By Jim Hague
With several key players returning from a 14-13 squad a year ago, Lyndhurst High School’s second-year girls’ basketball coach Perrin Mosca knew that the Golden Bears would be improved this season.
But could Mosca have ever envisioned his team starting off to a blistering 5-0 record?
“I can’t say that I’m surprised,” Mosca said. “But I am pleased. We still haven’t played our best basketball yet, so that’s a good sign. We are getting it done. We lost five seniors from last year’s team, but the girls we had coming back played a lot, so that has helped. We have more experienced players than we had last year.”
The Golden Bears traveled to Wildwood last week to participate in the Boardwalk Basketball Challenge and came away with tight victories over Cape May Tech in overtime and the host Wildwood.
“It was a nice trip,” said Mosca, who was able to take the girls overnight and they had a BBQ dinner at the summer home of Lyndhurst athletic director Butch Servideo. “We had a lot of fun. The girls got to see Butch’s house and we had dinner together with him.”
It also didn’t hurt that the Golden Bears won their two games down the shore.
Mosca is very pleased with the balanced scoring his team has enjoyed thus far. There is no real go-to player among the Golden Bears’ roster. They spread the wealth well.
“I really like the balance we have,” Mosca said. “It’s been a big help.”
Leading the way is junior Camila Alonso. The 5-foot-10 forward is averaging a team-best 12.8 points and eight rebounds per game.
“She gives us a nice post-up presence down low and we really didn’t have that last year,” Mosca said.
Junior Dana Halligan is the team’s point guard. The 5-foot-4 Halligan is averaging 9.4 points per game and nearly six assists per contest.
“Dana is a good floor leader who sees the floor well and gets the ball where it has to go,” Mosca said. “She’s doing a great job for us right now.”
Junior guard Brittany Levario has also been doing a solid job for the Golden Bears. The 5-foot-2 Levario is averaging 9.6 points and five steals per game.
“She’s doing a great job defensively with all those steals,” Mosca said. “She makes our press defense go.”
Senior Nicole Baratta is one of the top returning players from a year ago. The versatile Baratta, who is also a fine soccer and softball player at the school, is a 5-foot-7 forward.
“She does all the little things you don’t see in the box score,” Mosca said of Baratta. “She hustles, goes after the ball, goes hard all the time. She does everything we need of her.”
Senior Shege Haxhaj is a 5-foot-11 center who provides a solid inside presence. Haxhaj is averaging seven points and nearly 7.5 rebounds per contest.
“The seniors were the reason why we won the game against Wildwood,” Mosca said. “They led us to the win.”
Sophomore Grace Tomko is a 5-foot-7 guard who missed the beginning of the season due to finger surgery.
“She’s just coming back to form,” Mosca said of Tomko, who was the Golden Bears’ leading scorer last year and is averaging nine points and four rebounds in the two games since she’s returned. “Right now, she’s coming off the bench for us.”
Another key returnee is junior Lexus Lopez, who has the unique distinction of playing two varsity sports in the winter, basketball and bowling, where she really excels.
“I don’t know how she does it,” Mosca said. “She’s always on the go. For us, she’s very athletic and hustles all the time. She’s very good defensively.”
The remainder of the team consists of sophomore forward Bianca Fata, sophomore guard Joelle Voza, sophomore guard Kristie Zembryski and freshman forward Giana DiTonto.
Mosca said that he was glad to see his team handle being tested in Wildwood and respond well.
“We had two close games and came out on top,” Mosca said. “It’s good to get into close games.”
The Golden Bears will face Becton and North Arlington before a showdown with another undefeated team in Secaucus Jan. 10.
“I’m definitely pleased where we are,” Mosca said. “We’re on course to where I thought we would be. We’re not playing nearly as well as I’d like them to play, but we’re getting the wins and that’s what matters.”