IRVINGTON – For the past two summers, Irvington High School head girls’ varsity basketball coach Rashawnah French and her assistant coach, Salim Liab, prepared their team through summer leagues and AAU ball, while also working out the players individually.
The hard work paid dividends as the Lady Blue Knights enjoyed a successful season this year, finishing with an impressive 16-10 record.
Indeed, the Blue Knights have turned around their fortunes, after posting just one win and two wins in French’s first two seasons in 2013 and 2014, respectively. The Blue Knights made strides last season while finishing 5-16.
“It was definitely an improvement,” said French, one day after her 14th-seeded team lost at third-seeded West Morris in the first round of the state North Jersey Section 2, Group 3 tournament on Feb. 29 to end the season. “We got better each year with the players and winning games. But we definitely put a lot of time in the offseason. We raised money and had them playing in AAU basketball, and play in two leagues – one in Kearny and one in Jersey City – over the summer time.
“My assistant coach and I worked them out individually in the summer. We worked diligently to try to get them better.”
The Blue Knights were red-hot entering the tournament, winning six in a row following the Essex County Tournament loss to Mount Saint Dominic Academy in the second preliminary round on Feb. 9.
The Blue Knights’ starters this season consisted of three valuable seniors in center/forward Jasmine Williams, forward Atonie Johnson and point guard Jakiyah Martin.
The other two starters were Jessica Washington and Rhoda Agyemang, both junior guards. Washington was the team’s leading scoring.
Junior forward Tiffany Terrell was the team’s main reserve.
Sophomore forward Faith Northern and sophomore guard Colette Meremikwu also saw varsity time, though they mainly played on the Junior Varsity.
Though they will miss the three seniors, French is hoping the team can continue to build upon this season’s success. And hopefully that will start with another productive summer.
“That’s what we are trying to do,” said French of her goal of having the Blue Knights continue playing in the summer. “We definitely have to fund-raise in order for us to do that. But that is our goal, for us to play in a summer league and hopefully do some AAU basketball as well, just to keep them playing and getting them familiar with the game.”