Category: Girls Basketball

Spotswood referendum calls for athletic, building improvements with zero tax impact

There’s an old saying: “If it’s free it’s for me.”

In Spotswood – and Helmetta, but not Milltown, which has its own Board of Education and its own schools through eighth grade – voters will go to the polls on September 26th to weigh in on a $12.6 million dollar bond referendum that would fund improvements to the high school football and baseball fields, as well as needed repairs and upgrades at all other district schools, all without costing taxpayers a dime.

For football, Spotswood would replace the natural grass surface at Chargers Stadium with all-weather turf, and change the configuration of its track to allow soccer to be played there, too.

The high school’s athletic fields are on land behind it which has traditionally never drained well. The baseball team affectionately calls their home field “The Swamp.” That field would get singificant drainage improvements.

But sports fields aren’t all that would be done.

  • The high school also would get new lighting and sound equipment for district-wide theater and stage performances.
  • Appleby and Schoenly Schools would get new ADA-compliant playground equipment.
  • Appleby and Memorial Schools would get upgraded and replaced HVAC units.
  • Schoenly School would get HVAC upgrades/replacements, and a new roof.

School officials say the best part about the project is that it would not increase taxes; there would be zero tax impact on homeowners in Spotswood and Milltown if the referendum is approved. That’s because 40 percent of the cost would be covered by aid from the state, which it only receives if the district borrows the money.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlickho speak with Spotswood Board of Education President Dan Lennan about the upcoming schools referendum:

Big changes coming to NJ high school hoops, as NFHS adopts bonus, foul shot changes for 2023-24

The NFHS – which makes rules for high school sports typically followed by the NJSIAA – has adopted two major rule changes for high school basketball that will go into effect this coming school year.

The changes were recently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors, after getting the OK from the Basketball Rules Committee at its annual meeting in Indianapolis back in April. NJSIAA Basketball Director Al Stumpf confirmed the NJSIAA will adhere to the changes.

A change to rule 4-8-1 eliminates the one-and-one foul set in the bonus situation, and will set new parameters for the bonus. Instead of the seventh foul each half being a one-and-one and the tenth foul being a two-shot situation, all shooting fouls after the fifth in each quarter will be two-shot situations.

In a press release, NFHS Director of Sports and liaison to the Basketball Rules Committee Lindsay Atkinson said, “The rules committee studied data that showed higher injury rates on rebounding situations and saw this as an opportunity to reduce opportunities for rough play during rebounds.”

Atkinson also said, resetting the fouls each quarter will improve game flow and allow teams to adjust their play by not carrying foul totals to quarters two and four.”

No changes were made to the amount of personal fouls allowed before a player fouls out of the game; that will remain at five.

The move mirrors women’s NCAA basketball’s rules since it moved from playing two halves to two quarters for the 2015-16 season.

Other minor rule changes include:

  • Simplifying the location for throw-ins by the offensive team in the frontcourt when the defense commits a violation to three feet on either side of the lane or the hash marks on the sidelines, whichever location is closest to the violation.
  • Designating the scorer’s table as the official placement of the shot clock operator for states that use it; New Jersey does not.
  • Clarifying that teams may use multiple styles of uniform bottoms, but they must be like-colored and adhere to existing uniform rules
  • Allowing teams to wear a single solid color or solid black undershirt in order to achieve uniformity for schools with hard-to-find colors
  • Allowing a player to “step out of bounds and return to the court if the player gains no advantage. A player is penalized only if, after returning inbounds, the player is the first to touch the ball or avoids a violation.”

For the full NFHS rule changes, click here.

NJSIAA’s Colleen Maguire talks new transfer rule, emphasis on curbing recruiting in HS

The sweeping changes made Monday by the NJSIAA to its rules on student-athlete transfers and recruiting go hand-in-hand.

That’s the theme from NJSIAA Executive Director Colleen Maguire, who talked with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko in a wide-ranging interview Wednesday morning.

The two big changes are this: all student-athletes will be allowed to transfer at least once in their high school careers without penalty – having to sit out a portion of the season – regardless of whether or not they have moved, and that recruiting a student-athlete before high school is now permitted, though it will continue to be banned once a student-athlete enters high school.

That’s defined as either the first day of classes or the first day they attend practice in the fall sports season, whichever comes first.

But Maguire says with no more requirement of a student-athlete to have a bona fide change of address for a penalty-free transfer, the NJSIAA will put more emphasis on policing recruitment.

