Lyndhurst girls basketball looks to progress with experienced core

It would be easy for the Lyndhurst girls basketball team to think big and look ahead when it returns five of the top six scorers from a team that went 16-11 a season ago. Instead, second year head coach Christian Boyce has narrowed the focus as it tries to improve upon that mark in a challenging NJIC National Division.

“Our goal and our theme this year is to get better every rep we take. We’re trying to focus on each rep, not even the day or the game, focus on the rep,” said Boyce. “Our expectations are to be competitive and to try to be in every game and try to win every game. We know this is a tough league where a lot of the teams have a lot of their girls back so it’s going to be an interesting year.”

The key to reaching those expectations lies in the paint where the Golden Bears return arguably the conference’s best forward duo in junior Asya Akar and sophomore Brooke Harper.

“That’s going to be our strength is our post play and height,” Boyce said. “We’re going to try to feed the ball inside and work off of that. It’s definitely helpful having Asya back and Brooke and hopefully Jolie (Paz-Garcia) is healthy this year. That’s our core and our goal is going to be trying to get the ball inside and try to dominate the paint as much as we can.”

Last season, the 6-foot-1 Harper burst onto the scene, averaging 7.3 points and a team-best 9.2 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game. She closed the season with five double-doubles in the last seven games.

“I think Brooke is more of your traditional defender where she protects the paint. She doesn’t pick up fouls, she’s excellent at rebounding,” said Boyce. “She’s really worked on ball handling and shooting so I’m looking forward to her stepping out a little more this year.”

Akar, at 5-foot-10, is Lyndhurst’s most versatile player and a mismatch for opposing defense. Last season, she led the team in scoring at 11.4 points per game to go with 7.3 rebounds per game.

“Asya, to me, is more of an athletic 3. She can cover the one, she can defend the three, she can cover a five. She’s just unorthodox in how she plays. She’s excellent in the post, she can hit a mid range jump shot, she can hit a 3-pointer.

“Asya’s just a tough matchup because she’s so athletic. If you go small on her, we can put her in the post where she’s tough, she can jump and is athletic. If you go big on her, then she can go outside and take someone off the dribble.”

Lyndhurst’s front court should be further bolstered by the return of Paz-Garcia, who missed most of last year due to injury. Her return to health will allow the Bears to have at least two forwards on the court and the potential of playing a big lineup with all three on the floor at the same time.

Akar and Harper expected to handle the ball more this season, though those duties will still be primarily held by junior Sam Mayer, who is a three-year starter at the point guard after leading the team in assists (77) and averaging 7.0 points per game.

“Sam’s just a bulldog,” said Boyce. She’s the toughest girl on the team, she’s a leader and I think she’s completely comfortable in whatever offense we throw at her.”

Another returning starter at guard is junior Kyla Marino, who is often tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best offensive player. Senior Kiera Docherty is set to start at the other guard spot after serving as the sixth man a year ago, and gives Lyndhurst a second point guard.

Sophomore Juliana Gonzalez gives the Golden Bears another ball handler as the first guard off the bench for the Bears. Boyce also has high hopes for Mylah Campbell, a sophomore with the length to be an impact defender and junior Alexia Maramorato, who is working her way back from injury.

Lyndhurst opens the season on Thursday against Garfield before going on the road against Waldwick on Saturday and Harrison next Tuesday before hosting Group 2 finalist Secaucus on Dec. 21.

The schedule also includes showcase games against Bogota on Jan. 6 in the She Balls Too Showcase in Newark and against Passaic Tech in the Jarel Lowery Showcase on Jan. 15.

“I think this is an important year for us because our team is predominantly juniors and sophomores,” Boyce said. “I don’t want to just go out and play a team that I think we can beat right away just to get a win. I want to be in competitive games that we’re going to get something out of playing.”

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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.)