Tag: Brandon Walsh

Spotswood at South River

South River Rams, who enthralled a whole town and a whole league in ’23, are CJSR Boys’ Basketball Team of the Year

First, a disclaimer. For as long as I have been doing this, traditionally, the No. 1 team at the end of any sports season is the team of the year. And usually, the stars align, where that team wins a state championship, goes undefeated, etc.

But one team was so compelling this year, almost from the opening tip-off of the entire season. They captivated the Greater Middlesex Conference – and of course, their community – packing their tiny gym with loud fans that left your ears ringing after you left the joint.

That team was the South River Rams. And while St. Thomas Aquinas was clearly and without dispute the No. 1 team in the final Bellamy & Son Paving Top Ten – they dominated all year, won the GMC Tournament, and it wasn’t their fault they ran into the state’s No. 1 team, Roselle Catholic, in the sectional semifinals of Non-Public South B – South River was the team of the year.

Part of it was because those teams don’t come around very often. There were some titles in the ’40s and ’50s. There was the era of Kenny Jackson in the late ’70s, even though he would me more widely known for his football exploits, and the 79-80 Group 2 champions. There was the 1990-91 team, the last to win a title, in Central Jersey Group 1.

This team was on a par with them until they ran into another group two juggernaut in Manasquan with a point guard who would not be denied.

But their journey with a 22-point win over Metuchen on opening night, then took a most interesting turn the day after Christmas, when the Rams went up to St. Joe’s – in a Blue vs. Red Division matchup – and beat the Falcons 74-66.

South River’s Alex Grospe drives the lane against St. Joe’s on December 26, 2022. (Image courtesy St. Joe’s Student Media)

Everyone stood up and took notice. Would it be a fluke? Could they keep it up? If they kept winning, could they get a three-seed in the county tournament? All the talk about bias against the Blue and Gold Divisions of the past years meant nothing since those teams often didn’t play up. South River put its money where its mouth was.

They wound up winning their first eleven games before falling to Piscataway, but finished the regular season as Blue Division Champions, still picked up the third-seed in the GMC Tournament, behind St. Thomas and Colonia. St. Joe’s got the four.

Though they got knocked out in the GMC semis by South Brunswick, their next life would begin in the state tournament, as the top-seed in Central Jersey Group 2. They rolled past East Brunswick Magnet and beat Point Pleasant Boro. They filled the place against a damn good Bound Brook and beat them by six.

South River's gym
The stands are filled in South River’s tiny gym during the JV game before the main event, the huge rivalry between Spotswood and the Rams on January 20, 2023. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

Then came Manasquan.

This was a senior-laden group, and the story after that oh-so-heartbreaking defeat in the Central Jersey Group 2 title game could be told in the lingering crowd thereafter. Family, friends, neighbors. As head coach Brandon Walsh talked to his team, talked, and talked some more, one by one, the seniors would come out.

Roman Santos. Laz Rodriguez. Jeremy Grospe. Kobe Taylor. Isaac Linarez. Gavin Franco.

Each got a round of applause and standing O as they emerged from the locker room.

The Rams didn’t just go 26-4. They drove the student body bonkers every night with long three balls, pesky defense, and transition basketball. They lifted a community’s spirit.

They gave South River a basketball season it will never forget.

That’s why they’re Central Jersey Sports Radio’s 2023 Team of the Year.

Click below to hear Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko talk with head coach Brandon Walsh and senior Laz Rodriguez:

South River’s Laz Rodriguez looks to make a move against Manasquan in the Central Jersey Group 2 title game in South River on February 28, 2023. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

Rams fall short in CJ2 title game as Frauenheim threes keep South River at bay

Every time South River threw a punch, many of them from the touch and moves of senior Laz Rodriguez around the rim, Manasquan punched right back, sometimes and then some.

The second-seeded Warriors took the Central Jersey Group 2 title Tuesday night with a 60-52 win in South River over the top-seeded Rams, in a game heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

The Rams were down one with under a minute to go in the first when ‘Squan junior point guard Ryan Frauenheim hit back-to-back threes, the second longer than the first – which was long to begin with – to leave his team up five at the break.

To say they were backbreakers would not quite be true, given that there was still a full second half to play, but they sure took the air out of South River’s sails. Frauenheim finished with 20, including three from beyond the arc, and led all scorers in the game. Sophomore Darius Adams added 15 for Manasquan, which is now 26-4 and will move on to play South 2 champ Middle Township Thursday at Central Regional High School.

South River (26-4) was led by Laz Rodriguez, who had 15 points on some nifty moves around the bucket. Alex Grospe – in foul trouble most of the night with his brother Jeremy, scored 13, ten in the fourth quarter, including a pair of triples in the final eight minutes.

