Doris Ilic speaks highly of Jillian Jover.
She mentions the work ethic Jover has used to weave herself into the fabric of the North Bergen system in such a short amount of time. She applauds the courage of a freshman willing to sacrifice her own well being to draw a charge. And, she notes the inspiring effect the shifty point guard has when she makes her way inside with utter disregard for the sizeable defenders that salivate over her pending arrival, braced to send one of her bids into Newark Bay.
To go so far as to say Ilic, a seasoned 5-10 senior guard, looks up to her diminutive playmaker would be a stretch only if taken in the literal sense when you consider how she towers a full foot above her backcourt partner.
“She gets me so motivated,” Ilic said of the 4-10 Jover. “I can’t believe someone so tiny can be so strong. She makes me strong. Seeing her going hard makes me want to go hard. It gets me so excited.”
Jover is having no problem influencing those surrounding her in a positive manner. Ilic drew energy from the three charges Jover absorbed against Bayonne, showing her appreciation by revealing nearly every facet of her offensive repertoire. Fellow seniors Amanda Rivera and Nerylix Cerda made notable contributions on offense as well as the boards and North Bergen rode the crest of a complete team performance to sting the host Bees with a 56-49 victory on Thursday night in front of a packed house in Bayonne.
“If I lose my composure, I let the whole team down,” said Jover, whose efforts extended far beyond her three points and five assists, of taking the body blows in stride. “My dad taught me a lot. I’ve been playing since I was young. I just attack all the time.”
“She’s fearless,” North Bergen coach Dan Reardon said. “She’s a real basketball junkie. One of the things that she does best is go fast.”
That trait was a perfect fit for a first half that breezed along at a breakneck pace. Bayonne (8-2), No. 15 in the MSG Varsity New Jersey Top 15, had the better of it early, racing to a 7-0 lead but by the time intermission came, North Bergen (8-2) had seized a lead that it never surrendered.
With the contest locked up at 17-17 due in part to nine of Ilic’s game-high 19 points, the off-guard showed her charitable side with two feeds that Cerda converted into layups to send the Bruins into the break with a 21-19 edge.
A 3-pointer by junior Aneia Williams (14 points, 10 rebounds) pulled Bayonne even at 25-25 with 5:24 left in third. North Bergen countered with an 8-0 run, fueled by two piercing drives by Ilic sandwiched around one charge call drawn by Jover to open a 33-25 gap.
Bayonne embarked on one final charge in the fourth behind its presence along the arc. Alex Fajardo (13 points) was fouled in the act of shooting a three and made the three subsequent foull shots, before Jessenia Montalvo, who topped the Bees with 16 points, ran off 10 of the next 11 points to forge a 45-45 deadlock with 4:05 to play.
Jover steadied North Bergen, finding Cerda in the high post, where she spun and finished on the block and throwing a wicked crossover move to gain the lane for her only field goal of the game. Ilic finished underneath on a nifty in-bounds pass from Cerda, who picked up 13 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, as the Bruins outscored Bayonne, 11-4, over the last 3:17 to grab the win.
Gregg Lerner covers girls basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @gregglerner