Lyndhurst’s Rodriguez breaks school scoring record with 51; McClelland returns for Kearny; wrestlers advance

It was one of the wildest scenes in local high school basketball history.

Lyndhurst sophomore John Rodriguez scored 51 points in a 71-50 win over Harrison last Thursday night, breaking the long-standing single game scoring record of 42, set by George Barutis in 1982.

“If there is such a thing as a quiet 51, this was it,” said Lyndhurst head boys’ basketball coach Tom McGuire. “I think we were just around the half and I asked how many points had he scored. When I heard he had 34, I knew the record was 40-something. I sent (hockey and soccer coach) Denis Jelcic out into the hallway to go look for sure, he said that it was Barutis’ 42.”

Rodriguez connected on 16 field goals and five 3-pointers en route to the record-breaking performance.
“A few things kind of helped,” McGuire said. “(Adryan) Lopez was in foul trouble and played maybe 10 minutes. Sid Das had a shoulder injury and didn’t play. Brian Podolski sprained his knee. So it was one of those things where John got off well and just kept going. He was in the right place at the right time. When you hear someone scoring 51 points, you think that person is chucking it up every time, but that wasn’t the case.”

McGuire said that Rodriguez had a good game earlier in the week against Dwight-Englewood, scoring 16 points. His seasonal high was 20, which happened twice. To think Rodriguez went 31 above his previous high is unthinkable.

“He forced some turnovers out of our press and got some quick scores,” McGuire said. “He was making good drives to the basket.”

Rodriguez was unavailable for comment at press time.

McGuire said that his phone rang all night long Thursday after it was learned that Rodriguez scored 51 points.

It’s amazing,” McGuire said. “We scored 51 points as a team on Tuesday and he scored 51 on Thursday.”

On Friday against New Milford, Rodriguez scored the first two points of the game _ and then never tallied another point.

“Anytime anyone scores 51, there’s always this wave of attention,” McGuire said. “I think it was a shock to him that he scored 51. It had to be exhausting for him, answering all the phone calls. He said it was just another day.”

McGuire said that Rodriguez is “just a quiet, humble kid.”

“He’s a good kid who doesn’t say much,” McGuire said. “I don’t think it’s hit him yet. People around school like him. They want to share in his moment.”

McGuire believes that the sky’s the limit for the 6-foot-2 sophomore.

“I think there’s a ton of potential there,” McGuire said. “He’s a good shooter and a tremendous defender. His release on his shot has to get quicker. I think people are going to look at him differently and defend him closer.”

Another local basketball standout, Kearny senior Meagan McClelland, returned from her stint with the United States 19-and-under national soccer team to play for the Kearny basketball team in time for the Hudson County Tournament game against defending county champion Secaucus Saturday morning.

McClelland scored 30 points in the game, but it went for naught, as the Kardinals’ game effort against the No. 2 seed fell four points short, 60-56. Still it was a fine effort by the Kards and a team effort by McClelland to return to her teammates in time…

Lyndhurst-North Arlington’s wrestling team sent three wrestlers on to the Region tournament. Victor Jorge was the hard-luck loser at 160 pounds, falling by a final score of 2-1 in the championship round. Elias Sanchez (106 pounds) and Jarrett Weber (126 pounds) finished third at District 9 at Barringer in Newark, so all three Lyndhurst-NA wrestlers move on.

Brandon Vitacco (132), Derin Stitzer (145), Ethan Hughes (152) Nick Fernandez (182) and Tyler Partyka (heavyweight) all finished fourth, just missing on advancing to the Region 3 tourney in West Orange.
Belleville will send two wrestlers on to the Region tourney in 138-pounder Daniel Guerra and 195-pounder Michael Mejia. Both Buccaneer wrestlers finished second at District 11.

Nutley finished third as a team in District 10, thanks to the efforts of Frank Gabriele (170) and Joseph D’Alessio (220), who both finished second.

Third place finishers include 126-pounder Jacob Gonzalez, 138-pounder Sal Mainiero and 160-pounder Frank DeMaio.

Daniel Jennings (fourth at 182), Justin Luna (fourth at 195) and Luis Abreu (fourth at heavyweight) failed to advance out of District 10.

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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.”