The state Attorney General’s Shooting Response Team is investigating a fatal shooting of the driver of a stolen SUV at the Lyndhurst-Rutherford border early Tuesday, Sept. 16, according to a press release issued by the AG’s Office. The driver, identified […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – The corner house at Grand Place and Stewart Ave. doesn’t really stand out in any particular way, but it’s drawn a lot of attention from neighbors – and not in a good way. Many packed the assembly chambers at […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent HARRISON – The town of Harrison, with a current population of about 14,000 but growing thanks to several new residential projects rising in its waterfront redevelopment area, now has a second hotel. It is the Element Harrison, the brand’s second hotel in New […]
By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent HARRISON– Somewhere in Harrison, there is a magical place. If we were telling this story as a fairy tale, it would begin: Once upon a time, there was a small plot of land on which a happy home had stood. […]
By Ron Leir Observer Correspondent KEARNY – Starting next month, the Kearny Farmers Market will be offering a new, sweet treat as part of the fresh, Jersey-grown produce for its patrons. We’re talking vino, folks. The town governing body voted last Tuesday night to permit the Four […]
I know that, in general, Thanksgiving is the holiday where everyone is thankful for something. However, let me take a moment this holiday season to thank all of you, the readers.
I didn’t get into journalism for the money. I did it because I love writing, and I love how a newspaper can keep everyone informed and entertained, no matter what your personal preferences or biases might be.
Let me take this opportunity to thank all of our readers on behalf of the The Observer writing staff. There is no better feeling than getting feedback from our readers. Any response, whether it is thanking us for covering a story or telling us how we can do our jobs better, is appreciated.
I’ve been reading The Observer since I was a youngster growing up in Kearny, and part of the reason I wanted to write for the Observer was the response that people gave back. People talk specifically about subjects that are included in this paper, and that fact alone is warming for a young writer.
I’ve mentioned this in previous articles but it bears repeating. I am a 22-year-old fresh out of college writer who had searched far and wide for a job coming out of school. I couldn’t be happier finding a position in my own hometown at a place where the news really matters to people. Even after my first weeks here, I had already received responses from readers who recognized my name from years ago, without me saying a word that I was hired here.
So with all that in mind, from the writing staff and myself, I just wanted to thank all the readers for the best Christmas gift that any writer can get – the ability to write for a paper with a readership that cares so deeply about the material within.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
—Anthony J. Machcinski
Holiday Safety Tips
Retired New Jersey State Trooper Captain and former Sheriff of Hudson County Juan M. Perez offers tips to ensure all a happy, healthy and most of all safe holiday season:
Always be aware of your surroundings and other persons when you park your vehicle in a shopping area. If possible, shop with others as there is safety in numbers. Use your trunk to store purchased items and never leave any type of package in your vehicle in view of the windows. When paying for purchases in the store do not display large amounts of currency at the register or other areas.
When approaching an ATM, scan the area to determine if there are any individuals in the vicinity of the machine. If there are persons near the ATM, do not use it. Ensure that the ATM is well lit and secure. Report any suspicious activity immediately to your local police department.
If you reside in a one family home, or if your apartment is located on the first floor street level, do not leave packages or other valuables in view of your windows. Make sure the area around your home is well lit and free of large obstructions that a thief or would-be assailant could hide behind.
In regards to the holiday festivities, never drive with any type of alcohol in your system. Instead, ask a relative or friend who has not consumed alcoholic beverages to drive you home or call for a taxi.
By Anthony Machcinski
Back in October, The Observer ran a contest in which the winner received $100 dollars to go towards any of the businesses with a pumpkin in their advertisement.
In a generous show of concern for her fellow residents, the winner, Cheryl Raefski, planned to donate the money to Pechter’s Bakery in Harrison for food distribution to needy families.
Unfortunately, we at the Observer are sad to report that Raefski passed away suddenly and wasn’t able to finalize her plan.
