Opening Night a rousing success for most ranked teams in GMC, Skyland

Rutgers Prep’s boys won their opening game Friday night. From left to right are Cameron Piggee, Jordan Atkins, Johnny Nsenkyire, and Jadin Collins. In front is future Argonaut Elijah Bloom, ball boy, son of head coach Matt Bloom. (Source: Twitter)

Of the nine teams in the Bellamy & Son Paving Boys’ Basketball preseason Top Ten that played on opening night, seven came out victorious.

With worries about COVID and Omicron as it continues to spread like wildfire in New Jersey, for many teams it just felt good to get back out on the floor to begin a “normal” season, something that last happened in December 2019.

On the boys’ side, No. 2 Rutgers Prep nearly doubled up Franklin at home 88-45, showing they’ve got some scoring firepower. Jordan Atkins and Jadin Collins each had 16 to lead the way. Across town, top-ranked Argonaut girls beat Franklin on the road 60-34, behind 20 points and 9 rebounds from junior Katie Ledden, in a game heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Also on the boys’ side, third-ranked St. Joseph – with a number of players in COVID protocol – beat Monroe 60-49, led by Ethan Simmon’s 19 points. Fourth-ranked St. Thomas Aquinas exploded for a 94-16 win at JFK, as the Trojans emptied the bench; Terrell Pitts led with 20 for Aquinas. Sixth-ranked Montgomery got by Hillsborough at home 69-45, as Ryan Curry scored 19, one of four Cougars in double-figures. No. 7 Bound Brook won its 15th straight going back to the start of last year – when they went 14-0 – and beat Wardlaw-Hartridge 57-42. Ninth-ranked Watchung Hills won a low-scoring game at Ridge 40-33 – led by Elijah Lewis’ 13 points – and 10th-ranked East Brunswick picked up a 64-48 win at Old Bridge.

The only losses by Top Ten boys’ teams included No. 8 South Brunswick getting upset at JP Stevens, 44-40, and 5th-ranked Gill St. Bernards losing to Whitney Young of Illinois 70-58 in the City of Palms Classic at Florida Southwestern State College in Fort Myers, despite a 22-point, 7-rebound night from Mackenzie Mgbako. The Knights next play Sunday against the loser of tonight’s game between Oak Hill Academy of Virginia and Isidore Newman School of Louisiana.

For the girls, the only Top Ten loss besides Franklin was in a battle of highly-ranked teams, as No. 4 St. Thomas Aquinas beat second-ranked Monroe 83-45 in North Edison, a result that will squarely put the target on the back of the Trojans as the team to beat in the GMC. They jumped on the Falcons early, leading 24-7 after one quarter, and got 20 points from top-scorer Jessica Cooper, one of four players in double-figures.

Winners – besides Rutgers Prep – included 3rd-ranked Gill St. Bernard’s, which got by Immaculata 48-33 on leading scorer Jennah Johnson’s 15-point evening. No. 5 Middlesex got 17 points from Jessica Devine to win at Dunellen, 50-12. No. 6 Bound Brook rolled past Delaware Valley, 58-31, as new contributors Takara Pugh and Sophia Larson led the way with 11 and 10 points, respectively.

7th-ranked Mount St. Mary edged out Voorhees 49-30, breaking away in a 22-10 third quarter, after only leading 17-13 at halftime, while tenth-ranked North Brunswick cruised past Sayreville on the road 51-19, getting 20 points from Niyell McCargo

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