VERONA, NJ - Senior Andrew Emanuilidis is proving to be a leader both on and off the court for Verona boys basketball.  With 300 points this season he leads the team and is tied for the most rebounds at 74. Emanuilidis is the TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove Hillbilly Athlete of the Week.

“Emanuilidis has been great,” said head coach Eric McElroy.  “Just this week he scored 13 points against Millburn in a win, 15 points against North Star in a loss, and 13 points in the win against Cedar Grove.”

With a 13-11 record for the season, Verona has had some ups and downs, but seems to be hitting some momentum as the state tournament looms.

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“The season’s gone pretty well.  We really hit our stride in the middle, playing great team defense and scoring well,” Emanuilidis said.  “Then we had a little bit of tough time because we were playing some deep competition -- we played East Orange twice and Central.  Those are tough teams to keep up with, but we’ve had some nice wins the last two weeks and it’s always nice to have a few wins before playoffs.”

Emanuilidis credits strong defense and team chemistry for the team’s solid performance, citing rebounding as its biggest challenge.

“Our team defense is definitely our biggest strength. Everyone buys in, we’re constantly doubling and helping each other out,” he explained.  “And rebounding is the biggest challenge. We’re just not a real tall team. I think our tallest player is 6’2 so we constantly have to fight and box out.”  

When asked to name a season highlight, Emanuilidis named the Bernards game where he scored a career-high 27 points as his favorite, but said overall the best part of the season has been the way the team has bonded.

“I think just over all, the team bond has been the best part.  We’re a closer group than people realize -- we have each other’s back,” noted Emanuilidis.  “Senior night against Millburn was great. We were all connecting, we were all scoring. I think three of the seniors had over 13 points.  I love the feeling of making that perfect shot, but it's even better if it comes from an assist from your teammate.  That's a success for both of you.”

With the regular season over, No. 9 Verona will travel to No. 8 West Side in the first round of the North 2, Group 2 State Tournament on Tuesday at 4 p.m.  

“I’m looking forward to the playoff game away against West Side.  I just think it’s going to be a crazy atmosphere,” Emanuilidis said.  “I think if we stay focused and control the pace we may shock some people.” 

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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