Keeping with her wishes, The Observer has taken that money and bought food from Pechter’s. Cadets from the Salvation Army personally went to Pechter’s on Friday morning to pick up the money. It will be donated to families in Harrison in time for the Christmas Holiday.
“I never had an opportunity to meet with her, but this was something she was very sincere about,” Observer publisher Lisa Pezzola said. “It’s a shame that we write about this after she has passed. She was a caring person and I think it’s very important to carry this out in her name.”
We, at the Observer, want to send our deepest condolences to the Raefski family and to show our heartfelt appreciation for her thoughtfulness.
By Ron Leir
A second try this year to get township voters to support a multi-million dollar facelift for the public schools has failed and district officials are pretty much throwing in the towel.
The Dec. 13 referendum which proposed spending $28.8 million for district-wide improvements, tied to a sale of Lincoln School, was defeated by a vote of 1,469 to 1,157, including mail-in ballots.
The measure carried in only three of the township’s 15 voting districts.
A solemn mood prevailed at Board of Education headquarters the evening of the vote as messengers from each polling site trudged in with the disappointing results.
Schools Supt. Tracey Marinelli, who had given birth to a baby boy only a few days previously, board trustees and members of the Committee of 40 who advocated for the referendum could only listen and watch as those numbers were written on a Smart Board by School Business Administrator David DiPisa.
“Thank you, everyone,” Marinelli told the group of supporters gathered in the board conference room. “We couldn’t have done anything different. You guys worked your tails off. I just wish the voters felt the same way. Tomorrow’s another day.”
Because the referendum proposed the use of $3.8 million in state grants to finance new boilers, roofs, windows and HVAC systems as part of the overall school plant upgrade, Marinelli said that the district would have to forfeit those funds.
“I hope (that loss of funding) doesn’t cause serious safety issues,” Marinelli said.
Within the past five years, Marinelli said, “we’ve had two fire escapes collapse and ceilings fall in at three schools.” Fortunately, classes weren’t in session at the time of those mishaps, she said.
Asked what the district could do as a fallback plan, Marinelli replied: “There is no ‘Plan B,’ we just keep trucking along.”
Under the referendum plan, no new school construction was proposed. Instead, a reconfiguration of the school population was to take place with Franklin School and Jefferson Annex to house all kindergarteners, Columbus and Washington schools would handle grades 1 to 4 and Roosevelt and Jefferson schools would take grades 5 to 8.
Given that scenario, every elementary school was slated to get an elevator, computer lab, media center, music room, combination art/world language room and the capacity for taking three or more sections of special needs students.
Additionally, Columbus and Roosevelt schools were to get a gym/cafeteria; Jefferson and Roosevelt were slated for three science labs apiece; and the high school would have gotten a renovated auditorium, cafeteria and air-conditioning.
But now, those plans have to be scrapped.
What will happen, starting with the fall 2012 term, is redistricting, Marinelli said. It is hoped that re-drafting the boundaries for each school will help, to some extent, in remedying the unbalanced enrollment in some schools.
But the district’s future remains uncertain.
Board President Ellen Young said she was “truly disappointed” with the vote in which “the only true losers are the children. I don’t feel you could put a price on education. They are our future and I, as a parent of a child in this district, feel we’ve failed our children.”
As for the projected annual tax increase of $199 for the “average” home for the 15 years it would have taken to pay off the debt for the improvements, Young said: “Taxes are always going to go up – with or without this.”
Asked what options were open to the district at this point, Young shrugged, saying: “We’re done.”
Only board member James Hooper, speaking personally, held out some hope of possible state intervention.
“We need to go to Gov. Christie and our state legislators,” Hooper said, “and say that we need some type of minimum standard for school facilities (targeted) for middle school students – things like science labs and media centers.”
Hooper said that Lyndhurst homeowners – like every other town – “contribute our tax money to the ‘Abbott Districts’ but we don’t get the same facilities they get. Maybe it will turn out that districts like Lyndhurst that lack those type of facilities are a small number, in which case it’s not going to cost the state much to remedy that.”