Anecdotally, it happens all the time, whether public schools or private, at all grades in high school, all sports. But few cases ever get to the point where penalties handed down..

The most recent high profile case happened this fall when Paramus Catholic was found guilty of illegal recruiting in football after allegations were leveled by Belleville High School. The Paladins were ruled ineligible for the postseason and placed on two years’ probation, but on appeal by Belleville, head coach Greg Russo and assistant coach Christian Maldonado were suspended for the remainder of the probation period.

NJSIAA rules adopted Monday also strike language from its bylaws allowing penalties against student-athletes who transfer as a result of recruiting violations.

Click below to hear the full interview as NJSIAA Executive Director Colleen Maguire talks to Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko about the new recruiting and transfer rules:

Groundbreaking new NJSIAA transfer, recruiting rules approved; will be in effect a month early

Sweeping changes first proposed back in January will go into effect June first, allowing for recruitment of student-athletes before they become high schoolers, and – in general – one free transfer during their high school careers without having to sit out, regardless of whether they move or not.

Three ballot proposals – the third of which allows the new bylaws to go into effect June first, whereas most amendments go into effect July first – were overwhelmingly approved by the NJSIAA’s membership at its annual meeting Monday.

Recruiting now allowed before high school

The first of the changes amends the NJSIAA’s “Athletic Recruitment Rule.” It removes removes any penalties for recruiting student-athletes before they enter high school, as well as “potential penalties” against student-athletes. It also adds that if a student moves to a residence provided someone associated with the school, it will be considered evidence of recruiting unless proven otherwise.

Previously, the Athletic Recruitment Rule called for a penalty of one year of ineligibility for students-athletes who transfer as a result of recruiting, but that language was eliminated under the changes adopted Monday.

Scroll to the bottom of this story for the full NJSIAA wording on the rule changes.

It is still against the rules to recruit a student-athlete once they’ve entered high school. That includes “using mail, letters, brochures, or news media to compare high schools and to solely point out the athletic assets of the sender; engaging in proselytizing interviews or communications, initiated by school personnel or associates; offering athletic scholarships, free tuition or other monetary assistance, either from the school directly or indirectly through some affiliated body or individual, to induce a student to attend the school for athletic reasons.”

Athletic recruitment is not only banned by administration, staff, and coaches, but also “students, parents, booster clubs, or any organization having a connection with the school.”

Free transfers, but also limits

The NJSIAA says in its bylaws “it aims to discourage transfers for athletic reasons, multiple transfers, and transfers after a sports season has begun.”

Current rules require any transfer, in general, to sit 30-days before participating – or half the number of games, whichever is less – unless the transfer had a bona fide change of address.

The changes approved Monday eliminate the change of address rule, and allow a free transfer with no penalty any time in a student’s first six semesters of their initial high school enrollment. But a “second or subsequent” transfer at any time will require the typical 30-day sit-out period.

Senior transfers – anyone who transfers after their first three seasons of eligibility in a sport they participated in during the past 12 months – would have to sit 22 days or a third of the contests – whether it’s their first transfer or not.

Transfers still would have to sit it they transfer after the start of practice, and would be ineligible for the NJSIAA postseason if they transfer after regular season play begins – neither of those change.

One difference from when the rules were first proposed in January are the exceptions added in by the NJSIAA along the way. The new rules state “immediate eligibility, without penalty, will be granted for transfers resulting from DCP&P placement (Division of Child Protection and Placement), court placement, HIB transfers (Harassment, Intimidation, Bullying), and military transfers.”

“More than just a game,” Autism Awareness Challenge will feature 70 baseball and softball teams from across New Jersey this weekend

Just like last year, it’s the biggest it’s ever been.

The 2023 Autism Awareness Challenge returns this weekend to North Brunswick’s Community Park, where there will be a full slate of 20 baseball games and 15 softball games played over three days: Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

That’s 35 games, 70 teams, just like last year.

Are we having fun yet?

The whole thing started in 2008 with just eight teams from the Greater Middlesex Conference, founded by Mike Garlatti, who heads up Baseball Warehouse in Highland Park. A scout for the Colorado Rockies, Garlatti also was a Rutgers assistant under Fred Hill on the 1990 team that missed a trip to the College World Series by just one game.

When it started in 2008, there were just eight Greater Middlesex Conference teams taking part.

