Rob Carcich had just witnessed his Passaic Valley Hornets capture its first conference championship since the waning days of the Jimmy Carter administration on Feb. 5 when someone asked him about the team’s upcoming game opposite DePaul Catholic in the quarterfinal round of the Passaic County Tournament.
“Are you kidding?” Carcich mused. “Not even thinking about it. We just put a banner on that (gym) wall. We’re conference champs. I’m going to enjoy this for a little while.”
Passaic Valley’s second 26 point win against Wayne Hills in the past three days assured the Hornets the Big North title while improving the team’s record to 13-6. It was something Carcich wanted for his team, big time, especially after a championship of any sort seemed remote following an embarrassing 60-41 debacle at Wayne Valley on Jan. 22.
Carcich was so aggravated during that game that he benched most of his starters for the second half.
“If you told me then that we’d win our next four games and win a conference, I would have said you were nuts,” Carcich said. “But the kids seem to finally understand what I’ve been talking about all season regarding intensity and being smart out there. They’re listening.”
Stefan Minic scored a career high 29 points in the Feb. 5 win against Hills. Freshman point guard Jihad Wright finished with 10 points and six other Hornets scored at least two points.
What the box score doesn’t indicate is the incredibly savvy play of junior captain Zach Damiano, the timely efforts of Alex Pezzino, Shawn Ulrich’s incredible potential and the ever improving play under the boards by Mike Cirrincione.
“I don’t think people understand what Pezzino has meant to this team,” Carcich said. “And Zach, that kid plays so hard every in every game, but now he’s making some incredibly efficient athletic plays on transition. Jihad is turning into a tremendous point guard. We’re getting contributions from just about everyone.”
That contribution has also been helped by a growing fan base, who took exception to the home court being dubbed ‘The Library’. The fans traveled well to Wayne Hills for the championship clincher. (Credit assistant coach Jim Holsworth for getting the fans on board).
So that brings us back to Saturday’s game with DePaul in the county quarter, at Paterson Kennedy, in a 3 p.m. start.
“Whew,” Carcich said. “We’re talking a different animal there. DePaul is good. They’re fast, tough and know how to play. We’re going to have our hands full. That’s all I’m going to say there.”
There’s also the NJSIAA tournament coming up soon. Passaic Valley has been to the past two Section 1, Group 3 finals, where it lost twice to Teaneck.
So while Carcich wanted to enjoy a championship, deep down, it’s clear the proverbial wheels are turning. And even though that now famous Carcich Meter may have leveled off, you can be assured it’ll be off the charts come game time on Saturday.