.org. Like them on Facebook.

Lyndhurst Public Library, 355 Valley Brook Ave., announces the following events for children. Registration is not required unless otherwise specified. To register, call the library at 201- 804-2478.

  • A reindeer craft program, open to pre-k to grade 3, is set for Thursday, Dec. 11, 3:30 to 4:15 p.m.
  • Children in grades 1 to 4 can make a holiday wreath on Thursday, Dec. 18, 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. Registration is required.
  • A Yu-Gi-Oh! Card Game Night, open to grades 6 to 9, takes place on Wednesday, Dec. 10, from 6 to 7:15 pm. Refreshments will be served. Space is limited and registration is necessary. To register, call the library or email referencelyndhurst.bccls.org.
  • RoseMarie Rubinetti Cappiello, an intuitive medium/ healer, hosts a brief session of audience spirit readings followed by a discussion of her new book “Speaking From Spirit” Wednesday, Dec. 17, at 6:30 p.m. Books will be available for purchase. Space is limited and registration is necessary. No walk-ins will be allowed. Call the library or email romeo@bccls.org to register.

The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission hosts Watercolor Pencils for Kids, open to ages 5 to 12 (accompanied by an adult) Saturday, Dec. 13, 10 a.m. to noon, at the NJMC Science Center, 3 DeKorte Park Plaza. All art supplies are provided. Pre-registration is required. Cost is $10 (no fee for adults).

To register, go to www. njmeadowlands.gov/ec. For more information, call 201- 460-8300.

Knights of Columbus Council 2396 sponsors a Tricky Tray Friday, Jan. 16, at the Senior Center, 250 Cleveland Ave. The $15 admission includes coffee plus one prize sheet of tickets. No alcohol is permitted. No tickets will be sold at the door. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. For tickets and more information, call Steve Cortese at 201-657-0800 or Sal Russo at 201-446-7244.

North Arlington 

North Arlington Police Department Crime Prevention and Community Relations Unit is conducting a holiday toy drive. New and unwrapped toys may be dropped off at the Police Department through Dec. 11. Toys will be distributed to area hospitals, local families and others in need.

North Arlington Senior Activity Center, 11 York Road, hosts a holiday celebration Friday, Dec. 12. Bingo starts at 10:30 a.m., lunch is served at noon and dancing begins at 1:30 p.m. For more information and reservation, call 201-998-5636.

North Arlington Public Library, 210 Ridge Road, hosts the following programs:

  • Carol Erickson performs jazz standards and some holiday tunes Saturday, Dec. 13, at 11 a.m. There will be light refreshments. The Friends of the Library sponsor this event. (The program on Colonial and Victorian Christmas, which was set for Dec. 13, has been canceled.)
  • Computer Coding Club, open to ages 8 to 13, meets Saturday, Dec. 13, at 1 p.m. Registration has been completed for this event. The library will be closed to the public at 1 p.m. on this date, as usual, and open only for this special program.
  • A holiday pageant, for all ages, is set for Thursday, Dec. 11, at 6:45 p.m.
  • An origami class, open to grades 4 to 7, is set for Friday, Dec. 12, at 3:30 p.m.
  • The Woman’s Club sponsors a craft session, open to K to grade 5, Tuesday, Dec. 16, at 6:30 p.m.
  • Tween Book Club, open to grades 5 to 7, meets Thursday, Dec. 18, at 3:30 p.m.
  • Sing-along Story Time, open to ages 2 to 5, is set for Thursday, Dec. 18, at 11:45 a.m.

Queen of Peace Church presents its annual Christmas concert Sunday, Dec. 14, at 3 p.m. The event features the church’s choir, the Queen of Peace Schola Cantorum and the Chopin Singing Society along with soloists. There is no admission charge but a free will offering is requested.

News from the Nutley police blotter

Dec. 1 

A Hillside Ave. resident reported a case of identity theft. Police said someone had opened a utility account in Massachusetts using the resident’s personal information and the resident was billed $221.94 for the period from Oct. 20 to Nov. 18.

Dec. 2 

Coming home from work, a Hillside Ave. resident found that some of the upstairs rooms had been disturbed. Officers who responded found pry marks on the back door which, they surmised, was forced open. Detectives are investigating.

