Category: Boys Basketball

South River and ‘Squan set to scrap for Central Jersey Group 2 title tonight

For the South River boys’ basketball team, it has been a magical season, to be sure. But it has been one years in the making.

Once in a while, a group of kids grow up together, play basketball together, and end up doing something special together. Will this be the year?

The last time the Rams were state sectional champions, the first Bush was president, Operation: Desert Storm began, and the Chicago Bulls won their very first NBA Championship.

Yes, that’s a long time ago, but if any group of Rams since then could do it, this is it.

Top-seeded South River (26-3) will face second-seed Manasquan (25-4) Tuesday night at 7:00, in a game you can hear on Central Jersey Sports Radio beginning with pregame at 6:45. Click here to listen to the broadcast live.

Their work will be cut out for them. While they have gotten amazing play all season long from the brothers Grospe – Jeremy the senior, and Alex the sophomore – as well as Laz Rodriguez, Roman Santos, and more, they will face perhaps the most highly-recruited player they’ve seen all year.

And it’s believed to be the first time South River’s tiny gym has hosted a sectional title game; they used to be played at neutral sites.

Manasquan’s sophomore guard Darius Adams is already on Steve Pikiell’s radar at Rutgers, as he is for Shaheen Holloway at Seton Hall, plus St. John’s, Syracuse and Fordham. And the list will grow bigger as he continues.

In just his second scholastic season, Adams blew right by the 1,000-point mark, and is averaging 20.4 points and 7.6 rebounds a game for the Warriors. And they have balanced scoring throughout the rest of the lineup, which can shoot the ball well from everywhere.

They’ve also had a long run of success. Now in his 15th season, Andrew Bilodeau’s program is 320-83 under his tenure, with eleven 20-plus win seasons, including 31-1 in the 2020 season that was abruptly ended by the COVID-19 pandemic. Their final game was a win over Holmdel for the Central Jersey Group 2 title.

Click below from previews from both head coaches of the Central Jersey Group 1 title game:

South River head coach Brandon Walsh
Manasquan head coach Andrew Bilodeau

South Brunswick’s Kalani Antoine on fire as Vikings seek second sectional title in four years

Joe Hoehman’s tenure at South Brunswick has been marked by success, but one more win would put his Vikings program in uncharted waters.

One more win – Tuesday night in the Central Jersey Group 4 title game – would give South Brunswick (20-6) its second title in the last three postseasons, after the Vikings won in 2020, and just their fifth overall.

It’s the space between the others, though, that would make this one extra special.

The last one came in 2007, with players like the Soaries twins – Malcolm and Martin – Devon Young, and a junior named Mohamed Sanu. Before that? You have to go all the way back to 1974 and 1968.

Click here, by the way, for a great read on that 2007 tournament run by our encyclopedic colleague Greg Machos over at

This year’s version of the Vikings has done things a little more quietly than the 2007 team, which was considered a favorite to go far in the county and state tournaments in the preseason. This team was a seven-seed in the GMC Tournament, and made it to the finals, losing by just seven to top-seed St. Thomas Aquinas.

In the state tournament, they are the No. 6 seed in Central Jersey Group 4, yet they are playing in the title game Friday night when they visit top-seed Trenton (28-1) for a 5:30 tip-off.

The Tornadoes’ lone loss this season came at the hands of Camden Eastside, which also is one of four teams to beat St. Thomas Aquinas this season.

While the 2022-23 Vikings have been a team effort, one of the key parts has been Kalani Antoine, though he’ll humbly tell you there are more important reasons. Antoine has been having a monster state tournament; in three games he is averaging 25 points per, including a mammoth 31 point output on the road in the quarterfinals against rival North Brunswick, which had beaten them by five back in late December.

Click below to hear Kalani Antoine talk about the Vikings’ season and the Central Jersey Group 4 title game against Trenton.

The Vikings will have their work cut out for them against Trenton, currently in the top ten of the statewide rankings. Senior guard Davontay Hutson leads the way with 15.7 points per game, and 9.8 boards. Fellow senior and point guard Antwan Bridget is next, scoring 11.9 points per game, while dishing out an average 6.5 assissts per contest. He’s also taken a team-leading 107 steals.