A state education task force appointed by the governor is due shortly to issue a report touching on state school funding so maybe Hooper will get his wish.
Time will tell.
By Anthony J. Machcinski
While the economy, bad weather, and busy schedules have done their best to ruin the happiness behind the holidays, one group of residents has done their best to keep the spirit of the holidays.
Every year, millions of people across the nation decorate for Christmas, and none are more diligent in their decoration than the residents of Noel Drive in North Arlington.
“We started the year that we moved in (1990),” said Noel Drive resident Bernadette Antonelli. “We did it because that’s what everyone in the neighborhood did. We’ve always done a lot.”
Winners of three awards this year, from North Arlington Recreation, State Fair Superstore, and a Christmas Countdown Decorating Award on Twitter, the Antonelli family easily have one of the most recognizable houses on the block.
“Everyone would know that something happened if we didn’t decorate one year,’ Antonelli said.
The Antonelli family have their own process in order to try and organize and simplify the decorating. However, even with this organization process, decorating the outside of the house is generally a three-day affair.
“I’m in charge of the layout and (my husband) Tom is in charge of all the wiring so that it’s all lit and it stays that way,” Antonelli explained. “Tom has perfected the art of wrapping the cords.”
While the decorating process is a family bonding experience, the main reason Antonelli does it is for her children, Brianna and Michael.
“We did it for the kids and they help us put it together,” Antonelli explained. “It’s noted on our block that the homes on Noel Drive are always so decorated.”
Noel Drive is so well-known for its holiday decorations, in fact, that several families travel to the area just to be able to take pictures of the magnificent houses.
“One year, we had a family that went out at 11 p.m. and they were just taking pictures,” Antonelli remembered. “We heard noise outside so when I looked out the window I saw them laughing and taking pictures. All we could do was laugh.”
Every year, the Antonellis try to change up the decorations to give viewers a different experience than the year before.
“We’ve never had the same thing two years in a row,” Antonelli explained. “Last year we had a big waving Santa. We’ve had a big Ferris wheel too. We always just try to put something in the center.”
Even with the bad economy, the Antonelli’s still continue to put up elaborate displays.
“We really don’t (think about the economy), but the spirit of Christmas and the holidays has always meant something,” Antonelli said.
In these harsh times, the spirit of the holidays should always come through.
Around 11:00 p.m. on Dec. 8, Officers Ben Wuelfing and Joe Martin responded to a motor vehicle accident with injuries at the intersection of Belgrove Drive and Bergen Ave. A silver Lincoln Continental (eastbound on Bergen at the time of the accident) fled the scene. Police were able to trace liquid coming from the car and followed it down a series of Kearny streets before finding the silver Lincoln parked on John Hay Ave.
While police were in the process of getting a tow truck to remove the vehicle, a 25-year-old Kearny resident arrived and admitted that she had been driving the car. While interviewing her, police detected an odor of alcohol and conducted on-scene tests that confirmed their suspicion. The 25-year-old was charged with D.W.I., driving under a suspended driver’s license, careless driving, leaving the scene of an accident with injuries, failing to report an accident, assault by automobile, and refusing to submit to a breath test.
In another automobile accident on the evening of Dec. 11, Officers John Fabula, Jack Corbett Jr. and Brian Wisely responded to the bottom of Hoyt St. off Schuyler Ave. after a report of a car hitting a tree. When they arrived at the scene, the officers confirmed that an accident had occurred and saw several people fleeing the area.
In the front passenger seat was a 16-year-old youth, “pretty banged up.”
A check on the vehicle determined that the car had been stolen. Upon searching the surrounding area, Corbett encountered a 17-year-old Kearny male who attempted to elude him. After apprehending the youth, the male admitted to being the driver and to “smoking some weed.”