• • •

A resident told police their credit card had been compromised and two purchases totaling more than $500 had been charged on it at a Walmart in Bergen County. Another resident reported that while reviewing their checking account, they noticed two unauthorized charges for about $125.  Dec. 3 Someone made an unauthorized withdrawal of $500 from a resident’s account from an ATM in North Arlington, police said.

• • •

A Park Ave. resident reported that someone made two unauthorized charges on their Visa account at Bed Bath & Beyond and Publix in South Carolina. The resident was so advised by their financial institution, police said.

Dec. 4 

Someone stole a music mixer from a Passaic Ave. business. The owner told police that when their employee came to work, they noticed that a bucket had been positioned under a window and that there were footprints in the snow. Detectives are investigating.

Dec. 5 

Someone broke into a transport bus for one of the township’s Senior Citizen Home Care facilities, police said. The intruder damaged its passenger side door lock and punched the ignition and removed some paperwork from the vehicle, police said.

– Ron Leir 

Vikings look to build on huge first-season under coach Corsetto

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By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer

After being away from the game of high school basketball for a few years, veteran coach Rich Corsetto had no idea what to expect from his return to the sidelines, taking over the North Arlington High School program.

Corsetto, a veteran of coaching on the high school and more prominently the collegiate ranks, inherited a good squad when he arrived last year and the Vikings rewarded their new coach with a 20-win season.

The Vikings finished the season with a 20-8 record a year ago in Corsetto’s first campaign.

But can Corsetto expect more of the same success in his second go-round?

“It’s definitely a challenge,” said Corsetto, a member of the National Junior Colleges of America Hall of Fame. “We lost two starters and our sixth man. But we did go to the William Paterson team camp over the summer, played in the Kearny summer league and the Bloomfield fall league.”

Corsetto made his mark as the head coach at Hudson County Community College from 1990 through 1996. When that school dropped basketball, he moved on to become the head coach at Passaic County Community College from 1996 through 2010.

In 20 years as a college coach, Corsetto won 435 games. He also owns a gaudy 255-91 record on the high school level, so Corsetto has won a total of 690 games as a basketball coach over 33 years. With a little luck, Corsetto might reach the magical 700-win plateau this season.

However, luck hasn’t been kind to Corsetto thus far.

First, Mike Paolello, who was penciled in as the Vikings’ point guard, suffered a serious knee injury during the football season and will be lost for the season after undergoing knee surgery.

“That was a big loss,” Corsetto said.

Then, senior Edgar Carranza, who had some big moments for the Vikings last season, will start the season on the side lines for academic reasons.

“He has to clear some things up before he can come back,” Corsetto said. “He was a key rebounder for us last year.”

Corsetto doesn’t know how long Carranza will be out. He could be out until Jan. 1 or even longer.

“We’re hoping it’s sooner than that,” Corsetto said.

One of the key returnees is senior forward Jose Checo. The 6-4 Checo averaged eight points and 10 rebounds per game last year, but those numbers need to improve this season.

“He’s worked very hard in the offseason,” Corsetto said. “I think he’s ready to step up. He’s definitely improved. I’m expecting a lot from him. I’m hoping to see better production.”

Junior Kevin Cerqueira is a 5-11 forward with a lot of promise.

“He did a nice job for us last year,” Corsetto said. “He’s a good defensive player. He’s going to have to be more of a scorer this year. He’s worked very hard over the summer.”

Junior Stephen Velez is a 6-1 forward and strong inside player.

“He works hard on the glass,” Corsetto said. “He’s a good rebounder and he’s good around the basket.”

Junior Joe Morales is a 6-1 forward.

“Joe is a banger on the boards,” Corsetto said. “He’s an aggressive kid. He’s a garbage man in a good way.”

Senior Jonathan Hurley is another solid performer at guard. The 5-11 Hurley possesses a nice touch from the perimeter.

“We need him to make shots,” Corsetto said.

Timmy Ford is a 5-8 junior guard who can play either guard slot.

“He’s in good shape physically from playing football,” Corsetto said. “We have a number of kids who also played football. He’s a tough kid who helps us in a lot of different ways. He can also shoot the ball.”

Corsetto is very excited about freshman Isaac Aguilar, who stands 6-foot-5.