South Brunswick head coach Joe Hoehman talks about the matchup:

Strong second half propels St. Joe’s to another win over Rutgers Prep, bid in Non-Public South A final

St. Joseph-Metuchen shocked Rutgers Prep just two days into February. They did it again with two days left in the month, this time to put them just a win away from a sectional title.

On the heels of a strong third-quarter rally, and an equally strong final eight minutes, the 6th-seeded Falcons beat visiting 7th-seed and defending Non-Public South A champion Rutgers Prep, 69-66.

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Rutgers Prep controlled early on a big first quarter, but St. Joseph eventually crawled back into the game. Down by six with 1:43 left in the third, two baskets cut the Argonauts’ lead to two, then a pair of Falcon free throws tied it at 54-all, before Jadin Collins stopped the bleeding with a buzzer-beating three at the buzzer to make it 57-54 Prep.

But in the critical final eight minutes, Joe’s simply made the bigger buckets, the bigger free throws, grabbed the bigger rebounds – and drew two charges, to boot – giving them a hard-earned win.

The win moves the Falcons on to play Wednesday in the Non-Public South A final against 5th-seed Union Catholic, which upset top-seed Camden Catholic in the other semifinal in the section Monday night, 61-53. The title game will be Wednesday at 7 pm at Lenape High School in Medford, with tip-off set for 7 pm.

The Falcons will be playing for their first sectional title since the Karl Towns-era, when they won three Non-Public South A titles in a row from 2012 to 2014, capped by the Tournament of Champions title in the last of those three seasons.

They last appeared in a final in 2018 under head coach Mike Thompson, when they fell to Camden Catholic.

Click below for postgame reaction from St. Joseph head coach Jan Cocoziello with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko:

Colonia gets past Snyder to win 2nd straight North 2, Group 3 title; Monroe girls fall to Jax Memorial in CJ4 final

The Greater Middlesex Conference public schools went 1-1 in sectional title games Monday night, as the Colonia boys won their second straight North 2, Group 3 title – and third in the last four postseasons – while the Monroe girls fell in the Central Jersey Group 4 championship.

The Patriots led a tight game most of the way, and were up the half by four, 29-25, but pulled ahead on a 12-2 run to lead 41-20 under the three-minute mark in the third quarter. The fourth-seeded Patriots came out with a 64-51 win, to make it back-to-back titles in the section, and their third in the last four playoff seasons.

Jaeden Jones led Colonia with 17 points, while Noah Taylor chipped in a double-double, with 15 points and ten rebounds.

Now, for the second year in a row, they move on to the Group 3 semifinals in Phillipsburg, and will play the North 1 champion Wednesday night at 7 pm at Phillipsburg High School. Tonight’s North 1 final features top-seed Ramapo and 2-seed Teaneck, and tipped off at 7 pm. Ramapo knocked Colonia out last year in the group semis, also in Phillipsburg.

Click below for postgame reaction with Colonia head coach Jose Rodriguez:

On the girls’ side, third-seed Monroe fell 53-45 to 5th-seed Jackson Memorial, which also knocked them out last year in the semifinal round. Senior Haley Higgins led the Faclons with 13 points, while sophomore Evangelina Francisco scored 12 in the loss.

The season ends at 17-10 for the Falcons.

Roselle Catholic’s early spurt keeps Aquinas behind the eight ball all night, ends Trojans’ season in sectional semis

St. Thomas Aquinas brought its A game against Roselle Catholic. Or at least its A effort..

But it still wasn’t enough as the fourth-seeded Rams – the No. 1 team in New Jersey – proved why it deserved that ranking with a 90-72 win over top-seed St. Thomas Aquinas – ranked No. 5 in New Jersey – in the Non-Public North B Semifinals in North Edison Monday night, as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

The Rams – with several high-level Division 1 college recruits – jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first couple of minutes before Aquinas head coach Bob Turco called a timeout to stop the bleeding. It worked, if only momentarily, as the Trojans got the next two buckets to cut it to 10-4.

But Roselle Catholic went on a 15-9 run from there to close the half with a 25-15 lead, and built their lead by five more points at halftime, taking a 47-32 lead into the break that they could not overcome.

