This might be the most remarkable Athlete of the Week feature written here over the last two decades.
Here goes: Melony McCormick was a member of the Lyndhurst High School girls’ basketball team. McCormick was a key player off the bench for head coach Perrin Mosca and the Golden Bears, but she averaged a pedestrian 3.9 points per game over the first 16 games. Before this season, McCormick, a transfer from Belleville, scored just four points two seasons ago.
McCormick was initially emotional about the family’s move from Belleville to Lyndhurst.
“I was upset, no question,” McCormick said. “I was miserable. It wasn’t a good time for me. It was kind of difficult. But I decided to just put my best foot forward, play my hardest and maybe something great could happen.”
Mosca wasn’t confident with McCormick seeing considerable minutes.
“I didn’t feel like she was ready to go,” Mosca said. “I always thought she shot the ball well, but there were the other things that needed work. That was the difference. She needed to take care of the ball better. She needed to rebound more.”
But seven games ago, the Golden Bears suffered a gigantic loss when senior Meghan Docherty suffered a serious knee injury, a torn anterior cruciate ligament that will require surgery. Unfortunately Docherty’s high school athletic career came to an end with the injury.
“She was going along so well,” Mosca said of Docherty. “I was worried.”
With that, Mosca turned to senior McCormick and asked her to pick up her game a bit.
“It was good that Melony was there to step up,” Mosca said.
“Losing Meghan was emotional for a lot of us,” McCormick said. “Coach told me that I had to step it up. I was a little bit nervous, but yeah, I was ready for the most part.”
That might be the biggest understatement in the history of New Jersey girls’ high school basketball.
McCormick started contributing right away with the additional playing time. She had 13 points in her first starting role and 19 points and 13 rebounds in the game against Butler that gave Mosca his 100th coaching victory.
McCormick then had 15 points in a win over Wood-Ridge before getting ready for the next opponent in Bergen Charter. No one could have ever imagined what would transpire in that game.
McCormick downright exploded for 37 points in the win over Bergen Charter. She nailed 10 three-point field goals, setting a new single game program record, surpassing Angela Downey’s nine. Downey is currently playing for Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham.
“I just felt good about my (3-point) shot,” McCormick said. “When my threes are going in, it’s time to make more. The first half, I made seven and someone told me that the record was nine. I was just excited to keep going. I was in a zone.”
“She hit her first three out of four,” Mosca said. “My assistant coach Danny Kesack told me that the record was nine. I thought she had a chance to break that record.”
From little used bench player to the school’s all-time single game three-point record. It’s a great distinction.
And for her efforts, McCormick has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.
McCormick followed up her record-setting performance with 18 points in a win over New Milford.
Over a five-game span (all victories by the way), McCormick averaged 20.4 points per game. Can you figure? Can anyone?
“It was a magical night,” Mosca said. “It was senior night. We were able to get Meghan on the court to score one basket. It was a great atmosphere. It was hard to explain. I knew Melony could shoot it, but no way was I expecting that. The girls all knew that Melony needed one more to get to 10 and they were all for it.”
“It was crazy,” McCormick said. “I usually miss a few. Some go in. But this was like all of them. I was in such disbelief. It was such a shock. It was like a dream.”
The Golden Bears had won seven straight games to get to 13-8 overall before falling to NJIC-Liberty powerhouse Dwight-Englewood Saturday. But there’s no doubt now that McCormick has a major role with the Golden Bears for the remainder of the season. And yes, McCormick finally has a home in Lyndhurst.
“I now have a bigger role with this team,” McCormick said. “I’m ready for the challenge. I mainly shoot threes, but I can do other things. I do play a lot of defense (six steals in the win over Bergen Charter), so I get a lot of fast break baskets from my defense. But nothing is going to stop me now.”
It’s astounding how any basketball player can go from averaging less than four points per game to more than 20 a contest. But no one is going to try to explain it.
“She’s just a good kid,” Mosca said of McCormick. “She’s pretty down to earth and humble. She works hard in practice. It’s just a great story.”
McCormick plans on playing basketball next season at Bergen County Community College. She might enlist in the United States Army in the future, but she wants to explore the medical field.
And for her new-found stardom?
“I love it,” McCormick said. “People who didn’t know me know me now.”
That’s for sure.
Lyndhurst senior guard Melony McCormick. 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.”