No. 9 Bound Brook seeking sweep of Bernards when Mountaineers come down for a visit

The first time Bernards and Bound Brook met, neither managed 40 points. It was the lowest offensive output of the season for both teams.

Will things be different this time around?

The Mountaineers (5-2) have since dropped to third in the Valley Division (a misnomer for Bernards if we ever heard one) behind Somerville, while the No. 9 Crusaders are looking to finish off a wire-to-wire lead over their peers.

Tonight, they face off in Bound Brook at 5:30 pm, with Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino on the air at 5:15 for High School Basketball on Central Jersey Sports Radio, powered by Bellamy & Son Paving.

Listen to the game for free, live on Central Jersey Sports Radio by clicking here. The game is sponsored locally by Pops Bike Shop in Somerville and Stan’s Chitch’s Pizzeria in Bound Brook.

You can also watch the game on the Bound Brook Athletics YouTube channel – with commentary by Central Jersey Sports Radio – by clicking here.

Bound Brook already has two wins in the bag this week, the first coming over a 1-9 Linden team whose record isn’t quite indicative of their play, with the Union County Conference one of the most rugged in the state. The Tigers have faced Roselle Catholic, Montgomery and Union, all strong teams this year, and Elizabeth twice.

Bernards, meanwhile, has lost two of its last three games, a 39-33 defeat at the hands of Bound Brook, followed by a ten point win at Warren Hills, and a five point loss at The Ville.

Click below to hear both coaches talk about tonight’s matchup in Bound Brook:

Bound Brook Coach Anthony Melesurgo
Bernards Head Coach Tim Palek

Instant reaction: How did Skyland postseason seeding go? Chair Jason Miller weighs in.

To say the 2021 high school basketball season was unique is an understatement. And it deserved a unique postseason event.

The payoff came Wednesday afternoon when the Skyland Conference released its postseason tournament seedings, with three pods each on the boys’ and girls’ side. The girls have three eight-team pods, while the boys have one eight-team pod and two pods of seven, since there’s no Mount St. Mary girls’ team and Phillipsburg is out, in COVID protocol.

I got the chance to sit down with South Hunterdon Athletic Director Jason Miller, the chair of the seeding committee that drew up the tournament. Click below to listen:

No drama here: Gill boys, Rutgers Prep girls earn top seeds in top pods of one-off Skyland Conference postseason

There were no gasps, no OMGs. no jaws dropping when the Skyland Conference released its first-ever postseason tournament brackets, featuring three pods each for the boys and girls, playing down to a champion, and guaranteeing each team three games of postseason play.

The Bound Brook boys and girls also swept top seeds in the middle pod.

On the boys’ side, Gill St. Bernard’s – ranked No. 1 in the Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten – got the top seed in the top pod, which is being called the “Blue Division,” followed by Rutgers Prep, Montgomery, Hunterdon Central, Watchung Hills, Ridge, and Franklin. With only seven teams, Gill will get a first round bye.

In the “Gold Division,” undefeated Bound Brook earned the top-seed, followed by Pingry, Immaculata, Bernards, Hillsborough, Voorhees, North Hunterdon, and Bridgewater-Raritan.

The “Silver Division” top seed is Somerville, which will get a first round bye. The Pioneers are followed by Delaware Valley, Warren Hills, Manville, North Plainfield, South Hunterdon and Belvidere.

Phillipsburg is not participating on the boys side, with the Stateliners in COVID protocol.

On the girls’ side, the “Blue Division” features undefeated Rutgers Prep – the top ranked team in the Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten – followed by Gill St. Bernard’s, Franklin, Phillipsburg, Hunterdon Central, undefeated Mount St. Mary, Ridge and Hillsborough.

The “Gold Division” has Bound Brook at No. 1, then Watchung Hills, Bridgewater-Raritan, Warren Hills, Voorhees, Somerville, North Hunterdon, and Montgomery.

The “Silver Division” has Immaculata as the top seed, followed by Belvidere, South Hunterdon, Delaware Valley, Pingry, Manville, Bernards, and North Plainfield.

The eight-team pods will follow a traditional playoff bracket to determine a champion. A consolation bracket will be held starting with the losing teams from the 1/8 and 4/5 game facing off, while those who lost in the 2/7 and 3/6 games will meet. Those winners would play in the third round against the two semifinal winners, while the losing teams would play each other.