The loss ends the season for Aquinas at 25-4, and ends the scholastic careers of three senior starters, Kamal Lee, Terrell Pitts and Jalen Pichardo. Bench players Chris Santner and Sherief Guinyard also will graduate.

The game had all the hype leading up to it, and it wasn’t even a title game. It was just a semifinal, with the Rams seeded fourth and Aquinas first based on power points, not human rankings, which bore themselves out in the game.

North-Carolina bound Simeon Wilcher led all scorers with 27 for Roselle Catholic, and Mackenzie Mgbako – in his first action since late January, added 13. Michael “Deuce” Jones led the Trojans with 19 in defeat.

Roselle Catholic (20-5) now goes on to the Non-Public North B title game Wednesday night at 5 pm at Franklin, against the winner of second-seed Gill St. Bernard’s and 6th-seed Montclair-Immaculate.

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COMING SOON! Postgame reaction from CJSR’s Justin Sontupe with Aquinas head coach Bob Turco, presented by SportsPlex at Metuchen.

Statewide Top 5 battle on tap in Non-Public North B semis, as St. Thomas Aquinas squares off with Roselle Catholic

It’s a game that’s more befitting a sectional final, a group final, or maybe even a Tournament of Champions final – if they still played it.

But it’s only going to be a trip to a title game on the line Monday night when top-seed St. Thomas Aquinas (25-3) welcomes fourth-seed Roselle Catholic (19-5) into the Trojans’ tiny, sweaty gym in the a Non-Public North B semifinal game at 6 pm, that can be heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Justin Sontupe and Chris Tsakonas will call all the play-by-play of what is a marquee state matchup, with pregame beginning at 5:45 pm. Click here to listen to the fill broadcast live on Monday night.

Aquinas is the three-time defending Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament Champion, and has gone 84-15 over the past four seasons. They’ve got some great players who are household names in the GMC, including Jaden Kelly, Jalen Pichardo, Terrell Pitts, and seamlessly added Trenton Catholic transfer Michael “Deuce” Jones to the mix this year.

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That’s all well and good, but Roselle Catholic – last year’s last-ever TOC winner – is stacked with major D-1 talent. Senior guard Simeon Wilcher is going to the ACC to play for North Carolina. Akil Watson is committed to Arizona State. Mackenzie Mgbako will face Wilcher in the ACC at Duke. Tarik Watson, Akil’s younger brother also is a physical presence.

And even though Mgbako – the transfer from Gill St. Bernard’s – is injured, and hasn’t played since late January, there’s plenty of talent at the ready for the Rams, who count three losses to teams ranked No. 1 nationally – Duncanville (TX), Paul VI (VA) and Montverde (FL) – among their five losses.

In fact, Roselle Catholic hasn’t lost to a New Jersey opponent since dropping its opener last year to Camden, the team it beat to win the Tournament of Champions.

Click below to hear Justin Sontupe talk about the matchup with St. Thomas Aquinas head coach Bob Turco:

“Revenge tour” continues for Monroe girls, as Falcons play for CJ4 title Monday evening

The Monroe Falcons girls’ basketball team had lost twice to South Brunswick this year, and the third time turned out to be the charm.

A semifinal win over the Vikings Saturday morning – on the road, mind you – now has them in the Central Jersey Group 4 title game against another somewhat familiar foe. They’ll take on defending champion Jackson Memorial, a team they don’t play all too frequently, but which knocked them out of the CJ4 bracket in last year’s semifinals.

Everyone remembers, and you know how things go in the state tournament.

Monroe is 17-9 this season, fairly on par with last year’s 18-6 campaign. Jackson is 20-9 under head coach Rachel Goodale – the sister of Rutgers wrestling coach Scott Goodale – also about where they were last year.

So how do things go in the state tournament?

Well, when the third-seeded Falcons beat 2-seed South Brunswick on Saturday, they probably figured they should hire a bus just down the road to Hightstown, the top-seed, for Monday night. But as it turns out, the Jaguars upset the Rams, 61-44 Saturday, leaving Monroe as the higher seed, and thus hosting a title game for the first time since 2016. They won CJ4 that year, too, beating Hunterdon Central before losing to South 4 champ Lenape in the group semifinals.

