NORTH ARLINGTON – It’s a shame that the new omricron variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus forced the cancellation of the Bill Ferguson Memorial Basketball Tournament at North Arlington High School last week. Both the boys’ and girls’ tourneys were cancelled in the first tourney since the pmeeassing of the legendary former coach and administrator, who died last summer.
The North Arlington girls’ basketball team played three games before the shutdown of the season, winning one.
It’s actually a huge improvement for the Vikings, coached by second-year head coach Brendan Queenan.
“We were actually able to practice the two days we were supposed to have games,” Queenan said. “But even with the practices, having the tournament canceled wrecks the momentum we had. We could have played if we had to. We were healthy. I give the girls credit for keeping themselves safe and able to practice. I thought if we played, we would have been competitive. We can’t afford not to play games where we felt like we could have won.”
The Vikings were slated to face St. Mary’s of Rutherford this Wednesday if the Vikings can pass the COVID protocol.
“We have gone over the stuff we learned those two practices,” Queenan said. “We hope we didn’t forget anything over the big layoff. It’s been two full weeks since played.”
Queenan said that the Vikings had to endure a similar situation last year with the initial COVID-19 shutdown.
“But the big thing was that when we started back, we didn’t have a practice together,” Queenan said. “All we had was meetings on Zoom and that’s not the same. Hopefully, we come back healthy. I don’t know what could happen if we can’t play.”
Leading the way is 5-foot-7 senior forward Angelina Torres.
“She’s a lot like what Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason did for the Knicks (in the 1990s),” Queenan said. “She gets a lot of her stuff on second hand points. She rebounds well and fills up the stat sheet with a little bit of everything. She competes and plays hard.”
Sophomore Sofia Veloso is a 5-foot-7 point guard.
“We use her all over the place,” Queenan said. “She’ll run the point most of the time, but there are times that she slides over to the wing. She’s also our best defensive player. Depending on what we do, she can match up with the opponent’s top player. We can match her up with the best offensive player.”
Lia Cruz, the 5-foot-3 sophomore, had a brilliant soccer season. Basketball is clearly her second sport, but it doesn’t mean Cruz can’t play on the hardwood.
“She’s a tenacious defensive player,” Queenan said. “She’s also our primary outside threat. She’s a streaky outside shooter.”
Skyla Acosta is a 5-foot-10 sophomore center.
“She’s a physical player,” Queenan said. “She’s a true back-to-the-basket post player. She scores a lot of points off missed shots. She’s probably our best rebounder.”
Pegi Bracaj is a 5-foot-10 senior forward.
“She’s versatile,” Queenan said. “I play here a little bit at the post and a little on the wing. She has a nice little shot. She’s also our emotional leader, our best rah-rah player.”
Kyra Garcia is a 5-foot-2 freshman point guard.
“She comes off the bench and takes over as our point,” Queenan said. “She’s still learning the position. But she’s very athletic. Her decision making is a work in progress. But she’s a decent defensive player who understands the game as a freshman.”
Nicole Garcia (no relation to Kyra) is a 5-foot-8 junior guard.
“She’s a swing player with a nice shot,” Queenan said.
Kat Raferty is a 6-foot junior center who also comes in off the bench.
“She makes up for defensive matchups in the post,” Queenan said. “She’s going to be a big part of what we do moving forward. She has to play big minutes for us.”
If things improve, then the Vikings return to action Friday at home against Weehawken at 4 p.m. and have a showdown with local foe Harrison Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m.
“I think we can be much improved,” Queenan said. “If everything goes right, I think we can be a .500 team. We had a full offseason together. Our schedule is friendlier this year. I think we should be alright.”
The North Arlington girls’ basketball team should be much improved this year. From left are Skyla Acosta, Sophia Veloso, head coach Brendan Queenan, Angelina Torres and Pegi Bracaj. 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.”