Carcich-led Wayne Hills improves to 7-0, as former PV coach ‘returns’ to old stomping grounds; Jake Belli standing out for Patriots, along with Thaker, Sanfilippo, Ademi and Woods

Rob Carcich admitted that coaching a game at Passaic Valley, as an opponent, felt a little strange. But such was the case on Jan. 3, as Carcich took his undefeated Patriots into Little Falls and came out a winner, 61-47.

Hills improved to 7-0 with the win and prepared for its biggest game of the season, against Wayne Valley, on Jan. 8, at Hills. On Jan. 10, the Patriots welcome another strong team, Fair Lawn, to its gym, for a 7 p.m. game. On Jan. 13, Hills takes on Dwight-Englewood High, at St. Joseph Regional, in Montvale, starting at 2:30 p.m. and on Jan. 15, Montville comes to Wayne for a 7 p.m. start.

Passaic Valley head coach Jim Holsworth (right) shares a light moment with Wayne Hills counterpart Rob Carcich. The two are colleagues at PV and Holsworth was an assistant to Carcich for 3 years at Passaic Valley. (Click on photo for larger image)

Carcich had spent 12 seasons as Passaic Valley’s head coach and put together 11 straight winning campaigns, as well as a state sectional championship, in 2007 and a conference title in 2013. He had won over 200 games at PV, before stepping down to take an administrative role at Passaic Valley after the 2015-2016 season.

Jake Belli was the MVP of the Jack Stone Holiday Tournament. Belli is Wayne Hills’ leading scorer, as Patriots are 7-0. (Click on photo for larger image)

Now back on the sidelines as a coach, Carcich found the game at PV a little surreal.

“It was strange,” said Carcich. “Obviously, I know (Passaic Valley head coach) Jim (Holsworth) very well. He was my assistant for three years and we both teach at PV now. We kept it low-keyed, but knowing all the PV players, from the youth summer league days and now, as students, it was different. I’m glad we got the win, but I think our Wayne Hills kids know we can play better.”

Hills had all it could handle from a young PV squad before putting the game away with an 18-10 fourth quarter run. Jake Belli had a tremendous game for Hills, with a game-high 21 points while Nebi Ademi and Pulast Thaker scored 12 each and Jason Sanfilippo had 10 points. All of Hills’ points came from its starting five.

“Passaic Valley played hard,” said Carcich. “Jim is doing a real good job with the program and I’m happy he has a lot of talented young kids. They have a good future ahead of them.”

Holsworth had a lot of praise for Hills and Belli.

“Obviously Rob is a great coach,” said Holsworth. “And Jake is such a talented player. There’s nothing he can’t do well on the court.”

The Patriots had a good week during the Christmas holiday, winning three games and the championship of the Jack Stone Holiday Tournament, at St. Mary High, in Rutherford.

Hills defeated Perth Amboy, 57-26, on Dec. 26, Indian Hills, 63-33, on Dec. 28 and St. Mary, 79-45, on Dec. 30. Belli led Hills in scoring in all three games and was named the tournament’s outstanding player.

“We got a good team effort in all three games,” said Carcich. “Jake is our go-to guy, but I really like the way everyone contributes. As I’ve said a few times, this is a great group of kids to work with. I couldn’t be happier.”

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By mike051893

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