IRVINGTON, NJ – Noel Segarra was simply ecstatic.
The first-year head coach saw his Irvington High School girls basketball team put together one of their best seasons in recent memory. The Blue Knights finished unbeaten in the Super Essex Conference-Freedom Division with an 14-0 mark to win the divisional championship. They also advanced to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group 3 state tournament semifinals where they lost to eventual champion Chatham.
After starting 3-3, the Blue Knights won 19 of their next 20 games before the loss to Chatham, finishing the season with a stellar 22-5. The one loss in that 20-game stretch came against eventual champion West Orange in the Essex County Tournament first round (round of 16).
Indeed, it was a great turnaround for the team, which went 7-16 in the 2017-18 season.
“I cannot say enough about the heart and determination of this year’s basketball team,” said Segarra, who was previously the head boys basketball coach at Union Avenue Middle School. “We overcame so much adversity and came out on top of the world! We ended the season with a remarkable 22-5 record – a huge improvement from last season.”
The Blue Knights were sparked the sensational senior duo of Tiara Mahorn and Briana Lee.
Mahorn, a forward, scored her 1,000th career point late in the season. She made 238 field goals, which led the state, and averaged 25.2 points (630 total points), 6.9 steals (179 steals), and 6.5 assists (163 assists) this season.
For her career, Mahorn finished with 1,062 points, 265 rebounds, 245 steals and 218 assists.
Lee joined the team this season after transferring from METS Charter in Jersey City. She averaged 7.7 steals per game, which was No. 1 in the state, for a total of 192 steals. She also averaged a double-double with 24.0 points (599 points) and 11.2 rebounds (279 rebounds). In addition, Lee averaged 5.0 assists (126 assists), and had 45 blocks.
In her career, Lee had 1,470 points, 613 rebounds, 325 steals, 173 assists and 109 blocks.
“We had a core group of seniors step up to lead the team – beginning with star players Briana Lee and Tiara Mahorn,” said Segarra. “The duo led the state in almost every category offensively as well as defensively the entire season. They were both amazing this season, and will look to further their playing careers at the next level.”
Segarra praised the other seniors on the team.
“Fellow senior Herbina Exume was the heart and soul of the team,” he said. “Her hard work, dedication and hustle helped pave the way to some huge wins this season.”
Junior center Aniyah Massey was another outstanding player for the Blue Knights. Massey averaged a double-double – 10.9 points (281 points) and 11.3 rebounds (295 rebounds). She also had 33 steals and 26 blocks.
“Junior Aniyah Massey improved tremendously this season as she more than doubled EVERY stat category from last season,” said Segarra. ”She averaged a double-double and will be the leader of the team next season.”
Segarra also commended the efforts of the rest of the team.
“Fellow junior Celine Ceasar filled her role as the third guard on the team and was a tremendous asset to the team,” he said. “Her additional scoring, ball-handling and defensive skills helped the team with their success. Bench players Rayna Smith, Jeneeha Lowe, Shaquana Lyle, Daniela Manasse and the rest of the JV stepped up when needed. We can’t forget senior guard Karizma Thomas, whose season ended early with a knee injury.”
The Blue Knights are looking forward to building off this great season.
“In the off-season, we will look to regroup from the tough loss of eight seniors,” Segarra said. “We will be focusing on ball-handling and on-court communication. We will be in the weight room, in the gym, and hopefully attending a few summer camps. We have the talent to continue winning next season, and we will put the effort into building confidence in our young players.
“Returning starters Aniyah Massey and Celine Ceasar will lead the way,” Segarra said. “Their leadership will guide the returning players, along with incoming freshman class full of talent. I’m looking to have sophomore guards Rayonnah Freeman and Victoria Bohneur step up and have a great year. Our post players will be in the weight room and be led by Daniela Manasse and Aniyah Massey.”
Photos by Steve Ellmore and courtesy of Noel Segarra