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Pink Whistle: Thursday in North Bergen

North Bergen, NJ- The officiating calls for a girls doubleheader, freshman and JV, on Thursday at North Bergen High School.

These are two Hudson County schools and in this county it is almost rare to find schools with two sub varsity programs in girls basketball. North Bergen is hosting Kearny and both programs have enjoyed success and own a solid tradition.

My partner is the ‘boss'. Pat Devaney, is an official as well as our supervisor/assignor. He does a nice job on the floor and scheduling-wise tries to give us a mix of boys and girls games. As an assignor you can schedule yourself where you please. The flip side is the work. Handling cancellations from officials, schools, gym changes etc. Pat tells me just an hour ago he was firming up commitments with Marist High School AD Larry Arico (if the name is familiar it should be as Larry is the husband of St. John's coach Kim Barnes Arico).

From the outset in the opener it is evident neither team should be in a full court press. Their respective varsity teams utilize the press so the coaches want to teach the freshmen. Problem is, the skill set is not there. They, and the flow of the game, would be better served by the respective teams playing a half court defense. At the half the score is tied at ten.

"I sense overtime," Pat says. I say the same thing to the site manager who replies, "don't even think about it."

Just before the second half the Kearny coach informs me this is the worst her team has played all year.

"I had my best player moved up to JV," she said. Her absence has meant the lack of a consistent scorer and a change in team chemistry without her on the floor.

Late third quarter it is still tied. Kearny goes on a 6-0 spurt to close the quarter. North Bergen never recovers and Kearny wins 27-20. Earlier in the season I officiated the North Bergen freshman in an easy victory. Interesting to see how a tougher opponent stopped a lot of the penetration so evident and dominant in late December's game. The Kearny coach, and North Bergen site manager are pleased. Well, the site manager is North Bergen loyal, but was happy over no overtime.

Before the second game chat with Kearny varsity coach Jody Hill. She starred at Harrison high School during their glory days and was a very good point guard at Pace University. Jody's been at Kearny about fifteen years. She is demanding of her players but she's not a screamer and they love playing for her.

Pre-game the North Bergen JV coach says hello and ,"if I say something or get excited don't take it personally. I get into the game."

Pat and I assure her to be no problem, just no chairs thrown at us we add in humor. Actually, this doubleheader is unique as I have officiated each of the four head coaches, as well as Kearny varsity assistant Jeanne Dey, when they were in high school. The Kearny coaches played for Jody and the North Bergen coaches have returned to the sidelines of their high school alma mater.

Second game sees more full court pressure from both teams. The better skills make this more of a flowing game. Once North Bergen beats pressure they set up and run a nice half court motion offense.

The foul differential is around 8-2 against North Bergen. Coach does not complain but rather tells her team what they are doing wrong on defense that leads to fouls.

At the half Kearny leads 16-15. The second half sees the competitive contest continue. In the fourth North Bergen has edged ahead by six. North Bergen continues to run some nice motion and flex. After six or seven passes, yes that is both correct and impressive, they find a cutter down low. Unfortunately each time she cannot finish and the home club cannot get this past a two possession game. The final minute seems like eternity with the stoppages and time outs.

With just under 10 seconds to play Kearny is fouled and down four. The first shot is missed and rebounded by North Bergen. The horn goes off and the scorer's table tells us Kearny was in double bonus. Now, we lost about .7 of a second on the rebound so we adjust it. The girl from Kearny misses the second. A long rebound is loose and gathered on the perimeter. A Kearny guard from about 25 feet throws a baseball style shot. Nothing but net. I see the clock is at 4.5. The North Bergen inbounder does not have to make the pass (clock is running in high school after every basket). With about one second left she tries to inbound but a Kearny defender slaps it out as the horn sounds.

The final is 32-31 North Bergen.

A wild finish to what was an enjoyable, competitive game. Pat and I go over a few things (like that North Bergen girl forcing an inbound the final seconds) post game before hitting the road. Overall, another enjoyable two games. On the way out say good luck to Jody and Dan Riordan of North Bergen, another very good coach who has been at this address for a number of years.

Next on tap, another girls game to look forward to the following night.