The 17-year-old was charged with receiving stolen property, driving while under the influence of narcotics, driving without a license, reckless driving, and fleeing the scene of an accident. Both teens received medical attention. The 16-year-old was processed and turned over to one of his parents. The 17-year-old, after consenting to a urine sample, was taken to Hudson County Youth House in Secaucus after it was revealed that he had an outstanding juvenile warrant from Hudson County.
Det. Mike Gonzalez was en route to work on Dec. 12 when he observed an individual known from previous police encounters walking on Passaic Ave. He watched the man enter the Kmart on Passaic Ave. A few minutes later, the man left the store. The man wasn’t carrying any packages but his coat appeared to have expanded, police said.
The man was detained for investigation and it was found that he was in possession of three boxes of Trojan Magnum Condoms and 19 boxes of Visine eye drops.
After confirming with the store that the man had not made the purchases, he was placed under arrest for shoplifting and was found to have outstanding warrants from Newark, Bloomfield, and East Orange.
Kearny Police Chief John Dowie urged all Kearny residents to lock their cars and to make sure that all valuable items are out of sight or not left in the cars as a measure to deter theft.
Of several fights that happened on the night of Dec.9 into the wee hours of Dec. 10,
none was potentially more dangerous than an incident that occurred on the corner
of Kearny Ave. and Dukes St.
At 3:25 a.m., Sgt. Charles Smith came upon a disorderly group, with several members
fighting and screaming. During the squabble, Smith overheard a member of the group yell at another, “If you want to shoot, go ahead.”
During the event, Smith observed a member of the group walking away who appeared
to drop something in the gutter. After calling for backup, Smith apprehended the individual and searched the area. Lying in the gutter was a Colt .32 semi-automatic
pistol, fully loaded with hollow-point bullets.
The 25-year-old Harrison resident was charged with illegal possession of a weapon,
possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose, and possession of hollow-point bullets.
However, this was not the only dust-up that occurred that morning. At 2:40 a.m., Officers Tom Sumowski and Christian Medina, along with Sgt. Smith were called to a large fight on the 200 block of Kearny Ave. Officers arrived at the scene and observed a disorderly group of people standing on the sidewalk.
While attempting to disperse the group, officers spotted one individual, a 26-year-old male from New York, instigating fights. After attempting to calm him, the 26-year-old male shoved Sumowski and attempted to flee. As the 26-year-old made his bid for freedom, a second male, a 23-year-old Harrison resident, tried to stop Sumowski from collaring the 26-year-old. It turns out the man was the Harrison resident’s cousin.
Officers Mike Santucci and Derek Hemphill arrived on scene and provided backup. Both parties were taken into custody and charged with disorderly conduct, obstructing the administration of law, and resisting arrest. The 26-year-old was also charged with assault on a police officer.
At 5:30 a.m., that same 23-year-old Harrison resident was released from headquarters and spotted by Det. Mike Gonzalez urinating in the middle of the street. Gonzalez gave him a summons for urinating in the street.
Belleville Elks will sponsor a special Type O blood drive on Wednesday, Dec. 26. The blood drive will be conducted inside the Belleville Elks Hall, 254 Washington Ave., Belleville, from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m., no appointments needed. Although this is a special Type O blood drive, all types of blood will be accepted for donations. All donors must be at least 17 years of age, weigh at least 120 lbs. and be in general good health. There is no upper age limit for donors provided they meet the health requirements. Donors must bring a signed form of identification. People with a fever or sore throat should wait until they are feeling better before donating and there is a 24-hour deferral for tooth cleanings and fillings. For those who have recently traveled outside the United States, call the Blood Center of N.J. at 973-676-4700, ext. 132 for eligibility criteria.
Starting Wednesday, Jan. 4, the Centro Romeu Cascaes Portuguese American Community Center, 308 William St., in Harrison, will resume regular Zumba classes on Mondays and Thursdays and Zumba Toning class on Wednesdays. The one-hour class starts at 7:30 p.m. For more info or to register, please call Maria Marieiro at 973.482.0631 or 201-401-0826 or email email@example.com.