Garlatti started the Teamwork Unlimited Foundation a couple of years after the initial event, which didn’t even have a fundraising component; it was simply dedicated to raising awareness about autism, after his son was diagnosed and found to be on the spectrum.

The Foundation now distributes money raised to autism support services and related groups. Scholarships are also handed out.

Garlatti spoke with Central Jersey Sports Radio about this weekend’s event. Click below to listen, and scroll down for a YouTube video recapping last year’s event.

Follow Team Work Unlimited Foundation on Twitter at @teamworkunlimit for schedule updates and more, including how to make a donation.

Mergin Sina, Mark Taylor among those to be honored at The Basketball Reunion next month

Now in its second year, The Basketball Reunion – an event created to bring together players and coaches from high school and college teams throughout various eras – will induct two high school coaches with local ties into its Hall of Honor.

Gill St. Bernard’s boys’ basketball coach Mergin Sina, and St. Benedict’s boys; basketball coach Mark Taylor – who also previously coached at Ridge and St. Joseph-Metuchen – will be honored on April third at the second annual event at the Prudential Center in Newark.

Sina played his college ball in New Jersey at Seton Hall, and after a 12-year professional playing career overseas that saw him inducted into the Portuguese Basketball Federation Hall of Fame, took over the girls’ program at Gill, going 105-49 in six seasons and winning the program’s first two Somerset County Tournament titles in 2009 and 2010. He then took over the boys’ program, where he just wrapped up his 13th season, is 273-71, and has won seven of the last eight SCT championships, including five straight from 2015 to 2019.

Taylor has been at St. Benedict’s in Newark for 12 years and has racked up more than 300 wins, in addition to the 255 victories he had combined at Ridge at St. Joseph of Metuchen. With the Falcons – where he also played his high school ball and is in the Athletics Hall of Fame – Taylor coached two future NBA players in Andrew Bynum and Jay Williams, who was the second pick in the 2002 NBA Draft out of Duke.

Sina and Taylor will be inducted in the “Special Recognition” category.

The Basketball Reunion will be held on the floor of the Prudential Center the night of April 3rd, with a “steakhouse” dining experience, capped off by a watch party of the NCAA Tournament’s men’s basketball national championship game. The event will be emceed by award-winning sports anchor Bruce Beck of WNBC-TV, Channel 4, in New York for the second straight year.

Among those also being inducted in various categories: former Seton Hall stars Terry Dehere and Shaheen Holloway; the 1982 Rutgers women’s basketball AIAW National Championship team; , Dana O’Neil, senior writer for the Athletic; referees Tim Higgins, Ed Corbett and Tom Lopes, all of whom have New Jersey ties; and Mike Fratello and Brian Hill in the NBA Coaching Legends category.

For more information on the event, visit The event is open to the public. Proceeds benefit the Team Hill Foundation and its “programs to assist disadvantaged youngsters on the path to success in life.”

With another two titles, Mary Klinger named CJSR Girls’ Basketball Coach of the Year

One might say it’s easy to win when you have the talent Mary Klinger has at Rutgers Prep. Mikayla Blakes, Katie Ledden, Gigi Battle, and on and on.

But harnessing that talent, getting more and more out of it every day, is the task she really has, and once again, in 2022-23, Klinger was a success.

This is a coach who considers the regular season the preseason, the warm-up, the long stretch to constantly improve. She can be heard bemoaning a defensive effort in a game where her team might win by 30.

That comes from growing up in hardscrabble Philly, along with her twin sister Patty, where during their run to the 1982 AIAW Championship with the Rutgers Lady Knights’ the Coyle twins could be found playing pick-up ball on the city’s courts the night before the title game at the Palestra against vaunted and heavily-favored Texas – who, of course, they wound up beating – just to let off some nervous steam.

That spirit and quest for excellence fuels her to push her team to its limits, and maybe even a little more.

It’s why her Lady Argonauts have won two straight sectional titles, three straight Somerset County Tournament titles, and five of the last seven SCTs.

It’s why Central Jersey Sports Radio once again has named Mary Klinger Coach of the Year, her second such honor from CJSR. She also was so honored in 2021, when her team went undefeated, 13-0, in the COVID-shortened season, our debut year.

Rutgers Prep’s Mary Klinger runs practice on the even of New Jersey’s final Tournament of Champions on March 15, 2022. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Dom Savino talk with Rutgers Prep head coach Mary Klinger, our 2022-23 Girls’ Basketball Coach of the Year:

One more thing: this won’t be the biggest award the Rutgers Prep coach picks up this month.