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

Click below for postgame reaction sponsored by Sportsplex at Metuchen with South River head coach Brandon Walsh:

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 River boys get historic win over North Brunswick to clinch first county semifinal berth since 1979

On the strength of a 24-2 first quarter, third-seed South River won its GMC Tournament quarterfinal game Sunday at Middlesex County College in Edison over 6th-seed North Brunswick, 80-58, to clinch its first trip to the county tournament semifinals since 1979, before the Greater Middlesex Conference was even a thing.

The Rams won the Middlesex County Tournament in 1978 and 1979. Sunday’s game also was their first trip to the quarterfinals since 1991.

The first quarter saw everyone get into the action for South River 23-2). Laz Rodriguez had seven points en route to a team-high 20 points, and also added seven blocks. Jeremy Grospe – who scored 12 – had two of his four three-pointers in the game. Roman Santos had five and Alex Grospe four in the first eight minutes as well.

North Brunswick (20-4) got a game-high 33 from Alani Ajigbotosho, who had three treys in the mix, as the teams combined for 15 made baskets from beyond the arc.

South River moves on to the 5:00 pm semifinal Wednesday night in Monroe against the winner of No. 2 seed Colonia (17-7) and No. 7 seed South Brunswick (15-5). Central Jersey Sports Radio will broadcast both games of the semifinal doubleheader, with Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe calling all the action. Click here to listen on Tuesday night.

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

Click below to hear postgame reaction from South River, presented by Sportsplex at Metuchen:

South River’s Laz Rodriguez and Jeremy Grospe
South River head coach Brandon Walsh

South River clears perhaps its biggest remaining hurdle, as Santos, Rodriguez power Rams past Chargers

Ever since Spotswood took its high schoolers out of South River and opened its own high school in 1976, Chargers-Rams has been an intense rivaly. And 47 years later, little has changed.

The crowd got here for the JV game and never left, and the doors were shut well before tip-off.

Spotswood kept it close for a while, down just eight points at the half.

But the fifth-ranked Rams (13-1, 9-0 GMC Blue) pulled away, getting well into double digits in the third, and beat Spotswood (11-4, 7-3) 73-51 before a packed house in South River.

Senior Roman Santos led all scorers with 18 points, 16 in the first three quarters. By then it was well in hand for the Rams. Santos’ final bucket, his only score in the final eight minutes, was a thunderous one-handed jam in transition.

Senior Laz Rodriguez added 17 in another very balanced game.

Spotswood kept punching, but every time they cut a double-digit lead to six or seven, the Rams always had an answer, and eventually, South River was just too much for them.

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South River won its first meeting with the Chargers just two games into the season in Spotswood. That was a five-point game, and one of the toughest opponents they’ve played all year. It may have been their toughest remaining divisional challenge, as South River is widely considered to have a strong argument for the third-seed in the GMC Tournament next month – providing they don’t trip up the rest of the way – by virtue of beating St. Joseph-Metuchen after Christmas, and despite suffering its first loss of the season last weekend against Piscataway.

Click below for postgame reaction presented by Sportsplex at Metuchen:

Senior Alex Grospe
South River sophomore Alex Grospe (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)
Senior Kobe Taylor
South River senior Kobe Taylor (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)
Head Coach Brandon Walsh0

No. 10 South River frustrates No. 6 Bound Brook in unbeaten clash at GMC-Skyland Challenge

Bound Brook led the game by four in the first minute or two, but never again against South River, as the 10th-ranked Rams knocked off the 6th-seeded Crusaders 66-61 Saturday night, in the finale of the GMC-Skyland Challnge, as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Once the Rams took the lead in the first, and went ahead by as many as 15 points at one stage, they never lost the lead, even though the advantage would shrink to single digits late in the third.

South river got off to a hot start thanks to Roman Santos, who had nine first-quarter points, including a couple of treys, but also quickly picked up two fouls and spent more time on the bench than he or his coach, Brandon Walsh, would have liked.

Laz Rodriguez had 15, with 11 coming in the second half, and eight in the fourth quarter.

But it was Alex Grospe – a sophomore – who earned Game MVP honors: 18 points, a pair of treys, and a balanced night. He also did it on the defensive end.


The win gets the Rams to 9-0 overall, their first time winning nine straight to start a season since 1977-78, when they went 11-0 before getting upset by New Brunswick late in January.

Bound Brook (7-1) was led by senior Jordan Summers’ 22 points, though he was held scoreless in the second quarter.

Click below for postgame reaction, presented by Sportsplex at Metuchen:

Follow Sportsplex at Metuchen on Instagram for the latest on open gym sessions on their courts and turf!
Sophomore guard Alex Grospe
South River sophomore guard Alex Grospe. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)
Head coach Brandon Walsh

No. 10 South River, No. 6 Bound Brook set to clash Saturday in nightcap of GMC-Skyland Challenge

Anthony Melesurgo’s squad is in a familiar situation. To say Bound Brook has started the last two seasons strong would be akin to saying the Empire State Building is a tall structure.