“I’ve been in basketball a long time and I haven’t seen many like this kid,” Corsetto said of the freshman. “He’s going to grow more. I think he’s going to get a chance to start right away. He can block shots and rebound. I think he’s a big-time player.”

Senior Anthony Rotondo is a solid 5-8 guard.

“He does some nice things for us and he can shoot the ball,” Corsetto said.

Dylan Brown is a 5-9 junior guard who also possesses a nice shooting touch from the perimeter.

Junior Darien Nogueras is a 5-9 guard who adds depth to the Vikings’ bench.

Corsetto believes that his team is a work in progress.

“I don’t think I’ll ever change my strategy as a coach,” Corsetto said. “If it works, don’t mess with it. We’re going to press and trap and try to run up-tempo. I’m a strong believer in defense. I think defense creates offense. That’s the reason why we won 20 games last year. I’m looking to do that again this year. We’re still going to press and we’re still going to play up-tempo. That’s what I’m familiar with.”

The Vikings tip off the season against St. Mary’s of Rutherford Dec. 19. The Vikings will also host the William Ferguson Holiday Classic Dec. 29-30, with Trinity Christian, Lenape Valley and Hoboken Charter in the field.

NA’s girls’ hoop squad looks to new coach Lado

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By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

Rob Lado has enjoyed a smooth transition in taking over as the girls’ basketball coach at North Arlington High School.

“I think things have gone pretty well,” Lado said. “They’re adjusting well to a new routine and a new system. We’ve had nothing but a positive attitude. We’re improving every day and I think we’re going to have a good season.”

Lado introduced the Vikings to a faster paced, up-tempo style of play. “They’re catching on with my system,” said Lado, who was an assistant coach on the high school level and head coach on the AAU level before taking the North Arlington job this season. “They weren’t familiar with up-tempo play.

We want to get out on the fast break. We are going to be built on the pick and roll on offense. There are a lot of things I’m implementing that they’ve never done before. But they’re interested and asking questions.” Lado said that he has been helped by JV coach and assistant Karissa DePena, as well as Stephanie Sinclair, who was brought in to work with the program’s freshmen.

“The girls are all really working hard,” Lado said. “I’m encouraged.”

The Vikings have two seniors on the roster in 5-10 forward Brianna Cappuccino and 5-8 forward Samanta Quinones. Both saw limited action last year.

“Brianna is going to get solid minutes and help us with our rebounding,” Lado said. “Samanta is also good with rebounding, but she’s also defensively quick. She can go after the ball well. She’s doing all the dirty work.”

Junior point guard Denaijah Gainza will play a prominent role in Lado’s system.

“She’s a good ball handler,” Lado said of the 5-5 Gainza. “She also can be a big-time scorer. She’s a good shooter and will control a lot of what we do with the ball in her hands. She’s also a solid defender. I expect big things from her.”

Junior Marissa Piscal is a 5-9 forward with good skills.

“She’s our starting power forward,” Lado said. “She’s also a good offensive threat. She’s very strong and moves her feet well to get into good position on the floor. She’s going to be a solid player for us on both ends of the floor.”

Junior Samantha Veloso is a 5-9 forward.

“She’s also a very good athlete who has a nice little offensive touch,” Lado said.

Junior Theresa D’Errico is a 5-3 guard.

“We’re going to count on her defensively,” Lado said. “She’s not afraid of anything. She’s not afraid of mixing it up. She’s the fastest player on the team and she has a nice little shot.”

Junior Victoria Namnama is a 5-4 guard.

“She’s another great athlete who can get after it,” Lado said.

Sophomore Danica Krawczyk is a 5-7 forward who plays both the small forward and shooting guard roles.

“She has a very nice shot and is good defensively,” Lado said. “I’m going to count on her a lot.”

Sophomore Melissa Torres is a 5-7 versatile performer who can play a variety of positions.

“She’s a tremendous athlete, one of the best athletes we have,” Lado said. “She does a little bit of everything. She’s going to play a pretty important role.” Junior Mariah Moreno is a 5-3 guard who will also see playing time.

“She’s fearless and goes well to the basket,” Lado said. Lado likes the depth that he has with his team.

