When Chris Boyce was hired to take over as the new girls basketball coach at Lyndhurst in late August, he knew they were going to have to hit the ground running this preseason after being unable to build that bond and chemistry during the summer. As part of that, the former Queen of Peace coach put forth an ambitious scrimmage schedule that included matchups against Pascack Valley and its legendary coach Jeff Jasper, as well as fellow regular state-ranked teams in Roselle Catholic and St. Thomas Aquinas.
“We set the tone with our scrimmages,” Boyce said. “I just wanted the girls to see something outside of our area of Bergen County so they see different basketball, different styles. I think it’s important for them to see other areas of the state and see how basketball is played in other areas.”
That experience certainly paid off in the first couple days of the regular season as the Golden Bears defeated Garfield and Harrison in overwhelming fashion, winning by 37 points and 44 points respectively.
While final margins are certainly eye-opening, Boyce knows that harder challenges await within the NJIC National Division and beyond, starting with a Dec. 20 contest at Secaucus, who has won six consecutive NJIC division titles.
“The goal is to get this young team prepared for bigger games so we can build on that as we go forward with this team,” said Boyce. “Because most of this team is freshmen and sophomores.”
Lyndhurst’s 12-girl varsity roster features six sophomores and three freshmen.
Of the group, the early breakout star has been freshman Brooke Harper, a 6-foot-0 forward, who moved into the starting lineup due to an injury to Jolie Paz-Garcia. Harper responded with 20 points, 16 rebounds and an incredible 11 blocks to begin what should be a stellar high school career.
“I think Brooke has a bright future. I personally think she’s going to be a college basketball player once she starts understanding the game more,” Boyce said. “Brooke is going to be a big part of our program this year and in the future.”
Joining Harper up front is sophomore Asya Akar, a 5-foot-10 “point forward” who should build upon her 8.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per game averages from a season ago
“She kinda does everything for us,” said Boyce. “She rebounds, she scores, she passes the ball, brings up the ball. She does a little bit of everything.”
When Paz-Garcia, a sophomore who led the team in blocks last season with 18, the Golden Bears will have one of if not the tallest front court in the entire NJIC.
Another starter capable of playing at forward is Kyla Marino. The 5-foot-9 sophomore has quickly emerged as a specialist capable of defending all five spots on the floor. Marino will match up against the opposing team’s top player regardless of position.
“She just plays great defense and we need her to guard. She’s going to be covering the best player every night,” said Boyce. “That’s her role and I can care less if she scores two points or not. She hustles and plays defense and that’s why she’s in the starting lineup every night.”
Lyndhurst welcomes back both starting guards from last season. Lexi Augustyniak, the lone senior starter, returns as a combo guard after averaging 8.5 points per game last season. At the point is Sam Meyer who has started off her sophomore season with 14 points to go with a team-best nine assists and seven steals.
Junior Kiera Docherty should be one of the area’s best reserves and will once again be looked upon to bring an offensive spark after making 29 3-pointers last season. Freshman Gianna Lembo is also being counted upon for minutes off the bench.
Senior Jada Amador and sophomore Alex Marmorato are also expected to see minutes off the bench. In addition, freshmen, Juliana Gonzalez and sophomore Alejandra Ramriez are the young players who could vie for time as they continue to develop.
“I don’t think we’re close to where we could be right now,” Boyce said. “I think as we progress, we’re going to get better and I expect big things from us as we get better.”
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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)