HILLSIDE – If you want to succeed on the court and in the classroom you need to have a certain amount of confidence.
The Hillside girls basketball team is not lacking that key component.
“We’re ready for more competition,” exclaimed senior guard Quanajah Felder after the Comets, according to first-year head coach Jaleel Taylor, made history Saturday by producing the program’s first-ever 10-game winning streak.
Hillside improved to 12-2 overall and leads the Union County Conference’s Sky Division at 7-0 after dominating division rival Roselle Park 58-25 Saturday.
Hillside has already surpassed last year’s win total, the Comets finished 11-11, and is off to its best start since the 2012-2013 team went 15-8, including a nine-game winning streak.
“Our guards are strong, aggressive and fast and our 5-8 players are just as good as our 6-1 players are,” said Felder, who paced all scorers Saturday with an 18-point effort, all of them coming after the first quarter.
Hillside added Mountain Division foe Scotch Plains to its schedule, with the Comets to host the Raiders Monday at 4 p.m.
Hillside will then continue with Sky Division games at Rahway Thursday at 4 p.m. and then back at home against Brearley on Feb. 4, which just might be the day that the Union County Tournament is seeded.
“We would like to get a home game in the counties and the states,” Taylor said. “In the county tournament we would love to get past the first round and then see what happens.”
Hillside began the season with a 48-45 home win over Fort Lee. The Comets then won one of three games at Paterson Kennedy, defeating PK 57-31 in between falling to Morris County foes Morristown 61-32 and Montville 63-37.
As of Saturday the only two teams in Union County that had not lost to a Union County opponent were Mountain Division leader New Providence and Hillside. New Providence, Union County’s only undefeated team, was 15-0 overall and 6-0 in the Mountain Division as of Saturday.
The winning streak Hillside is presently on started with a 66-30 triumph at Barringer on Jan. 4. All but one of its last 10 wins have come by double digits. The exception was its 48-39 Sky Division win at Roselle Park on Jan. 11.
“Today against Roselle Park we started slow and then picked it up in the second quarter,” said Taylor, who was previously an assistant coach at Hillside for three years, the first under Sjocquelyn Winstead and the last two under Patricia Mayo.
The first quarter was nothing to write home about for either team Saturday, but Hillside did manage to come out of it with an 8-0 lead. Senior forward Jasmine Sullivan produced the game’s first field goal just 38 seconds away from the start of the second quarter. Junior guard Keilyn Quiros then connected on the game’s first three-point field goal with just 20 seconds remaining in the first.
Felder scored the first four points of the second quarter, both inside baskets, and later hit two threes to give her 10 points and Hillside a 23-6 advantage at intermission.
“I wasn’t scared of contact at all today,” Felder said. “I drove and got my and-1s.”
Felder is on varsity for the fourth season and a three-year starter. She also owns a 3.20 grade-point average and is seeking to play at the next level, getting looks from several Division 3 schools.
“She’s learning to be a pure shooter,” Taylor said. “She’s just a great athlete.”
The Hillside captains this year Felder, Sullivan, Gillens and Quiros.
Sullivan is also a four-year varsity player and three-year starter.
“She’s a workhorse,” Taylor said. “She’s considering playing at Kean University.”
Gillens just played her first game as a Comet Friday when Hillside won at Union 51-24. She had to sit out 30 days after transferring from Essex County school Columbia.
Gillens, who poured in 15 points Saturday vs. Roselle Park, also did all of her scoring after the second quarter. She drove to the basket many times with authority.
“She’s our floor general,” Taylor said. “She’s also aggressive on the defensive side of the ball.”
Gillens is getting looks from Division 3 school Geneva College.
Quiros can step up and hit a big three-pointer if you don’t get a hand in her face as well as drive to the hoop no matter how crowded the middle may be.
“She has the best court vision and IQ,” Taylor said. “She’s also the first one in the gym and the last to leave, which goes to her dedication.”
Another key junior is 6-1 center Liyah Allen, who finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds Saturday.
“She played at Steinert her freshman year and then started for us last year,” Taylor said. “She’s getting looks from NJIT and Rutgers. She’s really blossomed.”
Although Hillside plays in the UCC’s lowest division as far as strength of schedule, none of that means anything to Felder.
“We will go back to practice and continue to work even harder to improve,” Felder said. “It doesn’t matter who we play, bring them on.”
Roselle Park senior Emma Cieslinski paced her team with a fine, 12-point effort Saturday, including her team’s only three-point basket. The Panthers played hard right until the very end.
NOTES: The 2012-2013 Comets had a nine-game winning streak snapped at Johnson 51-46 after starting 12-3. That Hillside team went 1-1 in UCT play as the 11th seed and then 1-1 in the CJG2 playoffs as the ninth seed.
Taylor grew up in Hillside, attending school there from grades K-9, and then transferred to Elizabeth, where he graduated from in 2009. He played football there for head coach Chet Parlavecchio, starting for the first time as a junior in 2007.
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-SKY DIVISION
GIRLS BASKETBALL AT HILLSIDE HIGH SCHOOL
Roselle Park (3-8, 1-6) 00 06 07 12 – 25
Hillside (12-2, 7-0) 08 15 21 14 – 58
ROSELLE PARK PANTHERS (25):
4-Gabby Fernandes, junior, 1-0-0-2
10-Bianca Palacios, junior, 0-0-1-1
22-Angela Amaya, junior, 2-0-0-4
24-Miranda Taveras, sophomore, 1-0-2-4
41-Emma Cieslinski, senior, 3-1-3-12
12-Julianna Pierre, sophomore, 1-0-0-2
Starters: Palacios, Pierre,
Amaya, Taveras, Cieslinski.
HILLSIDE COMETS (58):
15-Quanajah Felder, senior, 5-2-2-18
2-Gia Gillens, senior, 6-0-3-15
10-Liyah Allen, junior, 5-0-0-10
4-Kaiba McDowell, freshman, 1-0-0-2
22-Keilyn Quiros, junior, 1-2-0-8
3-Raniyah Green, freshman, 0-0-2-2
25-Jasmine Sullivan, senior, 1-0-1-3
1-Mary Williams, junior, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Allen, Sullivan,
Green, Felder, Gillens.