On Friday, Dec. 30, at 4:00 p.m. Art Teacher Mrs. Mills will host a special winter scene art project for children ages 4 and up at the Kearny Branch Library, 759 Kearny Ave. The program is provided free of charge and supplies will be provided by the library. For further information, please call the Main Library at (201) 998-2666. Visit www.kearnylibrary.org for more program information.
First Lutheran Church, 65 Oakwood Ave., Kearny, will have a Christmas Eve service at 7:30 p.m. No service will be held Christmas morning. All other Sunday worship services are held at 11 a.m.
The Lyndhurst Health Department, in conjunction with Clara Maass Medical Center, will begin a monthly health lecture series, starting on Friday, Jan. 20, at 10:00 a.m. A light breakfast will be served. January’s lecture topic will be: First Aid for seniors. Please call the Lyndhurst Health Department at 201-804-2500 to reserve a seat.
Lyndhurst Health Department will hold its annual rabies vaccination clinics on Jan. 12 and 19, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. All dogs and cats must be licensed each year by New Jersey State Law. Residents will be able to license their dogs and cats at this event. Rabies vaccination must be current through October 31, 2012 in order to obtain a 2012 license. Please call the Lyndhurst Health Department at 201-804-2500 for more information.
Lyndhurst Public Library announces its monthly book club will meet on Wednesday, Jan. 11, at 6:30 p.m. to discuss “True Blue” by David Baldacci. Please contact Diane Montefusco at 201-804-2478 Ext. 2 for more information and to obtain a copy of the book. Space is limited and registration is necessary.
Galino Bello of Lyndhurst won first place in the Essex County Gingerbread House Contest held on Saturday, Dec. 17 at the Essex County Environmental Center. Bello’s brother Vincent the 3rd took 3rd Place honors, while brother Charlie received Honorable Mention. The intricately detailed and 100% edible houses took more than two weeks to construct.
The North Arlington Helping Exceptional People (H.E.P.) organization announces a bus trip on Monday, Jan. 16, to the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pa. The initial cost is $30. Upon arriving at the casino you will receive $20 in Slot Play and a $5 Food Voucher. Please bring a Photo ID, which is needed to get the Slot Play money. The bus will leave at 10:00 a.m. from the Knights of Columbus parking lot located at 194 River Rd. North Arlington. For tickets, please contact Nicholas Cerchio at 201- 230-3428.
Nutley Public Library will host a Teen Video Game Tourney: Wii, Xbox or bring your DS to play each other on Friday, Jan. 13 and 20 at 3:00 p.m., and Tuesday, Jan. 17 and 24, at 3:00 p.m.
By Jim Hague
The Lyndhurst boys’ basketball team won only six games a year ago, but head coach Jeff Radigan has a feeling that the Golden Bears will be vastly improved this season.
“I think the confidence started to build last season, when we won the last three of the last four games,” said Radigan, who began his fourth year as head coach last Friday night. “It continued over the summer, when we went to a team camp at Susquehanna University. We played eight games in three days at the camp and won all eight.”
But perhaps the final piece of the improvement puzzle for the Golden Bears took place during the fall months.
“We have a lot of guys who are football players and they had a successful season,” Radigan said, mentioning the Golden Bears’ gridiron group that posted an 8-3 record, going to the NJSIAA state playoffs for the first time since 2004 and winning a game in the playoffs for the first time since 1983. “Once again, that helps in building the confidence. The winning in football carries over to basketball.”
And finally, there’s an experience factor.
“We have a bunch of guys who have been playing together since they were freshmen,” Radigan said. “It means they’ve played about 50 games together. That’s a lot of experience they have under their belts. They understand what to do.”
A combination of everything enabled the Golden Bears to begin the season on a solid note, defeating local rival Queen of Peace, 51-48, last Friday night.
