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Players, Coaches, Officials Feel the Heat at Hamilton Park

July 10, 2010 Columns No Comments

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – The mercury hit triple digits for the second straight day. This past Wednesday at the Hamilton Park Summer League, the evening start saw temperatures in a more “manageable” ninety degree range.

Newark Tech 43, Bayonne 30

In the opener of the two-game officiating assignment, Newark Tech defeated Bayonne. A week ago I had Newark Tech and the coaches weren’t too thrilled following their narrow loss to Hudson Catholic. Tonight, officials and coaches got off on a cordial start. That tone stayed the same as Tech dominated.

A big difference from the taller Newark Tech team was the second half. Despite the height advantage Tech largely relied on a three-point diet the second half against Hudson. A three-point “diet” often translates to slim pickings at the foul line. Against Bayonne, they still shot the three but made a more concerted effort to attack the basket and keep penetrating those final 16 minutes. Jarel Hall played a good floor game and scored nine for a balanced Newark Tech attack.

The Best for Last

The next of the four games on tap was the game of the night, which saw Dickinson of Jersey City erase a 12-point deficit to defeat Paramus Catholic 45-40. The Rams trailed by a dozen entering the fourth quarter. Their first two possessions saw them knock down a trey. In one minute the deficit is sliced in half. Suddenly we had a game.

Given a new-found momentum, Dickinson closed strong and negated Paramus’ size by taking advantage of transition opportunities in the open floor. The Rams went on to post an impressive win over last year’s Bergen County Champions.

I worked the last two games of the night on the officiating end with a former college coach. Del Harrison, who coached at Felician College (Rutherford, NJ) is in his first year wearing the stripes. A former player at Jersey City State (now NJC) Harrison definitely knows the game and astutely applies the principles assimilated through his playing and coaching days. He does confess to a change of heart admitting, “I was tough on officials as a coach. Now I see things a lot differently.” Not a surprise at all as the view is quite different behind the whistle as opposed to being on the bench.


  • There is no press room at Hamilton Park, but the Hamilton Inn down the block serves a dual purpose of a post-game respite (sticking to ginger ale as I must drive home) plus a location to write my column. And yes, it is air conditioned.

  • During a halftime break of PC-Dickinson ran into officiating friend Dennis Nuber. Dennis lives across the street and takes in the action when he’s not running up and down the court. I told him the night before we worked the Phillipine League in a blistering Hudson Catholic gym. That gym was the high school home of Mike O’Koren and Jim Spanarkel, but tradition aside has no AC. Dennis played high school ball at St. Michael’s, a school around the block from Hamilton Park’s court, and unfortunately, like many in Hudson County who saw the same sad fate, is no longer in operation.

    “We played Hudson with Spanarkel and O’Koren,” Dennis recalled. “We held the ball and trailed around 12-8 at the half. Their coach (the late Joe ‘Rocky’ Pope) was upset because there were college scouts in attendance, but our coach said ‘Should we run with you and lose by 30?'” St. Michael’s still held the ball and lost by about a dozen. O’Koren starred at North Carolina while Spanarkel did the same at Duke. Both went on to enjoy respectable NBA careers. Dennis? Besides officiating he is one of the city’s “finest” as a Jersey City fire fighter.

  • Hamilton Park was closed last year and the league moved a few blocks North. Mow reopened there is a new surface. Gone is the asphalt and replacing it is a synthetic surface that looks like it was assembled with Lego blocks. It’s good on the legs but players diving for loose balls are susceptible to cuts.

    The floor is done in the maroon and gold colors of St. Anthony’s. Not solely due the friar’s outstanding basketball tradition, though that didn‘t hurt. St. Anthony’s is the closest high school to Hamilton Park, roughly thee blocks away.

  • Dickinson head coach Sean Drennan let his assistant run the club while he took action from the “Jack Nicholson” seats opposite the team benches. Drennan is one of the few prep coaches with college experience. He assisted Chuck McBreen at Ramapo before taking over at Kean University for a year prior to heading to Jersey City.

  • Among those in attendance were a few administrators of the Phillipine League we worked the night before. Passionate fans who love the game at all levels, that small group remarked how much “cooler” it was in high eighties temperature as opposed to the triple-digit inferno at Hudson the night before. Cooler, yes, but it was all relative.

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