“Because we’re going to play up-tempo, we will have nine or 10 girls who will play,” Lado said. “I’m definitely happy with the turnout. We have a lot of girls who are interested in playing. They’re very energetic. They just have to get used to the up-tempo approach.”

The Vikings open up the 2014-15 season against St. Mary’s Dec. 19. They will also host the Ferguson Holiday Tournament Dec. 29-30, with local rivals Queen of Peace and Lyndhurst in the field, along with Trinity Christian. The Vikings will face nextdoor neighbor Golden Griffins in the opening round.

“I’m looking forward to at,” Lado said. “I think it’s going to be an interesting season.

” Sure looks that way.

Lyndhurst looks to improve in second year under Palek

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By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer 

It’s the second year of Paul Palek’s tenure as the head boys’ basketball coach at Lyndhurst High School and he can already tell the difference.

“You could tell in the first week of practice that it was a lot easier,” said Palek, who guided the Golden Bears to a 10-13 record in his first season. “We had a lot of our offense in already and the kids all knew the drills. They’re learning things a lot quicker and it’s remarkable how much you can do after you have a year under your belt. It makes a big difference.”

The Golden Bears also spent the entire offseason together, playing in the Bloomfield summer league and attending open gyms together.

“We graduated six off the team last year and three of them started,” Palek said. “So this is the first time in my coaching career that I had no idea who is going to start. It has made preseason to be very interesting.”

One player who has to be in the mix is 5-10 senior guard Marc Estevez, who averaged 18 points per game last year for the Golden Bears.

“He broke his hand in February and missed the last seven games of the season,” Palek said. “You could see the drop off. We just weren’t the same without him. I expect him to have a big season.”

Palek will expect Estevez to play a lot more at point guard this season.

“It is what it is,” Palek said. “He has to have the ball in his hands. It puts added pressure on him, but he’s our best player and we’re going to rely on him. The others have to find their roles.”

Another key contributor will be 6-1 senior forward Brandon Karlok, who played a lot last season.

“Brandon is very athletic, but he needs to step up,” Palek said. “He needs to get his 10 points per game and he needs to get to the foul line more. But he’s a very good athlete and he’s an excellent defender.”

Junior Vinnie Dorio, a 5-foot- 9 guard, will also get a chance to make an impact this season. Dorio, a baseball standout like his older brother Anthony, saw some time with the varsity basketball team last season, especially after Estevez got hurt.

“He got his feet wet and had some experience,” Palek said of Dorio. “He’s a good shooter. He’s going to have to score for us.”

However, Dorio is also coming off an injury.

“He suffered a back injury that shut him down in July and August,” Palek said. “He wasn’t able to do anything, so he’s still catching up a little. But he’s a good athlete and an excellent piece to the puzzle.”

Sophomore Peter Lazeris is a 5-10 forward who has some promise.

“He’s still learning the game a little bit,” Palek said. “But he plays hard and is going to get his opportunity.”

Junior Ryan Brown is a 6-0 forward.

“He didn’t play basketball last year, so we’re trying to see where he fits in,” Palek said. “We’re looking for him to make a contribution to this team.”

Junior Justin Smith is a 6-2 center.

“He’s a physical presence close to the basket,” Palek said. “He can defend well and rebounds.”

Junior Nick DiTommasso is a 5-8 guard who will see time coming off the Lyndhurst bench.

“He can really shoot the ball,” Palek said of DiTommasso. “He’s a legitimate 3-point threat.”

Senior Joey Cosenza is another contributor.

“He helps us inside by being a physical presence,” Palek said. “He makes a big difference defensively.”

What hurt the Golden Bears’ chances this winter was the loss of Peter Guerriero, who suffered a severely broken hand during the football season. The injury required surgery, so Guerriero has been subjected to life on the sidelines.

“If he was healthy, I think we might have had the best backcourt in the league,” Palek said. “We need everyone to step up. I think it’s a transition year, because we lost so much to graduation. We have so many roles available right now. It’s like putting together a puzzle, trying to fill the different roles.”

The Golden Bears open up the 2014-2015 season at New Milford. They then have a week off before facing Hasbrouck Heights.

“I think we have a chance to get better,” Palek said. “The kids have to rely on each other and play hard, which they’re doing.”

Whether that translates into results remains to be seen.