“It was a solid win,” Radigan said. “Our kids came to play. I think it’s big to start off with a good win, considering where we were a year ago.”
Leading the returnees is senior forward Michael Walker. The 6-foot Walker has been playing varsity basketball since he was a freshman and he averaged around six points per game a year ago.
“I’m pretty happy with the way he’s accepted the leadership role,” Walker said. “He’s very vocal and his teammates listen. He also draws a lot of the dirty work. We put him on the other team’s best player, because he’s a great defender.”
Another key returning player is senior guard Kevin Rehbein. The 6-foot-1 Rehbein has improved tremendously over the past year.
“He’s gotten bigger, stronger and quicker,” Radigan said of Rehbein. “He’s been very solid early on. He’s as tough as nails.”
Proof of Rehbein’s toughness came in the very first game. Rehbein received an elbow above his eye, a blow that drew blood from a nasty cut. But Rehbein had the cut put together with special glue and a bandage.
“He came back and that really said a lot,” Radigan said. “He’s proven he’ll do anything for this team. He’s a great defender and a great rebounder.”
Another solid returning player is junior point guard Kyle Pollio. The 6-foot-2 Pollio is one of the several Golden Bears hoopsters who enjoyed a great football season.
“He’s matured a lot,” Radigan said. “The summer did him good. He is understanding a lot of things more.”
Pollio led the Golden Bears with 12 points Friday night and also had six assists.
“He really carried us in the second half,” Radigan said of Pollio. “He made some great shots.”
Junior Danny Kesack, the quarterback on the football team, is the team’s center. The 6-foot-2 Kesack utilizes his football quickness to his advantage on the basketball court.
“He’s just so very athletic,” Radigan said. “He’s so athletic, it’s scary. He’s able to do a lot of good things for us, being quicker than most.”
Sophomore Jonathan Hoff is a 6-foot-2 forward who also gets quality minutes up front.
Radigan likes the idea that he has a deep bench.
“We’re able to go 10 deep most times,” Radigan said. “That really helps.”
Senior Rob Nicherco is a 5-foot-11 guard and first off the bench. Nicherco, the baseball standout, is another solid athlete and good all-around player.
“He’s very knowledgeable and knows what he needs to be doing,” Radigan said. “He’s another tough kid who plays good defense.”
Senior Justin Cosenza is a 5-foot-10 guard who is a good performer from the outside.
“The kid can shoot it,” Radigan said of Cosenza, who scored eight points off the bench Friday night.
Junior Jeremy Episanio is a 6-foot-2 swingman who can play both forward and guard. It helps having that kind of versatility.
Senior Jeremy Schaefer is a 6-foot-1 forward who also is a battler for rebounds.
Radigan believes there’s one prevailing theme with his team this year.
“We’re just going to play hard-nosed defense every game,” Radigan said. “You know you’re going to be in a battle with us because of the way we get after it on defense. It’s pretty intense and that’s a key.”
The Golden Bears are off to a solid start. They face Harrison and Lodi this week, then open play in the Bruce Bartlett Memorial Holiday Tournament, facing Queen of Peace again, next week. Palisades Park and Becton Regional are also in the Bartlett Memorial tourney field.
It looks as if the Golden Bears will be vastly improved this season.
“It’s early in the season, of course, but I like the way we look,” Radigan said.
Plain and simple, it’s the look of improvement.
By Jim Hague
The Nutley High School wrestling team opened action last Saturday, playing host to their Maroon Raider Holiday Tournament for the second straight year.
And for the second straight year, the Maroon Raiders won the team title, besting the rest of the highly competitive nine-team field. Solid programs, such as Westfield and Roselle Park, were second and third respectively.
“It’s huge, because it’s a good momentum builder for the rest of the season,” said fourth-year head coach Frank DiPiano. “It’s a reward for all the work the kids put in. We now have 40 kids in the room every day and having that depth is critical. We set a lot of goals for this team, because we have a lot of talent.”