So strong did they start in the COVID-shortened 2021 season, in fact, that they went undefeated, 14-0, for the first time in modern history, perhaps ever. Last year, they won their first 13 games before suffering a loss.

This year, they are 7-0 at the moment, the third straight full season (read: beginning in December) that they’ve entered January with an unblemished record.

South River, meanwhile, has matched last year’s 8-0 start, and the No. 10 Rams – ranked in the Bellamy & Son Paving Top Ten for the first time ever will look to best that mark when they take on the No. 6 Crusaders in the finale of the GMC-Skyland Challenge in Bound Brook Saturday night at 7:00, in a contest that can be heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

With the five-game slate starting at 11 am, pregame is tentatively set for 6:45 pm, with Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe calling all the action. You can hear the game by clicking here.

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A win for the Rams would put them at 9-0 for the first time since the 1977-78 season, when they began the year 11-0 before getting upset at New Brunswick. That team’s star was Kenny Jackson, who went on to be an All-American football standout at Penn State, and was later the fourth overall pick in the 1984 NFL Draft by Philadelphia.

Click below for a preview of the game with both head coaches:

Bound Brook head coach Anthony Melesurgo
South River head coach Brandon Walsh

South River pulls of biggest upset so far in GMC, knocking off St. Joe’s in Metuchen

When the time comes for the GMC Tournament seeding meeting, just over a month from now, this will be one for the Rams’ resume, no matter what happens the rest of the year.

It’s rare enough for a GMC Blue Division team to play up to a Red Division opponent, let alone a Red Division team expected to compete for a division title.

And yet, South River traveled to Metuchen to take on St. Joseph on Monday, and knocked off the Falcons on the strength of a strong third quarter. With the teams tied 34-34 at the half, the Rams won the third period 15-8, then held off the Falcons over the final eight minutes.

Roman Santos led the way with 20 points, while Alex Grospe added 14 and Laz Rodriguez chipped in ten. It was a balanced scoring effort, with seven players in the scoring column, six of them scoring at least 8 points.

The Rams – who beat Henry Hudson Wednesday – are now 5-0.

Click below to hear South River head coach Brandon Walsh talk about how the Rams pulled off the upset of the year, so far, in the GM:

South River boys win Blue Division battle of attrition, back and forth affair at Spotswood

Both teams played with key starters on the bench in foul trouble for much of the second half – Jeremy Grospe and Laz Rodriguez for South River, and Aiden Scher, Kiya Walker and Casey Cumskiey for Spotswood. In the end, the Rams hung on longer to beat the Chargers on the road, 73-68, in a key early season Blue Division contest heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Senior guard Roman Santos was not one of those in foul trouble, and he tied for game-high honors, leading South River with 21 points in the victory, on a pretty balanced night: 12 points in the first half, and nine more after intermission, when he went 5-of-6 in the foul line, including 4-for-4 in the critical fourth quarter.

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Spotswood trailed most of the way, down 21-15 after the first eight minutes and 34-33 at the half, leading on a handful of occasions, but only briefly. They led 46-43 at the end of the third, but the Rams put together a solid quarter as the Chargers’ fould racked up.

Despite the foul trouble, junior forward Kiye Walker tied Santos’ game high with 21 points of his own, including a pair of treys.

Spotswood drops to 2-1 with the loss, 1-1 in the GMC Blue. The Rams are 2-0, both wins coming in divisional play.

Click below for postgame reaction from the game, presented by Sportsplex at Metuchen:

Senior Forward Roman Santos
Head Coach Brandon Walsh

South River’s veteran squad has big early-season clash tonight with rival Spotswood

Whenever the Chargers and Rams get together – in any sport – it’s a headline game in both towns.

But tonight’s meeting between Spotswood (2-0) and South River (1-0) is a big early season Blue Division matchup in a season where both have a good shot to win the title.

For the Rams, that’s big news, and something that hasn’t happened in 30 years.

Tonight’s game can be heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio tonight, with Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino on the call from Spotswood. Click here to listen, beginning with pregame at 6:15 and tip-off at 6:30 pm.

Both teams have experienced cores, with the Rams led by its most veteran players, seniors Jeremy Grospe and Lazaro Rodriguez. In a season-opening 72-50 home win Friday against Metuchen, Grospe scored 18 – fueled by five treys – whle Rodriguez added 17 points and four rebounds. Grospe’s younger brother, Alex – a sophomore – added 10 points and dished out nine assists.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with South River fourth-year coach Brandon Walsh: