Nutley’s teams finally get on the hardwood

While some local basketball teams have played as many as eight games already, Nutley High School’s two squads didn’t play a single game until last Friday due to shutdowns and quarantines caused by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

The Nutley girls’ squad played its first game last Friday and had another one on Saturday, with a 47-33 victory over Payne Tech of Newark evening the Maroon Raiders’ record to 1-1.

The Maroon Raider boys didn’t tip off their season until Saturday when they defeated Montclair Kimberley Academy, 55-45.

Nutley head girls’ coach Larry Mitschow felt a little guilty about his team not playing until last week.

“That’s because I was the one who got them shut down,” said Mitschow, who tested positive for the coronavirus two weeks ago.

Mitschow’s positive test led to the two-week quarantine.

“We then had to wait for the results,” Mitschow said. “The players got re-tested. We then practiced Wednesday and Thursday before playing Friday. After being out for 15 days, I thought that the rust would be more prevalent.”

Mitschow said that athletic director Joe Piro has been active trying to find more games for his team to play.

“Right now, if everything works out well, we have 13 games,” Mitschow said. “Piro has been so helpful to get the schedule together. I’m just so pumped to be playing. It’s a great feeling seeing my kids line up for the National Anthem.”

In the win over Payne Tech, Liana Minchini, Mackenzie Albert and Stephanie Luberto all had 10 points each and Alex Twomey had eight.

“It’s our goal to have that kind of scoring each game,” Mitschow said. “Every game, it could be different.”

Incredibly, in the Super Essex Conference-American Division, University is 6-0, West Essex is 4-4 and West Orange is 6-3. Yet, the Maroon Raiders have played just two games.

“We’re a young team,” Mitschow said. “For our team to bounce back and beat Payne Tech was a good test for us. We played real well. We learned from our mistakes.”

The Nutley boys’ squad had to wait until Saturday to tip off their season, also due to quarantine restrictions.

“It wasn’t good to shut down right before the first game,” said Nutley boys’ head coach Bob Harbison. “We thought we were ready to go, then we get shut down for two weeks. But hey, I’m just glad now we’re playing. I’m glad we’re on the court. We won the first game and the win was nice, but just being able to compete and play is more important. We can’t dwell on the fact we didn’t play. We just had to encourage the kids to stay in shape on their own as much as possible and be ready when we came back.”

Haribson said that he was grateful to have the two weeks of practice before the first scheduled game.

“We did a lot of running and a lot of teaching then,” Harbison said. “We were prepared to play the first game.”

Harbison said that the Maroon Raiders currently have 10 games scheduled.

“We just wanted to get on the court,” Harbison said. “We might have been a little sloppy, but it wasn’t horrible.”

Justin Edert led the way for the Raiders with 16 points, including four 3-pointers.

“Matt Pergola did well off the bench,” Harbison said. “He showed he can handle the ball and didn’t turn it over. He’s learning something every time he gets on the floor. Jordan Greene mad a couple of big shots in the first half.”

The Maroon Raiders face Shabazz, Montclair Kimberley again, then Weequahic and Shabazz again this week.

“The kids all want to play,” Harbison said. “We’re not getting caught up in wins and losses. They were troopers going through this. They’re a really good group of kids.”

How tough has it been for the Maroon Raiders? Well neighboring Belleville has played eight games (5-3). So has 7-1 Bloomfield. Barringer of Newark is the only other SEC team with only one game under its belt.

Needless to say, it’s going to be tough for the Nutley teams to catch up to the rest of their league foes.

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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.”