The Falcons have only one player scoring in double figures on the season, and don’t go terribly deep, but their starting five all averages at least seven-and-a-half points a game. Junior Halley Cottrell leads with 11.8 per contest, though it’s sophomore Evangelina Francisco who has really come on in the NJSIAA Tournament.

Of her five highest games the entire season, the last three in the states all figure into that mix, including a career-best 26 – her only 20-plus point game ever – in the semifinals against South Brunswick. She’s averaging 12.7 points a game in the playoffs.

No other Falcon has more than one 10-plus point game in the last three. But they really haven’t had to, and Francisco will look to continue the hot hand.

But in all, the lineup is steadied by two seniors – Haley Higgins and Katie Louro – who have been starters all four years in high school, and have been a part of 71 total victories in that span, an enormous feat considering 2021 was shortened by COVID.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with Monroe seniors Haley Higgins and Katie Louro:

As for Jackson, they’ve had a similar season to last year, record-wise. They made it through the preliminary round of the Shore Conference Tournament – an invitational, not an automatic qualifier tourney like the GMC – with a win over Monmouth, before getting bounced by St. Rose of Belmar in the first round. They were 8-2 in the Shore A South division, finishing second to Toms River North. But the Mariners were bounced from South 4 in the semifinals by Lenape.

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Senior Zoie Maffei is the top scorer, at 18.2 points a game, and fellow senior Chloe Messer is right behind at 13.7. And they have a little more height than Monroe, which could present some matchup problems.

In the 61-44 semifinal win over Hightstown, the Jags got a double-double from Maffei – 12 points and 10 rebounds – while another senior, Kamile Makselyte – added 18 points and 12 boards.

Colonia boys’ seek back-to-back sectional titles when Patriots host Snyder in North 2, Group 3 final

Every year is a different team, but sometimes it’s the same result.

Fans of the Colonia boys’ basketball team hope that’s very much the case this year, as their fourth-seeded Patriots (21-8) will play for a second straight North 2, Group 3 title Monday night at 6:00 when they take on sixth-seed Snyder (17-11) out of Jersey City.

Colonia got there with a semifinal win over top-seed South Plainfield, an upset by seed, but really could have gone either way between two of the top teams in the GMC all year. The Patriots took control of after the Tigers got off to a hot start. Read more on Colonia’s semifinal win here, including postgame interviews by Chris Tsakonas with junior point guard Jaeden Jones and head coach Jose Rodriguez.

And so, here they are, back in the sectional finals for a fourth straight time, having never missed a sectional title tilt under head coach Jose Rodriguez, now in his fifth season.

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The stretch began in 2019 when the blue-and-gold made the finals in Rodriguez’ first season, losing to Irvington. The next year, they came back and beat West Morris 57-33 on the road. Unfortunately, Colonia wouldn’t get a chance at a title the next year during the COVID-shortened season, but won the next-best-thing: the Jay Williams-Karl Anthony Towns GMC pod, a four-game “postseason” allowed by the NJSIAA in lieu of county and state tournaments.

But once the NJSIAA tournament came back last season, Colonia picked up right where it left off: winning a title, beating South Plainfield 56-52 in a double-overtime instant classic.

READ MORE ON THE 2022 CHAMPIONSHIP: Colonia needs double-OT to stave off South Plainfield as Pats take North 2, Group 3 title

So, here are the Patriots, looking for a third straight title in North 2, Group 3. Not to look past, but they hope to take it a step further this year, as the last two times they have been knocked out in the group semifinals, last year by Ramapo, and in 2020 by Irvington.

Junior point guard Jaeden Jones makes it all go, averaging 15 points per game but perhaps more importantly six assists in three state tournament games so far, wins over North Hunterdon, Chatham and South Plainfield. Senior Noah Taylor had a double-double in the quarterfinals against Chatham – 16 points and 10 boards – and though he was held scoreless against the Tigers, he grabbed another ten rebounds, critical in the victory as the Patriots had a 27-19 rebounding edge in the game.

Click below to hear them talk with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko:

The Patriots will be playing for their eighth sectional title in program history. And a win against Snyder would give them three in the last four NJSIAA state tournaments. In addition to the 2019 and 2022 wins, they also won North 2, Group 3 in 2015.

