Big expectations await Lyndhurst boys basketball

Team Photo (left to right): Shawn Bellenger, Charles Derrig, Jack Nowinski, Anthony Pizzuti, Daniel Bojilov, Johnny Chaname, CJ Bailllie, Jake Mayer, Matthew Slabby, Cristian Poras, Thomas Awida, head coach Perrin Mosca

Perhaps the only thing bigger than the starting lineup the Lyndhurst boys basketball team is going to send out on the floor most nights are the expectations for this season.

With the top four scorers back from last year’s 16-10 team and a rotation that features six guys standing 6-foot-3 or taller, head coach Perrin Mosca knows that a lot of eyes will be on a Golden Bears team that might have slid under the radar 12 months ago.

“That’s what I’ve been harping on. You’re not going to just come in and expect people to lay down for you. They’re all going to come after you because they know what we have from last year,” said Mosca, now in his second season coaching the boys after previously serving as Lyndhurst’s girls coach. “We made a nice little run last year. I don’t want them being complacent.”

Headlining the group of returnees is one of North Jersey’s best forwards in Anthony Pizzuti. The 6-foot-4 senior was a revelation for Lyndhurst, averaging 20.8 points and 10.3 rebounds in a season highlighted by a school record 53 points in a game last year.

“One of the kids said in practice he’s like a cheat code because whenever you need a bucket the kid comes around and gets a bucket for you,” Mosca said. “He’ll get an offensive rebound and get a put-back or he’ll be in the right spot to get the ball. It’s great to have him, he has so much energy.”

Also back for Lyndhurst is do-everything senior guard Matthew Slaby, who at 6-foot-4 led the team in blocks (67), while also averaging 11.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.

Six-foot-3 senior CJ Baillie is another returning starter at guard after leading the team with 30 3-pointers a season ago while averaging 8.8 points per game.

Jake Mayer, a 6-foot-1 senior, returns to start at point guard. Mayer led the team in assists (4.2 per game) and steals (53), while averaging 6.9 points per game

All three are capable of handling point guard responsibilities and with their height can guard multiple positions, giving Lyndhurst plenty of flexibility.

“It’s going to be good for us because I think all three of them could handle the job at the point,” said Mosca. “I felt like last year when we had situations where we really needed a point guard to beat the pressure, they did struggle at times. I think this year, we’re way ahead of where we were last year.”

The other starting forward spot is still up in the air with Shawn Bellenger and Charles Derrig battling for the role. Bellenger, a 6-foot-3 junior, served as the top forward off the bench last season, while Derrig, a 6-foot-3 senior, is looking to bounce back after being limited by an ankle injury last year.

Daniel Bojilov, a promising 6-foot-5 sophomore, will also see minutes at center after showing marked improvement in the offseason.

At guard, junior Cristian Porras and Johnny Chaname will come off the bench and should bring added speed to the lineup, while Jack Nowinski is poised for a much bigger role after a strong offseason. Sophomore Thomas Awida should also be vying for minutes on the court.

Lyndhurst opens the season at Paterson Charter, which has emerged in recent years as one of the top teams in not just the NJIC, but all of Group 1, on Thursday, Dec. 14. Home games against Park Ridge and Harrison follow on the 16th and 19th.

The Golden Bears will further challenge itself this season with non-conference matchups against non-public foes Saddle River Day and Dwight-Englewood. Big tasks for sure, but ones Mosca believes will help his team as they look to make a return trip to the Bergen County Jamboree and make noise in the tournament as well as in an always competitive North 2, Group 2 state tournament bracket.

“Our goal is win that league title first and foremost, get to the county and maybe get some surprise wins in the county and then make a real nice run in the states,” Mosca said. “They know the expectations, that’s what we’ve been talking about.”

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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 (, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)