NUTLEY, NJ — The Nutley High School girls basketball team, under 10th-year head coach and NHS alumnus Larry Mitschow, is having a solid season this winter.
The Lady Raiders, who were looking to bounce back from last year’s 2-10 shortened season, had a three-game winning streak through Jan. 18, when they defeated University, 43-28, in a Super Essex Conference–American Division game at home to improve to a 5-3 overall record and 2-1 in the division.
Mitschow is grateful that the team is competing, considering the COVID-19 issues.
“First off, I am so happy we are able to be in the gym playing basketball with everything that is going on around us,” he said to the Nutley Journal on Jan. 19. “I just want my team to stay healthy and get a full season of basketball in. They are a great bunch of ladies to coach, and I am loving every minute of it so far. We sit at 5-3 after winning our last three in a row, including wins over West Essex, Clifton, and University. Our losses have been to three very good teams, in my opinion. I was very excited we knocked off University yesterday for the first time in four years. That was an intense game, and we kept our composure throughout.”
Mitschow also has been pleased with his team’s balanced contributions.
“We have been getting balanced scoring and great team efforts over the past couple weeks,” he said. “Leading the way offensively have been senior Alex Twomey, 10 points per game; senior Mackenzie Albert, 8 points a game; and sophomore Anna Green, 6 points a game. Lately, we have been getting great production from senior Stephanie Luberto, sophomore Riley Sebastiano and freshman Grace Christie.”
Mitschow cited his team’s solid depth. He also has been emphasizing the importance of defense. “We work every practice on team defense and helping each other out,” he said.
Mitschow said the three senior captains — Albert, Twomey and Luberto — provide great leadership.
Albert scored a season-high 23 points in the 60-15 win at Clifton on Jan. 15 and then scored 11 points in the win over University.
Twomey has scored in double figures in five of eight games played. She had 17 points in the 35-32 win over Lyndhurst on Dec. 28 in the William Masopust Jr. Classic hosted by Lodi. Nutley finished runner-up in the round-robin tournament by winning two of three games. They beat Lodi, 54-17, to open the tournament Dec. 27. After beating Lyndhurst, NHS fell to Indian Hills, 37-21, Dec. 30.
Twomey also had 15 points, seven rebounds and four steals in the 42-34 win at West Essex on Jan. 13 in North Caldwell.
Luberto scored 6 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the win over West Essex.
Mitschow also has been impressed by the sophomores and freshmen. Sebastiano had a team-high 13 points in the win over University. Green had 11 points against West Essex.
Mitschow is looking forward to the rest of the season.
“Our goal moving ahead will be to continue to improve as a team and individually, to get a top-7 seed in the Essex County Tournament, and a top-8 seed in the state tournament,” he said. “We would love to play host to at least one game in each of those tournaments. I think if that happens, we can pull off an upset or two! We have a bunch of home games coming up, so it will be nice to see our fans back in the gym, as well.”
Notes: The Raiders, under Mitschow, won the 2014-2015 North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3, championship, led by Blair Watson, who was a junior on that team, after being runner-up in the sectional tournament the previous season. Watson was named a McDonald’s All-American as a senior and finished with a school-record 2,127 points for her career. She continued her career at the University of Maryland.
The assistant coaches are Matt Francello and Kara McNish.
Mitschow, a NHS graduate, served as a NHS assistant boys basketball coach prior to becoming the NHS girls head coach. Overall, he is in his 24th year of coaching at NHS.
Nutley is seeded No. 6 in the ECT
The Lady Raiders received the No. 6 seed in the 31-team Essex County Tournament.
Nutley received a bye in the preliminary round and will host a first-round game on Saturday, Feb. 5, Newark Academy, No. 11, will host a preliminary-round game against the play-in winner between No. 27 Shabazz and No. 22 Newark Collegiate. The winner of that preliminary round will face Nutley.
Photo Courtesy of Larry Mitschow/NHS head coach