Belleville HS girls’ basketball team perseveres while making steady progress

BELLEVILLE – For the Belleville High School girls’ varsity basketball team, this season is based on team development.

That is head coach Liz Ramirez’s main goal for her Lady Buccaneers.

The Bucs earned their third win of the season on Jan. 19 as they defeated Golda Och Academy, 38-35, at home. Junior Gianna Benacquista had an outstanding game as she led the way with 14 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks and three steals. Senior Priscilla Olivarria added 12 points, five rebounds and two steals.

“We came out strong after a discussion at halftime and had our best quarter, outscoring them 17 to 5 in the third quarter,” Ramirez said.

Unfortunately after the game, the Bucs placed two players on the injured list with ankle injuries. Senior Janae Bryant will be out for the remainder of the season, and freshman Jehann Dabon has yet to be cleared, to return for play, according to Ramirez.

The Bucs lost to Cedar Grove, 56-14, Feb. 2 at home. “The loss of two key players has really hurt us, but it has impressed on the remaining players, the need to step up, and increase their contributions,” Ramirez said. Freshman Yanyczka Flores was the lead scorer with five points, and sophomore Emani Hill led on the boards with nine rebounds.

BHS lost to Glen Ridge, 54-27, Feb. 4 at Glen Ridge. Hill led the way with seven points and eight rebounds. “After a very slow start, we played a better second quarter, tying Glen Ridge for the quarter at 13 points,” Ramirez said.

The Bucs, seeded 29th, lost at 16th-seeded Caldwell, 57-27, in the Essex County Tournament first preliminary round on Feb. 6. “We played a very composed first quarter, regardless of being pressed, and ended the first quarter only down by three baskets,” Ramirez said. “We tied the last quarter score at 11-11, which is a testament to our team philosophy that we never give up. Sophomore Emani Hill led in rebounds with 14. Freshman Yanyczka Flores, who has been called upon to play more minutes, due to team injuries, has risen to the challenge and led all scorers with eight points, shot 75 percent from the foul line, and sank a three-point shot late in the fourth quarter.

“We hope to have freshman point guard Jehann Dabon return to the lineup this coming week,” added Ramirez.

The Bucs, who have a 3-12 record, have shown signs of improvement, much to Ramirez’s delight.

“This is still a rebuilding year, and we are focusing on teaching the game. We have seen steady improvements this year, on an individual basis, but finally we are starting to see improvements, in team cohesiveness,” she said. “We have improved on working as a team, to break the press, and understand the importance of positioning, angles, and timing in order to be able to do that consistently.”