Top wrestler Anthony Ferinde has graduated, but DiPiano is certain that the Maroon Raiders will move on.
“Losing Ferinde is a big loss, but we do have a lot of guys back,” said DiPiano, who guided the Maroon Raiders to the NJSIAA North 2, Group III playoffs last year, falling in the semifinals to Mount Olive.
Leading the way is 120-pound junior Bobby Trombetta, who finished seventh in the state at 112 pounds last year. Trombetta was a brilliant 43-4 last season and already has 76 wins in two years, well on his way toward becoming the school’s all-time win leader.
Trombetta was one of several Maroon Raiders to win an individual championship over the weekend, pinning a quality wrestler in Mike Kalimtzis of Westfield in 2:52 in the finals.
“Bobby has that X-factor,” DiPiano said. “He has a little bit of a swagger to him. He’s been to the states twice, but this year, he has a lot to prove. He’s a good baseball player as well, but he wants to wrestle in college and he wants to be a champion. He’s also very strong.”
Another key performer is 160-pound junior Brandon Keena, who won his weight class, defeating A.J. Nelson of Mountain Lakes, 3-1, in the title bout. Keena had 35 victories last year.
“I’m expecting big things from Brandon this year,” DiPiano said. “He’s a junior captain like Trombetta and he’s strong in the middle of our lineup.”
Senior Nick Gaeta is another strong member of a solid Nutley upper weight contingent. The 195-pound Gaeta also won over the weekend, defeating Nick Knepper via a pin in 3:23 in the final.
“Nick is making a big step up from 171 pounds last year,” Gaeta said. “He’s a 12-month-a-year wrestler who has put a lot of time in. He has a shot to get to Atlantic City (the state championships) this year.”
Senior Carlos Rosa, who also won 35 matches last year and earned a district championship, also won over the weekend, defeating Vincent Picarelli of Roselle Park in the finals with a pin in just 1:31.
“For a big boy, he’s very quick,” DiPiano said. “We expect him to do well this year.”
The other Maroon Raider individual champion was 106-pound freshman Anthony DeLorenzo, who defeated Joseph Albanese of Passaic County Tech, 7-2, in the championship round.
“He’s a little lighter than the others in his class, but he came here with a lot of success in the Nutley Recreation program,” DiPiano said. “He has a lot of promise and can win a lot of matches.”
The Maroon Raiders’ 113-pounder is junior Julian Figueroa, who finished third at the tourney.
Senior Sam Souza, who qualified for the state tourney as a freshman, was injured most of last year with a bad shoulder. Souza has returned this season and mans the 126-pound weight class.
“He’s had a run of bad luck with injuries, but he’s back and healthy,” DiPiano said.
Junior Ralph DiPasquale is the team’s 132-pounder, with junior Michael Fazzini at 138 pounds. Both wrestlers finished third at the season-opening tourney.
Freshman Joe Iorio is the 145-pounder and senior Nick Priganti holds down the 152-pound class.
Freshman Vin Mainiero is the 170-pounder, a very tough weight class for a freshman. But Mainiero is another product of the strong Nutley Recreation program and he finished third over the weekend.
“He has a good recreation background and has a lot of promise,” DiPiano said. “He may take his lumps a little in a tough weight class, but he can handle it.”
The team’s heavyweight is Andre Hamlin, the standout lineman of the football team. Hamlin finished third over the weekend.
“He’s come a long way and he’s right there with the rest of them,” DiPiano said.
Having a packed practice room certainly adds to the excitement.
“It’s great to keep the competition level there every day,” DiPiano said. “Even though they’re competing for a spot, they’ve really turned into a family and that was my goal when I took over. I thought it would take five years to build the program and we’re getting there. We had 18 kids in the room when I took over and now we have 40. We have the depth and the talent to have a good season. If we can stay healthy, we can make some noise.