In the seven-team brackets, the top seeds get byes. The loser of the 4/5 game would play the loser of the 3/6 game, while the loser of the 2/7 game would play the loser of the second round game between the top-seed and the 4/5 winner. There’s also a matchup between the loser of the 3/6 and 2/7 winners. That winner would play the winner of the 4/5 and 3/6 loser’s matchup, and the loser of the 2/7 vs. 1/4/5 game would play the winner or the 4/5 and 3/6 loser’s game.

Click here to see the full boys’ and girls’ brackets as released this afternoon by the Skyland Conference.

No. 2 Gill St. Bernard’s nips No. 4 Franklin in OT to keep perfect record

The Gill St. Bernard’s Knights remain undefeated by the hair of their chinny chin chin.

No. 2 Gill (7-0) needed overtime – and a last-second miss on a layup by Erica Jackson that would have sent the game to a second overtime period – to pull out a 44-42 OT road win over No. 4 Franklin (3-4) heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio, powered by Bellamy & Son Paving.

It was Elle Fajardo who missed a three with seconds remaining in regulation that would have given the Knights the win, but hit some clutch shots in the extra period. A pair of treys eliminated separate three-point deficits, and she also went 2-of-3 at the foul line in the additional four minutes.

Click below to listen to No. 2 Gill St. Bernard’s narrow overtime win over No. 4 Franklin:

OT hero Fajardo, head coach Gnapp, talk gritty win over Franklin to stay unblemished

Ella Fajardo – a big hit in her home country of the Philippines – is a big hit in Gladstone tonight. Not that she wasn’t before.

The senior guard – who’s headed to FDU next year, trading one Knights’ jersey for another – scored eight points in overtime, including two treys, to send No. 2 Gill St. Bernard’s to a 44-42 road victory over No. 4 Franklin, as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio, powered by Bellamy & Son Paving.

Her heroic efforts came after she missed a three in the closing seconds of regulation that would have won it without requiring an extra roll of Rolaids.

It was the first game all year that Gill St. Bernard’s (7-0) didn’t win by double figures.

Meanwhile, Franklin (3-4) is struggling, having lost two straight and three of its last four, including a defeat at the hands of Hillsborough last Tuesday and a drubbing Saturday at No. 1 and unbeaten Rutgers Prep.

Click below to listen to Dom Savino’s post game talks with Fajardo and Gill head coach Mark Gnapp:

Junior guard Ella Fajardo
Head Coach Mark Gnapp

No. 2 Gill St. Bernard’s, No. 3 Franklin prepare for divisional battle of Top Ten girls’ hoops teams

In the decade that Audrey Taylor has led the Franklin girl’s basketball program, the Warriors have faced many of the best teams New Jersey has had to offer. After all, they played in three consecutive New Jersey Tournament of Champions Finals from 2017 to 2019, winning two of them.

But this current stretch of games easily ranks among the most arduous in recent memory.

Tonight, No. 4 Franklin (3-3) will play its third consecutive top-5 team in just a four-day span, with No. 2 Gill St. Bernard’s (6-0) coming to town on High School Basketball powered by Bellamy & Son Paving on Central Jersey Sports Radio. Pre-game is at 5:45 p.m., with game time at 6 p.m. You can listen live to Dom Savino’s play-by-play from Franklin High School by clicking here.

Franklin is coming off a 68-53 loss Monday night to No. 3 St. Thomas Aquinas. On Saturday, the Warriors began their trip through Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Top 10 with a 65-33 loss at No. 1 Rutgers Prep.

They will face the Knights having lost three of their last four games. The last time that happened was the start of the 2017-18 season, with a season-opening loss at Rutgers Prep, a win against Hunterdon Central, a loss at St. John Vianney, and a loss at Rumson-Fair Haven. That was also the last time the Warriors lost three in a row – a fate they will try to avoid tonight – having lost to Vianney, Rumson, and Long Island Lutheran to start the year 1-4.

Of course, that year, they would finish 25-8, win the Somerset County Tournament, win the North 2-Group 4 title, and go all the way to the Tournament of Champions final, losing to Manasquan, a year after beating them in the TOC title game.

Gill St. Bernard’s enters this Skyland Delaware Division matchup as the top team in the division and one of three remaining unbeaten girls’ basketball teams in the Skyland Conference. The Knights are led by a pair of Division 1 commits: center Caileigh Walsh (Northwestern) and guard Ella Fajardo (Fairleigh Dickinson).

