Harrison girls’ basketball squad opens season with solid win over Becton

Photo by Jim Hague/ Junior guard Rayven Lucas is the top returning player for the Harrison girls’ basketball team that began play last Friday night with a win over Becton.


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.

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