Klinger, who earlier this season was named by NFHS as New Jersey Girls’ Basketball Coach of the Year for 2021-22, will pick up another coaching honor this weekend when the New Jersey Basketball Coaches’ Association All-State Game is played at Rutgers Prep. This Sunday, she’ll be recognized as a John Wooden Legacy Award Winner by the National High School Basketball Coaches’ Association.

Rutgers Prep’s Blakes earns back-to-back CJSR Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year Honors

It’s rare for a sophomore to be named a Player of the Year in high school basketball, and that’s just what Mikayla Blakes of Rutgers Prep did last year. Which, of course, begs the question, “What do you do for an encore?”

Answer: You do it again.

Blakes – now a junior – had another fantastic season for Rutgers Prep, the clear leader of the ballclub. As she went, Prep went. And they “went” to the tune of a 25-5 record, third straight Somerset County Tournament title, second straight Non-Public South B sectional title, and a clean sweep of the Bellamy & Son Paving Top Ten’s No. 1 ranking all year, making it 28 straight weeks over three seasons.

Individually, Blakes scored 660 points on the season, by far and away not only the team’s leader, averaging 22 per game, but also the top-scorer in the CJSR area. She also led the Lady Argonauts in threes (75), free throws made (131, shooting a cool 85-percent from the line), assists (99) and steals (97).

Rutgers Prep junior Mikayla Blakes runs the point against Wildwood Catholic in the Non-Public South B Final at Seneca High School in Medford Lakes on March 1, 2023. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

Not only did she score in double figures every game – now on a 34-game streak including her last four postseason games last year – but she scored 20 or more in 21 out of 30 games this season, and topped 30 three times, with a career-high 35 at against Gill St. Bernard’s on January fifth.

But many seem to gloss over Blakes’ defensive prowess. She always seems to be in a passing lane, or forcing a bad pass into the hands of one of her teammates. That’s what makes her an all-around player, and the 2023 Central Jersey Sports Radio Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year.

We also have some honorable mentions. Scroll down to read more.

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Dom Savino talk with our Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year, Rutgers Prep junior guard Mikayla Blakes:


Jessica Cooper, St. Thomas Aquinas: You could pick from a lot of great players on the Trojans – including Leah Crosby, who’s won GMCT MVP two years running as a sophomore – but the senior forward gets the nod here. She not only led the team in scoring this year at 12.6 points per game, and rebounding at ten per game, but was a model of consistency, nearly a double-double every night out. In fact, she had 18 in 29 games this season, and a stretch of nine that spanned from mid-January into early February. Cooper will be attending Albany next year on scholarship.

St. Thomas Aquinas forward Jessica Cooper takes a baseline jumper against East Brunswick in the 2022 GMC Tournament semis. (Photo: Dom Savino)

Neysa Aguilar, Middlesex: All due respect to the rest of her Blue Jay teammates, Middlesex doesn’t reach the Central Jersey Group 1 title game without Aguilar. The senior brought it every night, scoring 577 points on the year – an average of 19.9 a game – both good for second best in the GMC. She was also their top rebounder at 7.3 a game while racking up 95 steals, impressive enough except that sophomore Jessica Devine – who’ll take the wheel next year – had a whopping 172.

Middlesex senior Neysa Aguilar gets set to step into a three – one of a career-best seven she hit en route to a career-high 30 point night on Senior Night against North Plainfield on January 31, 2023. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

Taylor Derkack, Colonia: The Patriots didn’t have the team year they wanted in 2022-23, after a program year a season ago, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort by the junior who wears No. 4 on her back, but finished No. 1 in Middlesex County in scoring, with 603 points, an average of 21.5 per game. She blew past the 1,000-point mark this year, and should pass graduating dynamic duo teammate Matti Chiera’s all-time school mark of 1,514 next year. She’s just 179 points behind, and 665 away from 2,000. After scoring 603 this year, that could be within reach.

Colonia’s Taylor Derkack holds the ball in the GMC Tournament Girls’ Championship Game against St. Thomas Aquinas on February 18, 2023 at Monroe Township High School. The Patriots won their opening round state playoff game Monday night. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

Casey Miller, Bound Brook: Miller capped a great career with the Crusaders with a 520-point season, to put here in the 1,000-point club, finishing her four-year varsity career with 1,126 points. Even as the Crusaders slumped to an 11-14 campaign, she was out there night after night putting up big numbers, trying to will her team to a win. She averaged 20.8 points a game – second only to Prep’s Blakes – scoring in double figures in all but two games, but topping 30 four times, scoring a career-high 34 in a late January road win against a ranked North Plainfield club.

