Kearny boys, North Arlington girls repeat as holiday tournament champions

The holiday tournament week has been a successful one for The Observer Area basketball teams as both the Kearny boys and North Arlington girls basketball teams repeated as champions in their respective host tournaments. Here is a look at each of their titles as well as the rest of the local tournaments.

North Arlington girls show poise, repeat as William Ferguson champions

The calendar may have said late December, but for Vikings head coach Brendan Queenan, the two games in their annual William Ferguson Tournament at North Arlington took on a late-February tone.

With victories over University Charter of Jersey City and Group 4 Bergen Tech, the Vikings have already racked up a 6-1 record, something Queenan knows will prove vital when it comes time to seed the state tournament in less than two months.

“We treated this tournament like they’re playoff games,” Queenan said. “We’ve been treating these (December) games as must wins and we started that right away. We wanted to try to get six or seven wins heading into the new year because we thought that was key to securing home court advantage down the line.”

Queenan was impressed with the poise his team showed, especially in the final, a 44-24 win against Bergen Tech. With standout forward Skyla Acosta in early foul trouble, guards Lia Cruz, Kyra Garcia and Sophia Veloso all helped pick up the slack in Acosta’s absence.

Cruz, who was named Tournament MVP, scored 18 points in a fine all-around performance in the final on Thursday.

“You can look at the box score and it just doesn’t do her justice,” Queenan said. “She played all 32 minutes, she was defending their point guard and was really just doing the stuff that doesn’t show up in the box score. She really grinded their offense to a stall, turning her over and just guarding her up and down the floor.

“As good as Lia was offensive, she was actually better defensively.”

Garcia (15 points, 12 rebounds, five steals, four assists in the final) and Veloso (six points, 12 rebounds in the final) joined Cruz on the All-Tournament Team.

In the boys tournament, Bergen Tech won the championship, defeating previously unbeaten Belleville, 63-55, in the first round, then beating host North Arlington, 54-41 in the final.

Kearny boys show growth with Charlie Dolan Tournament title

Kearny’s season couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start when it lost by 36 points to McNair Academic on opening night.

Since that disastrous start however, the Kardinals have responded with three wins in their last four games, the most impressive of the stretch, a convincing 74-55 victory over Nutley on Thursday in the final of the Charlie Dolan Holiday in Kearny.

“They really started to come together the last week to 10 days,” said first year head coach Marc McCaffrey. “I think (the win over Nutley) showed exactly their full potential. When they play as a team and the shots are falling, I think we would be tough to beat.”

Tournament MVP Jayden Figuereo had 14 points and nine rebounds in the title game. Despite standing 6-foot-0, Figuereo plays much bigger than his size in the paint and this tournament showed it.

“He’s certainly not the biggest guy on our team, but he probably is very close to leading the team in rebounds for the season,” said McCaffrey. “He’s tenacious on the boards. He’s a perfect example of what toughness and effort can do and that’s kinda what happened to the team the last two days. We really played with a lot of effort.”

Luis Rodriguez (17 points, five steals, four rebounds and Matheus Mullins (16 points, seven rebounds) joined Figuereo on the All-Tournament Team.

In the girls tournament, Kearny was defeated in the final by Glen Ridge, 44-28.

Lyndhurst boys and girls have strong weeks

The hottest Observer area basketball team these first two weeks of the season has been Lyndhurst’s boys basketball team.

Since an opening night loss at Paterson Charter, the Golden Bears have reeled off five consecutive wins, defeating their opposition by an average of 23.6 points.

Star forward Anthony Pizzuti, who had 35 points and 14 rebounds in an upset at Saddle River Day, is currently averaging 24.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, while guard Matt Slaby is enjoying a breakout senior season, averaging 16.7 points per game.

Lyndhurst blew out Wallington, 69-30, In the first round of the Emerson Cavo Classic on Wednesday. The Golden Bears were set to play Emerson Boro in the final on Friday afternoon, after The Observer’s print deadline for this week.

On the girls side, Lyndhurst picked up two wins in the New Milford Holiday Winter Classic. The Golden Bears defeated Pascack Hills, 33-24, in their first game of the showcase event on Wednesday. One day later, Lyndhurst defeated New Milford, 53-35.

Thursday’s win marked the return of junior forward Asya Akar, who scored 19 points against New Milford after missing the previous two games.

Akar, Brooke Harper and Sam Mayer are all averaging in double figures for 4-2 Lyndhurst.

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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.)