JERSEY CITY, NJ - A tough test for St. Dominic, hosting a North Bergen team that beat them by about 50 a year ago. The junior varsity game at St. Peter’s Prep did see host St. Dominic coming in with some momentum, having defeated Dickinson on Saturday. This day was a tall order, literally and figuratively.
The Bruins have size, like to pressure, and have a few perimeter shooters, an enviable combination on this level. My partner Bill had North Bergen earlier this season and before the game, gave the aforementioned scouting report. I have had them in the past and their system maintains continuity.
North Bergen’s varsity coach is Dan Reardon. One of the best coaches in Hudson County, Reardon works very hard with interest on all levels of the program. His JV and freshman coaches played for him, another example of former players coming home to give back to the program.
First half: North Bergen 33, St. Dominic 13
The Bruins come out pressuring and St. Dom’s has trouble handling it. The only field goal for the home team the first six minutes is a foul line jumper. If they break the press, St. Dom’s does not finish it off going to the basket. North Bergen has a post player with size and a soft touch, as well as a wing knocking down a few threes, obviously a tough combination to defend. Just past the midway point of the second quarter, the Bruins lead 31-8 and the press is pulled off. They fall back into a 2-3 zone. During a timeout late in the second quarter, Bill and I discuss the fouls - seven to four against St. Dom’s. They are losing by over 20 and have more fouls. It happens. As we agree, the calls are being made. It is a situation where St.Dom’s is just having trouble staying with the Bruins and fouling, mostly on penetration to the basket. On offense, they are basically shooting perimeter shots and not putting themselves in a position to draw fouls.
Final: North Bergen 49, St. Dominic 23
St. Dom’s coach Kaitlyn Galati usually reserves this for the locker room talks. Kaitlyn lets her team hear it during a timeout. She wants no complacency and is looking for some better execution on offense. Her Blue Devils seem to get the message. They run their 1-3-1 zone offense better in the second half. North Bergen has gone deep to their bench and still has a commanding lead. Over the final 16 minutes, St. Dom’s is outscored 16-10, a much more respectable showing than the first half.
As noted before, the Bruins had the inside and perimeter game that was tough to match. They did beat St. Dom’s to a number of loose balls, especially in the first half. Loose balls are secured by hustle. North Bergen had it, which is another reason Kaitlyn lit a fire under her team during that timeout. Bill made a good point in how North Bergen’s pressure goes for deflections rather than steals, a good way to avoid reach-in fouls and those deflections can lead into steals.
I spoke to Kaitlyn and St. Dom’s varsity coach John Hester as the varsity was warming up for their meeting with North Bergen. The JV has three wins, an improvement from a year ago. As Hester notes, an encouraging aspect is numbers. “Last season, we barely had enough players for a JV game,” he said. “Having a good number of kids out is something to build on. Getting more interested in the program is a big step.”
Kaitlyn was encouraged by a better second half. “I think they got the message during that timeout,” she said. A year ago, St. Dom’s barely hit double figures against North Bergen. On this day, 23 points and a near-even second half is progress in small steps, but still progress.