Chris Chiera was the head coach of that 2015 title team, which beat Chatham in a raucus game in Colonia’s gym, 45-43. Colonia had to rally in the fourth quarter, down 35-29 heading into the final eight minutes. The place was rocking that night, and even alum Eric LeGrand was in attendance. One of Chiera’s assistants on that team was Joe LaSala, LeGrand’s childhood friend and football teammate at Colonia, who now is the head football coach at Woodbridge.

That team then lost to Bergenfield in the Group 3 semifinals up at East Orange Campus High School.

Other titles also included a win in North 2, Group 3 in 2007, Central Jersey Group 3 titles in 1994 and 1985, and a Central Jersey Group 4 crown in 1972.

Colonia has never made it to a group final.

As for Snyder, the Tigers got knocked out of the Hudson County Tournament in the quarterfinals, 59-56 by Union City. They’ve not won more than four games in a row this season, and that only happened once: in their first four games, with wins over Lincoln, Columbia, Bayonne and Dickinson.

They have been led all year long senior point guard Ahmad Robertson, averaging 12.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He also averages just over four assists per game to lead the team, and has a Snyder-best 61 steals on the year.

But the key late in the year has been Senior Samir Jordan – a transfer from North Star Academy – who didn’t play until February second. And since then, all he’s done is pour in points. Specifically, he scored 23 against Payne Tech in the semifinals, had a career high 28 against Mendham in the semis, and has averaged 21.2 points in the ten games he’s played since becoming eligible.

And then there were five: South Brunswick, South River, Colonia boys; Monroe, Middlesex girls will vie for sectional titles

CORRECTION: The girls’ sectional finals are opposite days from the boys in each group. Monroe girls play Monday, Midesex plays Tuesday.

Week One of the NJSIAA state tournament is in the books, and the public sectional title games have all been determined. Five teams from the Central Jersey Sports Radio listening area are on to Championship Week, and will play for trophies next week, including three on the boys’ side and two on the girls’ side.

Here’s a full breakdown of who will play for titles.

Scroll all the way down to see the upcoming public and non-public schedule for CJSR-area teams remaining in the state tournament.

For the boys, the standard-bearers are Colonia, South Brunswick and South River.

The Patriots (21-8) were the first to punch their ticket, doing so on Friday night with a win over top-seed South Plainfield in the North 2, Group 3 semifinals. (Click here for a full recap and postgame audio from our very own Chris Tsakonas.) They will be the first to play this week when they host 6th-seed Snyder (17-7) out of Jersey City. Game time is 6 pm.

Colonia is going for its third straight sectional title in the past four seasons and second straight, as they won the section last year over South Plainfield in a 58-56 double-overtime thriller in their own gym – where they will play again Monday – but were knocked out in the Group 3 semifinals by Ramapo.

The Patriots also are making their fourth straight appearance in a sectional title game. There was no state tournament during the shortened COVID year of 2021, but in 2020, Colonia lost to Irvington in the title game, a year after beating West Morris 57-33 on the road to take their first of two North 2, Group 3 crowns so far under Jose Rodriguez.

Then on Tuesday, two more teams will play for titles. In South River (26-3), the top-seeded Rams are in the Central Jersey Group 2 title game – their first appearance since they won it all in 1991 – where they will play host to second-seed Manasquan (25-4) at 7 pm. South River got there with a tense win over fourth-seed Bound Brook Saturday, 72-66.

While South River made it to the GMC Tournament semifinals before falling to St. Joe’s of Metuchen, the Warriors are the Shore Conference Tournament Champions, beating Ranney of Eatontown 61-46 in the final.

Also Tuesday night, it will be sixth-seed South Brunswick (20-6) traveling to take on top-seed Trenton (28-1) in the Central Jersey Group 4 title game at 5:30 pm. The Vikings were 72-62 home winners in the semifinals Saturday over 7th-seed Marlboro, a surprise home game after the Mustangs had upset 2nd-seed Freehold Twp. in the quarters. But this time they will have to go on the road, and play a top ten team statewide, to boot. Many consider the Tornadoes a favorite to go all the way and win Group 4.