Added DiPiano, “Winning this tournament for a second straight year is a huge step. We’re already a little battle tested and hopefully we’ll get better as the season progresses.”
By Jim Hague
The Harrison girls’ basketball team opened up the 2011-2012 season in grand style with a solid 57-34 win over Becton Regional Friday night.
It’s a move in the right direction for a Blue Tide program that posted an 11-14 record a year ago under young head coach Al Ruiz, especially after three members of that squad graduated, including do-everything guard/forward Nicole Cerqueira.
“We had some big shoes to fill,” Ruiz said about the graduation of Cerqueira, who averaged 16 points and eight rebounds per game last year. “We needed someone to pick up the points we lost.”
Not only did Cerqueira graduate, but the Blue Tide also lost athletic forward Thianara Ramos and energetic Maria Fernandez.
“A lot of the girls coming back knew that they had to pick it up coming into this year,” Ruiz said. “We played a lot together in the summer.”
But still, it was basically a new team that Ruiz entered into the new season with.
“That’s why getting the first win was huge,” Ruiz said. “It was important because we have so many new girls.”
One of the key returnees is junior guard Rayven Lucas. The 5-foot-8 Lucas averaged 10 points per game last year and does a variety of things for the Blue Tide.
“She can bring the ball up, but I like to keep her on the wing, because she can do so many things,” Ruiz said. “She can play the point, but she also can get the ball off the glass because she’s a good jumper. With that athleticism, we need her to do all she does.”
Lucas is the daughter of former Harrison great Ray Lucas, who played college football at Rutgers, pro football with the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots, and is currently an analyst for Rutgers football on the radio and Jets football on television with the SNY Network.
The elder Lucas has also returned to serve as one of Ruiz’s assistants, along with Charles Comprelli and Amanda Melo.
“It really helps having Ray around, because he’s a good coach, but also a great father figure to the girls,” Ruiz said. “A lot of them look to him for fatherly advice.”
Another top returnee for the Blue Tide is senior Briana O’Donnell. The 5-foot-9 O’Donnell, a solid softball player in the spring, plays forward and also provides team leadership.
“The leadership is huge, especially with a young team this year,” Ruiz said. “She’s going to get her points and she’s going to get rebounds, but she contributes mostly with her leadership.”
Senior Bianca Martinez is a 5-foot-6 forward who is a physical presence, much like she was during the soccer season.
“She does a real good job of being physical and getting rebounds,” Ruiz said.
Sophomore Sarai Rivera is a 5-foot-6 guard and good shooter. Rivera scored 13 points in the win over Becton.
“She has to continue to shoot the ball well for us,” Ruiz said. “She has a nice shot.”
Sophomore Emmalee Lucas, the cousin to Rayven, is a 5-foot-5 point guard.
“She’s the main point guard we have,” Ruiz said. “She handles the ball most of the time and handles it pretty well.”
So a lot of the time, the Blue Tide’s ball handling and floor general responsibilities will fall on Lucas and Lucas.
Sophomore Stephanie Flatley is a 5-foot-7 guard/forward. Sophomore Jenna Ferriero, also a 5-foot-7 forward, comes from the immensely successful Ferriero athletic family that has graced Harrison fields of play for decades.
Senior Nicole Cunha is a 5-foot-3 guard who also provides toughness. Cunha was a tough cookie during the past soccer season and adds that similar toughness on the hardwood.
Freshman Amber O’Donnell, the younger sister to Briana, is working her way into the Blue Tide lineup while learning the rigors of varsity basketball.
The Blue Tide has to face Lyndhurst this week, then will play in the McNair Academic Holiday Tournament in Jersey City.
But the season opening win certainly moves the Blue Tide in the right direction.
“I think it could be a great season,” Ruiz said. “We have a lot of expectations. As the girls mature and gain good experience, it could become a good season.”
It’s safe to say that the Lucas family will have a lot to do with that success.