Harrison girls’ basketball team hits tough patch

The Harrison High School girls’ basketball team had been enjoying a solid season, winning five of their first 10 games.

But recently, the Blue Tide has gone on a bit of a skid, dropping four straight games to dip to 5-9 overall.

The losses have come at the hands of some good teams, like local powers Secaucus, Lyndhurst and Dwight-Englewood, but the setbacks have also come at not the most opportune time for fourth-year head coach Erika Thompson and her team.

The Blue Tide lost two key players from last year’s team, namely Kierrah Lucas and Jailyn Montilla, to graduation.

“They just about led us in everything,” Thompson said. “Points, rebounds, steals, assists. They did everything.”
The two losses were keys to the Blue Tide’s fortunes for this season. There is one shining light.

“We have no seniors,” Thompson said. “We have been trying to find ourselves. We need someone to step up and lead us. We had a great game against Kearny and lost by one point (38-37 in the William Masopust, Jr. Memorial Lodi Classic) and I told my team that it’s the type of team I want to see every game. We just lack consistency.”

Things haven’t been easy for Thompson, who had to discontinue her junior varsity program due to a lack of participation.

“It’s been tough,” Thompson said. “We’re a guard-heavy team and we’re trying to use that to our advantage. Our defense is what keeps us in most games.”

Leading the way is 5-foot-11 junior guard Kayla Lucas, the youngest daughter of former Harrison athletic legend Ray Lucas, the current SNY and Rutgers University football analyst. Kayla Lucas is averaging almost 10 points, six rebounds and four assists per game. She had 21 points and 18 rebounds in a recent win over New Milford.

“She does it all for us,” Thompson said of Lucas. “We don’t have anyone who can see the floor like Kayla does. She expands defenses well. We’re using her as a point guard. It hurts us a little down low, but she goes and gets the ball off the backboard. She gets the ball and brings it up. She runs everything.”

Kasey Vasquez is the team’s 5-foot-3 shooting guard. Vasquez is averaging a little more than seven points per game.

“Her speed is incredible,” Thompson said. “She ignites our defense by getting steals. She gets a lot of steals.”

Haley O’Donnell is the team’s 5-foot-3 off-guard. She is the younger sister of 2016-17 Observer Male Athlete of the Year Mike O’Donnell, currently playing baseball at New Jersey City University.

“She has great athleticism,” Thompson said of O’Donnell. “She is solid on defense. We’re still working on her offensive side of the ball. But she has helped us big time with her defense.”

Chelssy Silverio is the team’s 5-foot-5 junior swing player.

“She gets a lot of rebounds for us,” Thompson said. “She’s one of our leading rebounders.”

Thompson said she is working with Silverio on her offensive skills as well.

“We need to get her more comfortable shooting the ball,” Thompson said. “We need her to score, so she needs to be ready to shoot.”
Emily Leiras is a 5-foot-7 freshman forward.

“She has a whole bunch of potential,” Thompson said of Leiras, whose older brother Johnathan was a top scorer for the Blue Tide in 2016-17. “She still has a lot to learn, but she has so much natural ability. If she gets a better understanding of the game, she will be a fine player for us. She’s our most consistent shooter. She’s also strong and solid. I’d like to see her play more in the post, so we’ll see.”

Leiras is averaging six points per game.

“She wants to get better,” Thompson said of Leiras.

Junior Jeralyne Montalvo is a 5-foot-5 shooting guard.

“She’s a good shooter, but she’s had to become more of a post player for us,” Thompson said. “She handles the ball pretty well and gets a lot of rebounds. She missed the first month of the season with a shoulder injury, so she’s working to get back. But she works really hard.”

Sophomore Kathleen DeSousa is a 5-foot-6 guard.

“She’s our most energetic and feistiest player,” Thompson said. “If I need her just to play defense, she does it. She’s super feisty. I love her energy. I’ve been using her a lot more lately.”

The Blue Tide has to recover if they hope to qualify for the upcoming NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II playoffs.

“It can happen,” Thompson said. “We just have to get ourselves together a little. I tell them every single day that if they work hard and hustle, good things will come. They also need a willingness to get better, which they have. Considering that we have a team with no seniors, I’m super pumped and excited for next year.”

But there’s still time for a state playoff run this year, as long as the Blue Tide comes of age down the stretch.




The Harrison girls’ basketball team has no seniors on its roster. From left are juniors Kayla Lucas and Kasey Vasquez, head coach Erika Thompson, freshman Emily Leiras and junior Chelssy Silverio. Photo by Jim Hague




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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.”