By: Jacob Rogovin
The boys JCHS basketball team got off to a rough start, beginning the season with a two and five record losing their first three games. They had trouble gelling early on and it was obvious they needed to get more used to playing together. They lost their first game at home 31 to 47 against Barringer, a team that has given the Chiefs trouble in the past. Junior Hunter Smith continued to keep them in the game by hitting four 3-pointers, until Barringer pulled away in the fourth quarter. The next loss for the Chiefs came against Cedar Grove in the first round of the West Essex Area Holiday Tournament. Caldwell later lost to West Essex in the consolation round of the tournament.
However, the season was not all bad as the Chiefs got their first win at Nutley on January 4. Hunter Smith scored nine points for Caldwell, which overcame a four-point halftime deficit to beat Nutley 39-30. Juniors Brian Zales and Nick Berlangieri added to Smith’s 9 points by having 8 points each. Caldwell lost it’s next two games to Milburn and Verona, but then beat American University 50 to 34. Zales and senior Steve Brown led Caldwell to a 21-8 third quarter run where they pulled away from American University.
One of the biggest stories of this year’s basketball team was sophomore Austin Scott transferring from Gill St. Bernard, one of the top teams in the state. There Scott started on the junior varsity team and dressed for the varsity team. At Gill St. Bernard Scott practiced every day with some of the top basketball players in the state and even ESPN’s number 10 ranked sophomore in the country. Since Scott transferred during the school year, league rules say he has to wait to play. He will make his debut as a Chief on Tuesday, January 21 against West Side. When asked how Scott could help the team he said, “I can bring some energy to the team and hopefully some stable point guard play. My job is just to get the offense started, and get into the paint to distribute the ball. We’ve had a lot of turnovers early on in the season and I’m just going to try and take care of the ball so we have less turnovers.”
Looking forward, Caldwell is going to have to lean on Smith, Zales, and Scott to help them get more wins. Scott says, “Our big men such as Nick B, Brian Zales, and senior Sean Clarkin have played really well and I think it’s big for them to play well and score inside so we can open up the opposing defense.” JCHS looks forward to seeing how the rest of the season goes and wishes the basketball team the best of luck.