It’s John Cousins’ fourth year as the head coach of the Lyndhurst High School girls’ basketball team and the energetic coach feels a positive vibe about this year’s group.
“I felt upbeat every year, but I’m more upbeat this year,” Cousins said. “We have a good group of girls. They’re all on the same page and all understand each other’s role. I think this group is excited to win some games. They have improved, but this group has come together a little bit. There’s a family atmosphere-type of feeling going on. They’re very supportive of each other.”
Cousins knows that it hasn’t been easy the last few years.
“We have gone through some tough times,” Cousins said. “I don’t think that’s demoralizing. I think it has galvanized this group and I’m excited about that.”
Cousins said that the team’s familiarity with him has helped.
“I think that’s a huge plus,” Cousins said. “It’s part of the reason why I started working with the Rec (Lyndhurst Recreation) program. The girls get a chance to know me before high school and then this way, they know our system and we’re all on the same page. It makes things easier.”
Cousins has worked hard getting the Golden Bears ready for the coming season.
“I think the depth on the team helps,” Cousins said. “We are now subbing player-for-player. We have good depth. It’s been a help, not only in practice, but in game situations. The kids are able to step in and do the job. Our numbers are pretty good.”
The Golden Bears’ roster features only two seniors and a bunch of talented sophomores.
“We have a great sophomore class,” Cousins said.
Senior Uxia Parada is a solid leader. The 5-foot-9 Parada can be a presence down low, but Cousins likes her ability from the perimeter.
“She’s a pretty good shooter,” Cousins said. “She’s still learning how to play within the system, but I trust her.”
Senior Alyssa Mezzina is a 5-foot-5 forward.
“We’re short and fast and tough,” Cousins said of his roster. “Alyssa has been more aggressive and improving on that for four years. She’s attacking the basket more. She understands her role.”
Junior Grace Cappiello is the team’s point guard. The 5-foot-5 Cappiello, who also plays soccer, will start and play most of the time with the ball in her hands.
“She has a good understanding of the game,” Cousins said. “She reads the defenses well and runs our offense. She sets the tone, both offensively and defensively.”
Makenzie McMillan is the team’s “heart and soul,” according to Cousins.
“She used to play tackle football and wrestled with the boys until seventh grade, so she’s tough,” Cousins said of the 5-foot-5 junior McMillan. “She’s the one who makes the positive play you want to have happen. She sees the play well and makes up for any mistake she might make by being in the right place all the time. I wish I had 10 of her.”
Angela Downey is a 5-foot-6 sophomore who plays the small forward for the Golden Bears.
“She’s very athletic and she’s a good player for us.”
Angelina DeCaro is a 5-foot-11 sophomore forward who gives Cousins a strong force in the middle.
“She has good size and has a good presence about her,” Cousins said. “She’s developing very nicely.”
Gabriela Schnur is a 5-foot-4 point guard who backs up Cappiello.
“But she is a good shooter and decent ball handler,” Cousins said.
Jamie Connors is a 5-foot-6 sophomore who is deadly from the perimeter.
“She has a real good shooter’s touch,” Cousins said.
Junior Antonia Lamond is a transfer from Nutley who will try to crack the Golden Bears rotation. Junior Alyssa Engels gives the Golden Bears some added strength along the front line.
The Golden Bears open their season Friday night at Leonia. The Bruce Bartlett Memorial Tournament, which will also feature North Arlington, will be held at Lyndhurst Dec. 28-29.
Cousins is hopeful that things will be different in terms of wins and losses for the Golden Bears.
“We came through the preseason talking like this was the year,” Cousins said. “We have a good group. They’re excited and so am I.”
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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer
Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.
It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.
In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.
In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.
He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.
During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.
Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.
Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”