Lyndhurst boys’ hoops looking to capitalize on football success

Photo by Jim Hague/ The Lyndhurst boys’ basketball team, headed by fourth-year head coach Jeff Radigan (center), will look to the play of senior captains Michael Walker (left) and Kevin Rehbein (right) this season.


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.

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