Maci Covello and Ava Hyams have been a dynamic duo on the basketball court for as long as they can remember.
Whether it was in the Kearny Recreation league when they were first teammates on Alabama, the outdoor court at Manor Park and, for the past four years, at Kearny High School, Covello and Hyams have experienced so much success together.
With such a long-standing connection, it’s only appropriate that both achieved their most significant individual accomplishment just eight days apart.
On Thursday, Feb. 2, Covello scored her 1,000th career point when she finished with 23 to go with nine rebounds and six assists in a Kearny win over St. Dominic. One week later, on Senior Night against Newark Tech, Hyams also reached the 1,000-point milestone when she finished with 21 points and eight rebounds.
Covello and Hyams became the 10th and 11th players in Kearny girls basketball history to reach 1,000 points and the first since Meagan McClelland in 2018.
“We honestly didn’t really anticipate it happening like this,” Covello said. “We’ve just played so hard all of these years, it just kinda happened.
“We just put in so much work that for us to achieve this milestone, not just one of us, but both, I’m really proud of us.”
While Covello and Hyams compete against each other in almost every drill during practice, both insisted there was no competition over who could get to 1,000 first.
“We never really thought about it being a competition because we’ve always been there for each other and had each other’s back,” said Hyams. “We just want to win.”
Hyams and Covello have done plenty of winning since those first games as 10-year-olds, with both remembering they went undefeated in that first season as teammates. Soon they went from unwelcome guests at Manor Park pickup games to a tandem that everyone wanted to play with.
“We’d always get recruited to play against the boys,” Covello recalled with a laugh. “At first they didn’t want us there, but we quickly shut them up.”
The two had already accomplished plenty of on-court success by the time Kardinals head coach Jody Hill first saw them play as seventh graders at Lincoln School.
“I was invited to see them when they were seventh graders and that’s when I was just ‘wow,’” Hill said. “I felt like both of them were varsity ready right then. It was exciting to see them at that age. Maci had the athletic ability, tough competitor and you could tell Ava was a little more polished as a basketball player. But the two of them just stood out. There was no doubt in my mind that by the time that they got to high school the two of them playing together would be something special.”
Both Covello and Hyams were starters from the moment they arrived as freshmen. Together they’ve gone 62-30 heading into Monday’s Hudson County Tournament quarterfinal against Hudson Catholic.
A big reason for that success is not just the play of the two senior captains, but the chemistry that has been built from more than eight years playing together.
“I think you can see the years of chemistry come out when we play,” said Hyams. “You can just tell that those girls have been playing together for a while.”
“We have experience together so we know each other’s strengths,” Covello said. “I know how to set up Ava for a shot when she needs it. She knows how to get me in the post. We really play well off each other.”
Now with the 1,000 point celebrations in the past, the focus is singular and that’s doing things that no Kearny team has done in recent memory. Since joining the HCIAL in 2009, the Kardinals have never made it to a Hudson County Tournament semifinal nor a North 1, Group 4 sectional semifinal. They are also one victory away from reaching 20 wins for the first time in five years.
“We know our team is made up of talented, hard working girls and we want to win,” Hyams said. “We scored 1,000 points, but that’s in the past now. We want to win.”
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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.)