NORTH BERGEN, NJ – The county tournaments usually are hosted for varsity teams, sometimes JV . When you get a freshman tournament it is a nice way for the first year high school players to cap off their season.
Hudson County provided the freshman boys and girls with tournaments. The opportunity to officiate a girls semifinal was a nice honor and opportunity.
The semifinal game assigned to yours truly, took place about a week ago with Union City at North Bergen. By the ‘luck’ of the draw I had a Union City game the day before the semi. The Soaring Eagles hosted West Orange. The game was competitive but a victory for the visitors. Union City coach Courtney Ruane, mentioned in this area a few times, spoke after the game about her semifinal matchup the next game. Knowing I had her game there was no mention about my officiating it. If she knew, didn’t think it would have done any harm. Still, protocol called for not volunteering any information.
Interesting to see Courtney interact with her players post game, who affectionately refer to the approximately 5-10 blonde haired coach as ‘Alice In Wonderland‘. As they exit the gym, Courtney reminds them to eat a good dinner, get rest and have lunch at school tomorrow. They are teenagers and prone to not always having the best eating habits.
Game day sees both teams naturally all business. The winner moves to Saturday’s final at St. Peter’s College. For the team eliminated, their season is finished.
My partner is the assigning ‘boss’ Pat Devaney. Before taking the floor we go over a few things and watch some game film and generally discuss local basketball with North Bergen varsity coach Dan Riordan. The officials ‘room’ is a phys. ed. office at North Bergen so you rarely have the space to yourself. Riordan’s varsity is in the county playoffs in two days so he reviews the regular season meeting with the opposition, Lincoln High School of Jersey City.
Game time and the first quarter gives us a fairly even result. Neither team can get an offensive run going and were tied at six. A number of turnovers as both teams find full or half court defensive pressure not an easy situation to handle.
The second quarter, it turns out, is the key. The eight minutes Courtney and her team would dearly love to have back. The one that ultimately changed a close game and put North Bergen in the driver’s seat. North Bergen went on a 21-6 tear to take a 15 point lead into halftime. They are beating pressure and getting out for transition baskets in the open court.
The first half has moved well. Those turnovers are plenty. Fouls, not as much, which moves the game along. In quarter number three, Union City regroups and does a much better job on the defensive end. Trouble with UC is scoring. A lock of ‘easy’ baskets or any baskets is not easy to come by.
Fourth quarter, relatively even but Union City cannot make a serious challenge. The eight point deficit on the scoreboard feels like 20 as the visitors are having problems generating an attack on the offensive end. Courtney questions a no call of mine early fourth quarter. That was actually gratifying as it is the first thing she questioned with me in three games working for her team. Thought she was too polite those games.
Game ends with North Bergen a 36-24 victor and on to the finals against Bayonne at St. Peter’s Yanitelli Center. That second quarter and North Bergen size negating Union City half court opportunities proved the difference. We cross paths as she exits the gym with her team. Courtney quickly says ‘good job and thanks’ as they head to their bus and short trip home. For Union City, an end to the freshman basketball season. One where they developed as players and learned a lot about teamwork, commitment and related important attributes for a student/athlete.
Courtney would continue assisting the varsity in preparation for the state tournament. She would still be there for the freshmen as any dedicated coach and/or player will tell you there is no off season.