All year long, St. Thomas Aquinas has been one of the favorites to win the GMC Tournament at the end of the regular season.
But three other teams hope to have something to say about that.
East Brunswick and South Brunswick were the fourth best teams in the Red Division this year, tied for fourth place, and behind the Trojans, Monroe and Old Bridge in the standings.
And then there’s Colonia. The Patriots are the second-seed in the tournament, and the way they’ve been playing all year, might be choice 1b to make it to the championship game Friday night, right behind 1a, Aquinas.
No doubt the Bears and Vikings will have something to say about that, and that’s why it’s a full-on tournament, as all four teams will vie for a berth in Friday evening’s 6:00 championship game down at Monroe High School.
Here’s a closer look at each matchup:
3-COLONIA (22-2) vs. 7-SOUTH BRUNSWICK (17-6), 5:00 pm
The Patriots are having a program year, setting a school record for wins with 22, and they don’t plan to take the proverbial foot off the gas pedal any time soon. The White Division championship is their first division title of any kind in program history, and Colonia will be looking for its first-ever trip to a county final, either in the GMC or its predecessor, the Middlesex County Tournament.
The teams have only met once going back at least a decade, last year when the Patriots beat South Brunswick 55-52, behind 23 points from Mattison Chiera. Now a junior, she has scored in double figures in 23 straight games, all except the opener when she scored just 8 in a 59-50 loss to Albertus Magnus (NY). Chiera – the daughter of the head coach, Sandi Chiera – is part of a 1-2 punch along with Sophomore Taylor Derkack, who is averaging 16.9 points per game, a shade above Chiera’s 16.7 clip. The two cal also hit from downtown, combining for 70 treys on the season, an average of three a game, but often more. In fact, Chiera alone has had at least three treys in a game ten times, hitting four on four separate occasions.
While Colonia hasn’t lost to a GMC team since last year, South Brunswick has had an up and down season, falling to St. Thomas Aquinas and Monroe twice each, while splitting with East Brunswick and Old Bridge. Sophomore Meher Vig – who played varsity as a freshman – leads the team in scoring, at 12.4 points per game, just ahead of junior Katie Rausch (11.7 ppg) and senior Carla Seyfarth (10.5 ppg). The Vikings’ strength may be that they’re more balanced that Colonia, with five players having scored at least 100 points this season.
South Brunswick is seeking its first trip to a final since 2017, when the Vikings – then the third seed – lost to top-seed Sayreville 59-52, under current head coach Jeff Johnson. They last won the title in 2012, under Beth Barrio. It was South Brunswick’s first since winning the very first two Middlesex County Tournaments, in 1975 and 1976.
How they got here:
Colonia beat 19th-seed Metuchen 44-31 in the first round, then beat 6th-seed Middlesex 56-34 in the quarterfinals.
South Brunswick topped 10-seed Woodbridge 62-40 in the first round, then edged 2nd-seed and defending de facto GMC champion Monroe (winner of last year’s top pod, the Somogyi Family Pod) 58-56.
1-ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (19-3) vs. 5-EAST BRUNSWICK (16-7), 7:00 pm
The Trojans were considered one of the pre-season favorites to win it all in the GMC, right up there with Monroe. It they play their cards right, with the semifinals and finals at Monroe, and the Falcons out of it, the crown is there for the taking, and Aquinas would be the first school to three-peat the the full GMC Tournament other than Piscataway (which did it from 2009-2011 and again from 2013-2015) since J.P. Stevens (2003-2005).
St. Thomas is a high-scoring team, averaging just a shade over 61 points per game, and they are the only team since 2015 to score more than 60 points in a final (64, in the 2020 title win over Monroe). Senior Kayla Perez is scoring 14.6 points per game, with sophomore Amarilis Shubick (12.7) and junior Jessica Cooper (12.1) complementing nicely. They can get up and down the floor, and shoot from downtown, hitting 171 treys on the year, an astounding nearly eight per game.
Thus, perimeter defense will be key for East Brunswick, which can also get up and down the floor. The Bears kept it close with Aquinas twice this season, but lost both times: by eight the first time, 13 the next. In all, East Brunswick has lost five straight against Aquinas/Bishop Ahr, with its last win ironically coming in the GMCT semifinals back in 2016, a 44-40 win that sent the Bears to their most recent appearance in the GMC Tournament Championship, which they won over Monroe, 42-31.
How they got here:
St. Thomas Aquinas blew by 17th-seed JFK in the opening round 79-35, then took out 9th-seed North Brunswick in the quarterfinals, 78-56.
East Brunswick squeaked by 12-seed JP Stevens 49-48 in round one, then took out 4th-seed Old Bridge 58-42 in the quarterfinals.
COVERAGE ON CENTRAL JERSEY SPORTS RADIO:
Follow Dom Savino on Twitter (@DominickSavino) for frequent updates throughout both semifinals. We’ll have postgame reaction with Dom from the winning teams’ coaches and players on cjsportsradio.com.