CEDAR GROVE, NJ - To his coach he represents determination and heart, setting an example for his teammates both on and off the basketball court.  With big shoes to fill in his senior season Michael Lubrano rose to the challenge becoming indispensable to his team. Lubrano is the Allstate Cedar Grove Athlete of the Week.  The Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Shelby Mobley, Allstate Insurance Agent, 471 Pompton Ave., Cedar Grove. 

“Mike Lubrano has been our most consistent player all season long. He's one of those guys this year where you can not afford not to have him on the floor,” said Head Coach T.J. Jones.  “All year he has met the standard we have set for our players both on and off of the hardwood. With Mike Pronesti graduating last year as an all-league player, Lubrano stepped in and filled some big shoes without missing a beat.”

With a 7-15 record, the Panthers’ season has had some rough spots, but Lubrano feels they have the right momentum as they head into the state tournament.

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“The season didn’t start off so great and we’re 7-15, but I don’t feel that we’re a 7-15 team,” Lubrano said.  “We’ve been doing well lately and earned a tenth seed in the the state tourney so we’re hoping to make a good run in states.”

Two games against West Essex stand out for the Lubrano this season -- the first in the holiday tournament and the second in the county tournament.  

“I don’t really score a lot -- I’m more of a defensive player and in the Christmas tournament I had a big rebound and steal to seal the win,” he noted.  “In the county tournament we had just played West Essex a few days before and lost by 20 points which definitely upset us, but we stepped up and beat them.  I got hurt during that game, but I came back and I think I just played really well.”

“As a undersized forward, Mike makes up for what he lacks in size, with pure determination, out working and out hustling others at the forward position,” said Jones.  “He has done a remarkable job defending good players in the post with just heart.”

Lubrano names chemistry as the team’s biggest strength this year, noting that most of the Panthers have been playing together for years.  The decision of a few seniors to leave the team mid-season disrupted that chemistry a bit, but Lubrano feels the team is rebounding from that loss.  

“We’ve had to deal with some tough losses.  We’ve had several seniors leave the team for different reasons and we’ve all been upset by that because we’ve all played together for a while, but it’s a bump in the road and we’ve been getting better every single practice so I’m looking forward to states,” he said.  “We’re hoping to make a run and cause some upsets so we’ll see how far we can get.”

As for his Athlete of the Week honor, Lubrano said he was surprised and pleased with the recognition for a sport that he loves, particularly as his high school basketball career comes to a close.

“Basketball is my favorite sport.  I’ve been playing it for as long as I can remember.  I love everything about it and I love playing with this team and getting a chance to be a leader,” he said.  “It doesn’t matter what our record is - I’ve loved playing with my team. It’s been a great year.”

The Cedar Grove Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Shelby Mobley Allstate, 471 Pompton Avenue, Cedar Grove. 

TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove  is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.

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