'Senior Day' for the eighth graders at Our Lady of Mercy in Park Ridge, New Jersey

Our Lady of Mercy eighth graders being honored for "Senior Day". - Photo by Ray Floriani.

A New Jersey Northern Parochial league twin bill from Sunday, which included "Senior Day" activities for a group of eighth graders.

PARK RIDGE, NJ - A Northern Valley Parochial doubleheader on Sunday. The last one of the regular season. This turned out to be a split. Visiting St. Joe's took the 5-6 grade game while Our Lady of Mercy (OLM) captured the 7-8 meeting.

Haven't worked at OLM (Our Lady of Mercy in Park Ridge) in a few years and almost forgot how small it is. Even for a 5-6th grade game, it is very tight quarters.

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The camera angle makes the OLM gym look bigger than it is.

St. Joe's (Oradell) 29, OLM 12

The St. Joe's girls like to get out in transition. The size and congestion of the OLM gym is having a decided effect on their offensive attack. Defense is not affected as much because on this level because pressing is not permitted. OLM packs it in a tight 2-3 zone. That also poses problems for St. Joe's because there seems to be a defender present at the end of each pass.

Early on the St. Joe's girls are struggling. By the latter part of the second quarter they are adjusting. At the half St. Joe's has a 10-4 lead. Number three of St. Joe's , whom I officiated a few times this season. Loves to get out in transition. Lack of space forces her to adjust which she does rather well by the second half. Even with transition at a premium, the St. Joe's do a nice job moving the ball, cutting away from the ball and looking for each other.

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5-6 graders in post game line.

OLM 31, St. Joe's 18

Pre-game the St. Joe's coach tells me this is the last season game for both. The teams are battling four fourth place and the winner today has home court first round. These two will meet first round and naturally the St. Joe's coach would like to host it on her bigger floor. That back ground spices up this contest.

At OLM it is 'senior' day. In a nice gesture the OLM girls are naturally honored but St. Joe's eighth graders are also given flowers by the OLM staff.

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7-8 graders of St. Joe's still hold flowers while getting last minute pre-game instruction.

Bouquets give way to basketball. Both teams get after it. They seem to adjust pretty well to the smaller court. OLM presses early but realizing a half court approach will probably do the job, the coach uses that as a primary defense. OLM gets out to a 15-7 halftime lead. Easy baskets are non existent for St. Joe's. In fact any scoring is a struggle.

During pre-game the OLM coach told those in attendance how he coached this group since third grade. A total of 180 games over those years and several hundred practices. It shows.

While both teams were well coached and organized, was impressed on how OLM's staff sold the girls on the defensive end being, 'the real fun."

Game ends with OLM set for a home date in the upcoming playoffs. Intensity of the players changes to smiles as they exchange pleasantries on the post game line. The respective coaches also get along great as the sportsmanship they exhibit filters down to their players. Talk a few minutes with officiating partner Reggie Lawrence, whom I haven't worked with in a couple of years but always enjoy working with.

With the tournament seeding meeting later that night, we both will have to wait on possible assignments.

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