Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Record / By  Mark J. Czerwinski

John Sterling knew what was coming.

“I’d gone to a ton of rec league games and travel league games,” said the Secaucus head coach. “I knew about these girls since they were younger, and I knew there was some real talent coming up.”

But having young talent and doing something with it are two different things. Sterling was able to find the right mix with his impressive collection of underclassmen, leading the Patriots to a program-record 28 victories and earning The Record Girls Basketball Coach of the Year honors.

“I knew there was talent, but still, you never know,” said Sterling, who had two seniors and one junior on his roster. “You never know how they are going to react playing against seniors and against tougher competition. You just hope they would adjust.”

The Patriots did more than simply adjust. Sterling’s Group 1 team beat four Group 4 teams, including North 1, Group 4 champion Eastside and won the NJIC Liberty Division with a perfect 14-0 record. They reached the Hudson County tournament final for the first time, losing 48-43 in double overtime to Lincoln.

The Patriots also made their second appearance in the North 2, Group 1 title game, losing to Bloomfield Tech, 39-35. They finished No. 3 in The Record’s final girls basketball Top 25, the highest ranked Group 1 team.

“The girls did a great job,” Sterling said. “We had a couple of very frustrating losses down the stretch, but hopefully, it’s something we’ll be able to build off of in years to come.”