BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Bloomfield High School’s winter sports season, while strange because of the COVID-19 pandemic, ended on a high note as the basketball program was awarded the Thomas Wachenfeld Award for sportsmanship. Voted on by all the basketball officials in northern New Jersey, the award recognizes the exemplary sportsmanship of basketball players, cheerleaders, coaches and fans during the season.
“It’s great to be recognized for anything, but especially sportsmanship,” BHS boys basketball head coach Mike Passero said in a phone interview with The Independent Press on March 12. “We try to play tough and compete. But we always want to be good sports.”
It’s rare that more than one team at a time is honored together, as girls basketball head coach Zac Dearwater said in an email to The Independent Press on March 22.
“It is ultimately a reflection on our entire school,” he said. “There is a phrase that is always said around the high school, ‘It’s a great day to be a Bloomfield Bengal.’ Our kids believe in that, and it is reflected by their competitiveness and sportsmanship, which is being recognized by this award. It’s not often we get honors for something together, but the teams all support each other throughout every season during each team’s events.”
Both Dearwater and Passero said players on all the teams were careful to follow coronavirus protocol so they could play full seasons. Both teams got in all 15 games; the girls finished the season at 1-14 and the boys at 12-3.
“I give credit to the kids, because they were really diligent,” Passero said. “They love basketball, and they understood what they had to do. I was unsure what playing would look like, but it was largely the same on the floor.”
There were five seniors on the girls team who were playing their final season: Hannah Gulley, Natalie Lloyd, Casey Dolan, Christina Vocaturo and Melinda Hidalgo. They, along with the six seniors on the boys team, Khanye’ Tucker, Vernon Lee, Chino Anyanwu, Jahi Fisher, Daniel Colon and Andre Dean, were able to have their parents in the stands at their final game.
“At the last four games we had parents, and they were grateful to see them,” Passero said. “We had six seniors, and we were able to have them have a good day. It was a victory to be able to play.”
Dearwater is excited about the players who will be seniors next year; they are the first class he will have coached all four years of their high school career. Aliyah Sanchez, Chiara Hilario and Lucy Heyman have been varsity players since they were freshmen.
“I am looking forward to seeing how another (rising) senior, Anaya Glaude, will improve going into next year,” Dearwater said. “I am looking forward, and so are the girls, to getting back to a normal season, hopefully, or as close to normal as possible.”
Photos Courtesy of Steve Jenkins