Click below to hear Gill St. Bernard’s head coach Mark Gnapp talk about Tuesday night’s Top Ten matchup:

Simmon’s clutch free throws put No. 2 St. Joe’s of Metuchen past No. 7 Montgomery

Junior Ethan Simmons hit both ends of a 1-and-1 with 2.9 seconds remaining to give St. Joseph of Metuchen its seventh win in a row.

The Falcons (8-2) beat No. 7 Montgomery 46-42 Monday night on Central Jersey Sports Radio, powered by Bellamy & Son Paving, and were led by Simmon’s 9 points. Six Falcons scored, but none reached double figures in a balanced effort.

The Cougars (7-2) were led by Ryan Curry’s 18 points, while senior Chris Rubayo chipped in 13.

Click below to listen to Mike Pavlichko call all the action from Monday night’s game:

St. Joe’s Cocozziello, Simmon on Falcons’ slim win over Montgomery

It came down to two free throws to salt the game away and Ethan Simmon’s blood was as cold as the ice and snow blanketing the Montgomery High School campus.

The 6-3 junior hit both ends of the only one-and-one in the game to gave No. 2 St. Joseph of Metuchen a 46-42 win over No. 7 Montgomery, in a GMC-Skyland Conference crossover game heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio, powered by Bellamy & Son Paving.

Simmon led the Falcons (8-2) with nine points, while the Cougars (7-3) were led by Ryan Curry, the junior point guard who led all scorers with a game-high 18.

St. Joseph has won seven straight since starting the season 1-2.

Click below to hear postgame reaction from St. Joseph guard Ethan Simmon and head coach Jan Cocozziello:

St. Joseph guard Ethan Simmon
St. Joseph head coach Jan Cocozziello

Murphy extends parent/guardian fan admission to college athletics, to open other sports venues to limited fans next week

New Jersey Governor Murphy last week opened up high school athletic venues to two parents/guardians per student-athlete, with three weeks left in Season 2, which includes high school basketball.

Now, he’s extending that allowance to college sports – like Rutgers – as long as capacity limits aren’t exceeded, effective immediately.

He made the announcement around 11:30 this morning on the Moose and Maggie show on WFAN 660 AM in New York.

In addition, Murphy is allowing all sports – professional and college – and entertainment venues with a capacity of 5,000 or more o open to ten percent capacity effective Monday, March 1 at 6 am. Outdoor venues can open to 15 percent. The opening also affects entertainment venues such as concert halls and amphitheaters.

That means for the Prudential Center in Newark, which has a hockey capacity of 16,500, as many as 1,650 fans could potentially be allowed.

Parents and guardians will be able to attend the last men’s basketball home game of the year – Wednesday against Indiana – and the last women’s home game of the year, which is slated for March 4th or 5th against Ohio State.

But while the Governor said on the ‘FAN that opening all indoor venues to ten percent capacity could allow the general public to go to games at the RAC, it’s too little to late, and a moot point at the same time.

Wednesday’s last home game for the Rutgers men falls before the new regulations go into effect. The women’s team’s last game comes after the new rules take effect, but the Big Ten has not been allowing fans all season, in order to keep a level playing field among teams in states with varying degrees of regulation.

CLICK HERE to listen to Murphy’s full interview with Moose and Maggie on WFAN.

New York recently announced it would open sports venues to limited capacity as well, with the first to be the Barclays Center for a Brooklyn Nets game Tuesday But while fans there will be required to show negative PCR tests, Murphy said such a requirement will not be in effect in New Jersey.

Last-minute matchup pits red-hot St. Joe’s against Montgomery

St. Joseph of Metuchen’s last loss came much earlier in the season – six wins ago to be exact.

Montgmery’s first loss came just last week, after they had won their first six.

No matter, both are playing extremely well right now. The No. 2 Falcons (7-2) have been humming along with junior guard Ethan Simmon averaging 21 points in two games last week, while the No. 7 Cougars (7-1) have gotten steady play all year long from junior point guard Ryan Curry and senior center Chris Rubayo.

They’ll all square off tonight on High School Basketball powered by Bellamy & Son Paving on Central Jersey Sports Radio, with Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino calling all the action. Pre-game is at 5:45, with game time at 6 pm. You can listen live by clicking here

Click below to hear both head coaches talk about Monday night’s Top Ten matchup:

St. Joseph head coach Jan Cocozziello
Montgomery head coach Kris Grundy