Casey Miller of Bound Brook (Source: Assistant Coach Lacey Meyer @laceymeyer on Twitter)

Aquinas girls’ coach Joe Whalen stepping down after three seasons, two GMCT titles

St. Thomas Aquinas head coach Joe Whalen hasn’t let Multiple Sclerosis define him, not at any time since his summer 2021 diagnosis. In fact, it was something few people outside the program even knew he had by the time his Trojans had won their first GMC Tournament title under his wing, and their third straight overall.

But ultimately, MS does require taking care of one’s self. And that’s the decision Whalen has now made, stepping down as the head coach of the STA program.

He actually made the decision during the season. He wanted to announce it before the GMC Tournament Finals, so there was no going back. Because a coach always has that lingering question in his or her mind: Is it the right time to leave? Do I have one more in me?

In the end, he decided to wait until after the season, though his players knew sooner, in varying stages, starting with the seniors like Jessica Cooper and Nia Clemons, D-1 recruits who are going to Albany and Caldwell, respectively.

Follow Sportsplex at Metuchen on Instagram for the latest on open gym sessions on their courts and turf!

Whalen debuted in the COVID-shortened season, which saw the Trojans go 9-5, 7-0 in the GMC Red, but falling to Monroe on their home floor in the final of the four-team GMC Somogyi Family Pod.

What followed were back-to-back 20-win seasons: 22-4 last year, 22-7 this year, with GMC Tournament titles both seasons. That’s a total 53-16 record for Whalen in three seasons, and a 35-1 record in Red Division play, the lone loss coming also to Monroe, last year, on the road, in the regular season. They didn’t lose a single Red Division home game under Whalen’s tenure.

Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko got a chance to talk with Whalen as he departs Aquinas, and gets set to leave the keys to a successor who is expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

Click below to listen to the interview:

Rutgers Prep claims final No. 1 Ranking in Bellamy & Son Paving Girls’ Basketball Top Ten

Despite a loss in its final game of the year to Morris Catholic in the Non-Public Group B Final Sunday afternoon, another dominating season by Rutgers Prep has earned them their rightful place at the top of the final Bellamy & Son Paving Girls’ Basketball Rankings of the 2022-23 season for the third straight season.

The numbers for the Lady Argonauts continue to stagger the mind.

Consider: they have won 41 straight games against Somerset County opponents and 54 against Skyland Conference foes. Of the last 30, none have been by fewer than ten points. And their last loss to a Skyland opponent came against Franklin in the 2019 Somerset County Tournament Final.

They’ve won three straight SCT titles, a stretch interrupted by winning the one-off 2021 Skyland Conference top playoff pod during the COVID-shortened season where there was no county or state tournament.

They are also the only team ever to be ranked in the CJSR/Bellamy Top Ten since it’s inception along with our first season of high school basketball in 2020, making it 28 straight weeks at the top.

Ultimately, Rutgers Prep finished 25-5, won the Skyland Conference Delaware Division, the Somerset County Tournament, and their second straight Non-Public South B sectional title.

The top three teams stayed the same as in the most recent rankings – from Week Eight – with St. Thomas Aquinas at No. 2. The Trojans finished 22-7, and won the GMC Red Division as well as the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament, their fourth straight – not counting the COVID year of 2021.

Gill St. Bernard’s (18-9) is third, the Somerset County Tournament runner-up to Rutgers Prep.

Monroe returned to the rankings at No. 4 after a strong playoff run, going all the way to the Central Jersey Group 4 title game. They beat division foe South Brunswick to get there, but lost in the finals to Jackson Memorial, and finished 17-10.

South Brunswick (19-8) finished right behind the Falcons in fifth place.

Edison checks in at No. 6, the the GMC White Division Champions, who finished the season 21-7 after starting the season 11-0.

Middlesex made a nice run ot the Central Jersey Group 1 finals, where they fell to Shore in the sectional title game, finishing 20-9.

Watchung Hills came in eighth, finishing 20-7, followed by Hillsborough in 9th at 16-11.

North Plainfield finished tenth at 17-9, bowing out of the state tournament to eventual Group 3 finalist Randolph.

Below are the full Bellamy & Son Paving Final Girls’ Basketball Rankings for the 2022-23 season: