NUTLEY, NJ - When the 2021 season began for the Nutley High girls basketball team, head coach Larry Mitschow did not have high expectations.
"I'm very realistic, so coming into this year knowing we were very young I put us on a two-year plan," said Mitschow. "We have no seniors, so our goals were to develop team chemistry, stay healthy and build towards next year."
Nutley suffered a setback before the season even began when Mitschow tested positive for the coronavirus himself in late January forcing the postponement of the season for two additional weeks as the team was in quarantine protocol.
"I felt terrible for the girls knowing how much they wanted to play," said Mitschow. "I was tough to get going again, but it was great to finally be able to have basketball again."
This year, Nutley (2-7) is playing the highest caliber competition in the American Division of the Super Essex Conference a season after winning the SEC Liberty Division championship.
"Its a tough league for sure, and we knew it would be difficult," said Mitschow. "But we've been shown improvement and that can only happen by playing consistently."
A year ago, Nutley fashioned a 19-9 record led by senior guard Abby Scheidel, who finished her stellar career with 1,351 points, the fifth most in school history.
Highlights thus far this season include a 47-33 home victory over Payne Tech on Feb. 13 and a 38-31 road win at Clifton on Feb. 19.
Against Payne Tech, the Lady Maroon Raiders were led by Mackenzie Albert, Stephanie Luberto and Liana Minichini, who each scored a game-high 10 points.
Minichini, a sophomore, scored a game-high 18 points, including four 3-pointers, to key the victory over Clifton.
Nutley also played very well in close defeats to Glen Ridge (39-30 on Feb. 15) and East Orange (28-27 on Feb. 20).
"Those results were encouraging," said Mitschow. "As well as the fact that we played West Essex much better the second time."
Nutley opened its season with a 63-18 loss at West Essex in North Caldwell on Feb. 11 before losing by just 18 points (40-22) on Feb. 25.
This year's squad is led by juniors Albert, Alex Twomey, Nicole Cicchetti and Lumberto, sophomores Minichini and Megan Riccardi and freshmen Mina Shaw, Riley Sebastiano, Morgan Dolaghan and Anna Green.
Albert leads the team with a 7.1 scoring average.
"Mackenzie has been a consistent, steady player for us," said Mitschow. "I'm very excited about our freshman group as well. There is a lot of potential there."
With this truncated 2021 season set to come to a close this week, Nutley will look to get a few more wins under its belt when it plays host to Weehawken on Tuesday, March 2 and East Orange Campus on Thursday, March 4 both at 4 p.m. before playing at Wood-Ridge on Friday, March 5 at 4 p.m.
"I think we can be competitive in those games," said Mitschow. "I'm thankful that we've been able to play even in a shortened season and want to keep improving."
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