South Brunswick last made the sectional finals in 2020, when they beat Marlboro 72-20 in the title game on March 10, 2020. The date is significant because the season ended there – before playing in the statewide Group 4 semifinals – when the NJSIAA shut down high school sports at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s one of the rare instances of a team ending their season with a win in a sectional finals.

On the girls’ side, one team will play each day: Monroe, then Middlesex.

On Monday, it’s the Central Jersey Group 4 title game at 5:30 pm, which third-seed Monroe (17-9) finds itself hosting against 5th-seed Jackson Memorial (20-9). The Falcons knocked out 2-seed South Brunswick on the road Saturday morning, 59-42, in a game that tipped off at 10 am as part of a doubleheader with the Viking boys. But they probably figured they would be playing on the road. They found out they’d get to host after the Jaguars upset top-seed Hightstown, 61-44.

Monroe and Jax Memorial met in last year’s CJ4 semifinals, with the Falcons falling 46-44. Monroe last made a sectional final in 2016, when the girls beat Hunterdon Central 48-35 to take the Central Jersey Group 4 title, before falling to Lenape in the statewide Group 4 semis. They had also lost the year before in the finals, 60-52 to Marlboro.

Then on Tuesday, second-seed Middlesex (20-8) will visit top-seed Shore Regional (22-6) in West Long Branch for a 6:30 title tilt in Central Jersey Group 1. The Blue Jays have had a stellar run under head coach Kevin Harper, and senior Neysa Aguilar has been they key reason. She scored 32 points in a 69-42 semifinal win over Dunellen, and has averaged 22.7 points in three state tourney games so far.

The last sectional final appearance for Middlesex came in 2020, when the Blue Jays lost to Bound Brook 56-41 in the Central Jersey Group 1 title game. (The Crusaders, incidentally, also had their tourney run cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, after a 48-32 group semifinal win over Woodbury.) That was the third straight year Middlesex had lost to Bound Brook in the CJ1 finals. They also lost to South River in the sectional finals in 2015. The Blue Jays won their only title in 2004, when they rallied to beat Dayton 60-41in the Central Jersey Group 1 finals; they would go on to lose to South 1 champ Riverside in the Group 1 semifinals.



Boys – North 2, Group 3 Final
#6 Snyder (17-7) at #4 Colonia (21-8), 5:30 pm

Girls – Central 1 Final
#2 Middlesex (20-8) at #1 Shore Regional (22-6), 6:30 pm

Boys – Non-Public South A Semifinals
#5 Union Catholic at #1 Camden Catholic, 7 pm
#7 Rutgers Prep at #6 St. Joseph-Metuchen, 6pm

Boys – Non-Public North B Semifinals
#4 Roselle Catholic at #1 St. Thomas Aquinas, 6 pm (CJSR)
#6 Montclair-Immaculate at #2 Gill St. Bernard’s, 6 pm

Girls – Non-Public South B Semifinals
#5 Holy Spirit at #1 Wildwood Catholic, 6 pm
#3 Rutgers Prep at #2 St. Rose-Belmar, 5 pm


Boys – Central 4 Final
#6 South Brunswick (20-6) at #1 Trenton (28-1), 5:30 pm

Boys – Central 2 Final
#2 Manasquan (25-4) at #1 South River (26-3), 7:00 pm

Girls – Central 4 Final
#5 Jackson Memorial (20-9) at #1 Monroe (17-9), 5:30 pm

A split for the Vikings, as South Brunswick boys win, gain final, but girls lose, putting Monroe in a final, too

Both South Brunswick and Monroe will be playing for titles Tuesday night.

The South Brunswick boys – the top-seed in Central Jersey Group 4 – advanced to the sectional final with a 72-61 home win over 7th-seed Marlboro.

The Vikings will play the winner of today’s other semifinal between top-seeded Trenton and fifth-seed Middletown South. Either way, South Brunswick would be playing on the road.

The Monroe girls – the third-seed in CJ4 – knocked off two-seed South Brunswick on the road, 59-42, to advance to their sectional final. Evangelina Francisco again led the way for Monroe, scoring 26 points

The Falcons will play host to 5th-seed Jackson Memorial on Tuesday night at a time to be announced. Jackson shocked top-seed Hightstown on the road Saturday, 61-44.