An upstairs view of St. Dominic Academy vs. North Bergen varsity game. (Photo courtesy of Ray Floriani)
BY RAY FLORIANI
Jersey City, NJ - Back in Jersey City. The location is St. Peter’s Prep. A school known for its athletic prowess, especially on the hardwood and gridiron, ‘Prep’ has a storied tradition deep in academia and service. The campus is in lower Jersey City, not far from the financial district. In fact, upon parking my car, I pass men and women in neat business attire making their way home from a day at the office.
On this evening, it is girls' basketball on tap. St. Dominic Academy is facing North Bergen in a JV contest. St. ‘Dom’s’ is an outstanding school in its own right educating young women. The school is located about a mile west, right by Saint Peter’s University. Having no gym, they have roamed around town. One year was the Jersey City Boys and Girls club, with little or no heat. Another, St. Aloysius on West Side Avenue, with a gym slightly bigger than a postage stamp.
Prep is a great fit. Excellent floor, good size, and very good location. I arrived in the third quarter of the varsity game. North Bergen is running away with this one. The pressure and half court defense of the Bruins are no match for St. Dominic’s.
Our ‘locker room’ is a football coach’s office upstairs. After a pregame conference with my partner, we head down to take the floor. It turns out that yours truly has officiated both coaches games in high school. The North Bergen JV coach played for the Bruins. The St. Dominic coach, Kaitlyn Gelati, is the daughter of officiating friend Greg Gelati, and Kaitlyn played at Rutherford High School.
From the early going, it was all North Bergen. Full court pressure helped the Bruins run off 18 straight points. St. Dominic’s banked in a three for the first score. Having only six girls against a deep North Bergen was not helping matters. By the second quarter, the full court press was off and pressure was at half court. The first half ended with North Bergen in complete control, 41-8.
A player St. Dominic did not have the first half joins the club. She probably played a few quarters in the varsity game, and by state law, was limited in her JV appearance. She was St. Dominic’s best player on the floor, but that did not alter the course of the game.
I was impressed with North Bergen having several ball handlers, more than you normally see on JV. St. Dominic’s struggled to run an offense. They did execute a few nice plays, but for the most part it was forced shots and/or ill-advised three-point attempts. Getting back on defense was another sore point, as North Bergen got out and often beat them down the floor on the dribble alone. This one was all North Bergen. The final was 61-13.
Afterward, I got to chat with Kaitlyn Gelati a bit. Recalling her Rutherford Bulldog days and how time flies, she then confided, “we have improved. You should have seen us earlier in the season.” I told her that on this level, that is the bottom line. Are the kids improving? Are they enjoying the game? Despite the score, the answer to both questions was an emphatic yes.
Working at a Catholic school, the good Jesuits seemed to have a reminder outside the officials' room: