Kearny girls’ hoops: In Osorio, the Kards trust

A year ago, the Kearny High School girls’ basketball team basically had to start from scratch, losing almost their entire starting lineup from the previous season.

But after surprising a lot of people last season by finishing with a .500 record at 13-13, the Kardinals will rely on a host of talented seniors, including one who was an All-Hudson County performer a year ago.

Veteran Kearny head coach Jody Hill enters her 22nd season with a host of experienced players that will provide the Kards hope for the winter months.

“We’re just going to feed off last year,” Hill said, citing the improvement the team displayed last season. “We have a nice balance of returning players and incoming players of impact. The freshmen we have, I’m very happy with. I’m amazed with the way they’ve caught on so quickly. They have a good IQ for the game and want to learn.”

One player that Hill doesn’t have to worry about is senior do-everything Samantha Osorio. The 5-foot-10 Osorio led the Kardinals in scoring (15 points per game) and rebounding (eight per contest) last season.

“She showed her commitment to improve last summer by playing top-level AAU basketball,” Hill said of Osorio. “She’s improved so much that she’s become a great jumper and great rebounder. She made the decision that she wants to play basketball at the next level and I feel she can do that. She’s very agile and runs well for her size. She is also a good defender, but she’s not content with her defensive game, so she works on it. She has to be our defensive impact player this year.”

No question, Osorio is someone who will be playing college basketball somewhere next fall. For now, she’s going to be the leader of the Kards this winter.

Another key returnee is senior guard Eliana Huancaya. The 5-foot-4 Huancaya scored eight points per game and dished off for six assists per outing last season.

“She is a workhorse,” Hill said. “She is a quiet kid who leads by example. She’s always wanting to improve her game and has the best work ethic on our team. She has become more vocal and is a good decision maker.”

Junior Esmeralda Ruiz is a 5-foot-6 swing player who will probably make a quantum leap this season in terms of improvement.

“In the scrimmages, she has stepped up and become more of a scorer,” Hill said. “She stepped into a starting role at the end of last season and did a phenomenal job. She has showed such tremendous growth. She’s definitely one of our best players. I expect great things from her this year.”

Soccer standout Skyler Matusz has returned to basketball after sitting out last season. The American University-bound goal scoring machine in soccer, Matusz has returned to basketball with a much different role than she had during the soccer campaign.

“She has tremendous quickness, so we’re looking to use that defensively,” Hill said. “She’s one of our top defenders. But she’s also taking her shooting seriously. She’s going to help us a lot.”
Senior Faith Remias gives the Kardinals some size and strength close to the basket. The 5-foot-10 Remias is a strong power forward/center.

“She’s very focused this year,” Hill said. “She’s also become more of a vocal leader. She’s the one who gets the team enthused. She has been grabbing rebounds and getting the ball out. She takes up space down low. Her leadership is her biggest quality.”

Freshman Maci Covello is a 5-foot-10 forward with unlimited potential.

“Some kids hear that they’re playing varsity right away as a freshman and become afraid,” Hill said. “Maci is not going to be intimidated by it at all. She’s an elite athlete (also a fine soccer player) who is already making her mark. I didn’t realize how versatile she is. She’s faster than I thought as well. She has great instincts for the ball and depending upon the game and the opponent, she can play anywhere on the floor. She’s going to be one of our top players.”

Another key freshman is 5-foot-7 guard Ava Hyams. The rookie Hyams has already performed well at a high level on the AAU circuit and will be the point guard of the future.

“Basketball is her true sport,” Hill said of Hyams. “She just plays basketball all year round. She has a great IQ for the game. She’s very smart. She really grasps what we’re trying to do. She’s also a very good shooter. She has the potential to be a great one for us.”

Magdalena Ruiz, Esmeralda’s sister, is also joining the ranks. Ruiz is a 5-foot-6 junior.

“When we need a spark, Magdalena can provide it,” Hill said. “She can make a big shot or get a big rebound. She will dive on the floor for a loose ball. She’s an aggressive player.”

Cheyanne Iverson is a 5-foot-5 senior guard.

“Cheyanne is our best 3-point shooter,” Hill said. “She can come in and stick a shot.”

Six-foot junior Julie Fernandez has the biggest upside.

“She doesn’t know how good she is or how good she can become,” Hill said. “She could become so good if she just listens. But she has improved a lot.”

Junior Shantay Izdebski is coming off ACL knee surgery, so she’s working her way back into action.

Jordalys Lozano is a 5-foot-7 senior transfer from Harrison who will take a little while to get accustomed to the way Hill coaches.

“She might become a good player for us,” Hill said.

The Kardinals open up their season Thursday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. against Dickinson as part of a special doubleheader.

Both the Kearny girls and the boys’ team to follow at 7 p.m. also against Dickinson will play to raise funds for the Marshall family, which has fallen on some emotionally trying times.

Emily Marshall is now a sophomore at Drew University and plays softball there. Jason Marshall is a senior at Kearny High.

The Marshalls lost their mother Bernice to ovarian cancer just last week and their father John is struggling with his own physical issues after a recent fall.

So all proceeds from the doubleheader Thursday will go to the Marshall family. Emily Marshall played basketball for Hill for four years, so there is a special closeness. It’s a great cause and a special day to honor both Bernice and John Marshall. Make plans to attend.

In any case, the Kardinals should have a good season this winter. It sure shapes up to be one.




The Kearny High School girls’ basketball team will look to their senior leaders, namely from left, Samantha Osorio, Skyler Matusz, Cheyanne Iverson, head coach Jody Hill, Eliana Huancaya and Faith Remias. 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.”