NUTLEY, NJ--Over the last month, one would be hard-pressed to find a girls basketball team playing better than Nutley High.
On Tuesday evening, the Lady Raiders won its seventh straight game, posting a 57-52 victory over visiting Payne Tech in Nutley.
Since a 1-4 start to its season, Nutley has now won 11 of its last 12 games with the only loss in that span being a 57-41 loss at Payne Tech in Newark on Jan. 13. It defeated Lodi, 64-22, on Dec. 29 to begin its streak of four straight wins before bowing to Payne Tech.
"It's like another team since the beginning of the season," said Nutley head coach Larry Mitschow. "Our team chemistry has been great. We're playing very unselfishly with a different player stepping up every night."
In the rematch with Payne Tech it was Abby Scheidel who led the way with 23 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and two assists.
McKenzie Albert added 11 points with Jaden Long adding 10 points and Liana Minichini dropping in seven points.
The last time Nutley met Payne Tech, Scheidel had a game-high 17 points and became just the seventh girls basketball player in school history to reach the 1,000 point milestone.
"They definitely knew the importance of the game against Payne Tech in our conference," said Mitschow. "Also, that was the game Abby scored her 1,000th point and the loss put a bit of a damper on that."
Scheidel, a senior guard, has now scored 301 points this season, good for an average of 17.7 points per game. Minichini (8.5 ppg.), Albert (8.2 ppg.), Long (6.7 ppg.) round out the top four scorers this winter.
The victory over Payne Tech also improved Nutley's record to 6-1 in the Liberty Division of the Super Essex Conference, a half game over West Essex (9-5 overall; 6-2 SEC Liberty).
On Saturday, Nutley won its sixth straight game with a thrilling 56-55 victory over Caldwell at home.
Scheidel (20 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, three steals) scored the game-tying 3-pointer with seven seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime and then made the game-winning 3-pointer with 10 seconds left in the extra session.
Long (11 points), Minichini (nine points), Albert (seven points), Stepnaie Luberto (seven points) and Sofia Lamond (two points) also contributed to the win.
On Monday night, the Lady Raiders (12-5) were tabbed the fourth seed for the 46th Essex County Tournament and will have a double bye into the first round on Saturday Feb. 8 where they will play host to either 13th-seeded Arts, 20th-seeded Millburn or 29th-seeded North Star Academy.
"Its the highest we've been seeded in some time," said Mitschow of the 31-team field. "We're privileged to get the No. 4 seed and hopefully we can live up to that.
"But we still have some important games to play beforehand and that's what we're really focused on," Mitschow added. "We can't afford to look ahead."
Nutley will play host to Bloomfield on Friday, Jan. 31 at 6 p.m. before traveling to meet Verona on Tuesday, Feb. 4 at 5:30 p.m.
The Lady Raiders will then play host to West Essex on Thursday, Feb. 6 in a contest that should go a long way in deciding the SEC Liberty division championship.
Nutley defeated West Essex, 57-49, the first time the schools met on Jan. 10 in North Caldwell.
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