By ALYSSA DESAI, sophomore & KAREN JIANG, freshman
During their first game against Sayreville, the short 10-minute halftime break was all the boys’ basketball team needed to regain their focus and cut their opponent’s double-digit lead during the next quarter. The originally lopsided game concluded with only a single point deficit. Though they didn’t win, they gained determination that has carried them through the season.
The team is captained by forward Francois Ballou (11), who has continued to score efficiently and be a role model for the team. He leads his team with 9 points per game and 95 rebounds so far in this season. He is followed by..forward Nicholas Dooley..(11)., who has 11 points per game and 4 rebounds per game, as well as guard Shlok Garg (12), who has 7 points per game and 2 three-pointers per game. From early on in the season, the team displayed valiant resilience and avoided major blowouts, as seen in the first round of the Anthony Cotoia Tournament. Their opponent, Perth Amboy, had a ten point lead with only six minutes left in the game. However, Dooley pressured Perth Amboy in the paint, the area under and adjacent to the hoop, and scored 17 points in the second half of the game. Then, guard Chiebuka “Chewy” Chukwuneke (12) quickly converted a steal into a lay-up, which was followed by a 3-pointer from Garg. Due to the efforts of these individuals, our Hawks captured a lead within four minutes. Moments like these served as encouraging reminders for the Hawks to stay alert for moments when their opponents let their guards down.
Coach Jones also has a positive outlook for the rest of the season, noting, “The coaching staff has done a good job in trying to change the sports culture around here. We are competing every game. As a coach that’s all you can ask. As far as expectations, the kids have bought into what we are trying to do. Expectations are just trying to get better every week.”
This year’s boys’ basketball team does not accept defeat. Regardless of the first-half score of a game, the team runs out of the locker room for the second half with strong morale combined with even stronger determination. Hopefully, these comebacks will reflect on the rest of the season: learning the ropes in the beginning, analyzing their opponents’ plays, and ending the season with skillfully executed plays to hamper their opponents’ games.
On the girls’ side, the Lady Hawks have paralleled the boys with an equal amount of motivation and intensity. With an influx of new players and a more rigorous training schedule, the girls’ basketball team seeks to reach new levels of success. The varsity team has a unique mix of players this year, featuring a strong lineup of talented sophomores.
Leading the Lady Hawks this year are captains Molly Yelencsics (10) and Julianna Zilli (12). Molly states that her favorite part of the season thus far has been developing a good chemistry and dynamic between the new faces on the varsity team and the veteran players. One of the new faces is Grace Kau (10), who has contributed to the team’s diverse outlook. Concerning the sudden sophomore spike on the team, she commented, “We’ve been playing together for a long time, we have a lot chemistry, and we’ve grown up with one another. It makes for a very young program, but it also makes for a lot of potential to grow as teammates.” To maintain the players’ athleticism, Coach Bonk has them running more often, which at times she says can be “tough, but I know it’s for the best.” The girls are excited to make strong impressions this year and look forward to what the rest of the season entails.
Despite a rough start to the season, the new key players and team synchronization have held up the team’s confidence and passion. Under the leadership of a strict but rewarding coach, the girls train hard with drills that emphasize teamwork. Varsity coach Bonk has been crucial in their efforts by instilling a demanding work ethic. In her second year of coaching, she has already improved her techniques, a change that the entire team has observed and benefited from.
A basketball team can sometimes be judged by their past performance, but the Lady Hawks define themselves instead by their confidence, diligence, and passion. They are consistently able to remain focused on achieving their goals and ruling the court, one game at a time.