Tag: girls basketball

Rutgers Prep girls ride defense, Blakes and Ledden to back-to-back Non-Public South B titles with 70-40 win over Wildwood Catholic

Press. Score. Defense. Rebound. Transition.


The same tried and true formula that has worked her entire life at Rutgers Prep worked again on Wednesday night for head coach Mary Klinger’s squad, as the third-seeded Argonauts “knocked off” top seed Wildwood Catholic in the Non-Public South B championship game at Seneca High School, as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

And so, it’s back-to-back sectional titles for Klinger, Mikayla Blakes, Katie Ledden and Co. with one more game to play, the Non-Public Group B final, to be played Saturday at the RWJBarnabas Health Arena in Toms River, at a time to be determined.

Rutgers Prep (25-6) will face 2nd-seed Morris Catholic (26-3), a team they lost to in December, after giving up what was a 13-point third-quarter lead to lose by three. Morris Catholic beat 4th-seed Montclair-Immaculate 55-49 Wednesday night in the Non-Public North B final.

For Rutgers Prep, it was the usual: Blakes leading on offense with 22 points, Ledden adding 20. Zahra Alexander finished with ninr.

Prep never trailed in the game, jumping out to a 9-2 lead they would never relinquish, and holding Wildwood Catholic without a field goal for most of the second quarter. The Argonauts built the lead to as many as 36 in the fourth quarter before the starters came out.

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Rutgers Prep junior Mikayla Blakes
Rutgers Prep senior Katie Ledden
Rutgers Prep head coach Mary Klinger

Middlesex is lone girls’ public to move on to a title game Monday, while Rutgers Prep wins in Non-Public sectional quarters

Just two Central Jersey Sports Radio-are girls’ basketball teams advanced in the state tournament Friday night, with Middlesex advancing to the Central Jersey Group 1 final Monday, while Rutgers Prep won to advance to the Non-Public South B semifinals.

In an all-GMC matchup, second-seed Middlesex (20-8) was in control nearly wire-to-wire in a 69-42 win over third-seed Dunellen (19-10). Senior Neysa Aguilar pumped in 32 points for the Blue Jays, and now is averaging nearly 23 points per game in three state tourney games.

The victory earns Middlesex a trip to the Central Jersey Group 1 Final on Monday night at top-seed Shore Regional (22-6), which was a 61-41 winner Friday night over Pt. Pleasant Beach (21-6).

In North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 action, fifth-seed Colonia’s season was ended by top-seed Randolph, which won at home 50-46.

On the non-public side, the only area winner was Rutgers Prep. The third-seeded Lady Argonauts (23-4) were 91-43 winners in the Non-Public South B quarterfinals over 6th-seed Trenton Catholic (13-11). Head coach Mary Klinger emptied her bench, playing 13 players in the game.

Senior Katie Ledden scored 26 points and added six rebounds, while junior Mikayla Blakes added 21, and freshman Ava LoMonica notched a double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Prep led big early, 29-8 after one quarter, and 56-17 at the halftime break.

In the semifinals, Prep will go on the road to face 2-seed St. Rose in Belmar, after they crushed 7-seed Bishop Eustace Friday night, 77-23. The other semi will feature 5th-seed Holy Spirit at top-seed Wildwood Catholic.

In Non-Public North B, fifth-seed Gill St. Bernard’s was eliminated by 4th-seed Montclair-Immaculate, 55-49, while 7th-seed Wardlaw Hartridge was beaten 89-16 by 2-seed Morris Catholic.

And in Non-Public South A, 5th-seed St. Thomas Aquinas lost on the road to 4th-seed Red Bank Catholic, 47-38.

Below are Friday night scores, with full results in sections with teams remaining. Scroll further down for the upcoming girls’ schedule.

North 2, Group 3
#1 Randolph def. #5 Colonia, 50-46

Central Group 1
#1 Shore Regional def. #5 Pt. Pleasant Beach, 61-41
#2 Middlesex def. #3 Dunellen, 69-42

Non-Public South A
#4 Red Bank Catholic def. #5 St. Thomas Aquinas, 47-38

Non-Public North B
#4 Montclair-Immaculate def. #5 Gill St. Bernard’s, 55-49
#2 Morris Catholic def. #7 Wardlaw-Hartridge, 89-16

Non-Public South B
#1 Wildwood Catholic def. #8 Gloucester Catholic, 41-34
#5 Holy Spirit def. #4 Holy Cross Prep, 67-60
#3 Rutgers Prep def. #6 Trenton Catholic, 91-43
#2 St. Rose-Belmar def. #7 Bishop Eustace, 77-23



Central Group 4 Semifinals
#5 Jackson Memorial at #1 Hightstown
#3 Monroe at #2 South Brunswick

North 2, Group 4 Semifinals
#4 Westfield at #1 Bayonne
#7 Scotch Plains-Fanwood at #6 Watchung Hills


Central Group 1 Final
#2 Middlesex at #1 Shore Regional

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

INSTANT REPLAY: SCT Girls’ Final – #1 Rutgers Prep 64, #2 Gill St. Bernard’s 39

The top-seeded Rutgers Prep Lady Argonauts won their third straight Somerset County Tournament title, beating second-seed Gill St. Bernard’s 64-39, behind a career-high 21 points for Zahra Alexander, who led her team in scoring for the first time in her scholastic career.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko and Chris Tsakonas call all the action from Montgomery High School on February 18, 2023 on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Rutgers Prep seeking third straight SCT girls’ title is a huge mountain to climb for Gill St. Bernard’s

The Rutgers Prep girls’ basketball team has been dominating the Skyland Conference for years, but for the last few, the Lady Argonauts have stood alone. They’ve won two straight Somerset County Championships by an average of almost 28 points, sandwiched around a one-off Skyland Blue Pod Championship in the COVID-shortened season by another 28 points.

In their last 108 wins – dating back to the start of the start of the 2017-18 season – only eight of them have come by fewer than ten points.

That’s the challenge Gill St. Bernard’s will face when they bring they’re very good basketball team to Montgomery High School Saturday afternoon for the Somerset County Tournament Championship Game. Sure, they have some scorers, and some balance, and some depth, too. But can they crack Rutgers Prep, which has beaten them by more than 31 points a game – none closer than 28 – in their last four meetings

You can hear Saturday’s entire SCT Championship Doubleheader presented on Central Jersey Sports Radio, as Mike Pavlichko and Chris Tsakonas call all the action. The girls game starts at 1:00 with pregame at 12:45; the boys’ final starts at 3 pm with the same teams. Click here to listen to the live broadcast for free.

Here’s a complete preview of the championship game, with audio from both coaches, analysis, stats, notes, nuggets and more.

#1 Rutgers Prep (19-4) vs. #2 Gill St. Bernard’s (17-6)
When: Saturday, February 18 at 1 pm
Where: Montgomery High School
Listen Live: Central Jersey Sports Radio, pregame begins at 12:45 pm

The Rutgers Prep girls’ basketball team hosts Gill St. Bernard’s on January 24, 2023 in Somerset. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

#1 Rutgers Prep
Head Coach: Mary Klinger – 39th season, 652-247)
2021-22 NFHS Coach of the Year

Though her team wound up winning big yet again, 67-38 in the semifinals of the SCT Thursday night against Franklin, Klinger was less than satisfied with the defensive effort, particularly in the half-court. It didn’t help that the shots weren’t falling early on either for the Argonauts. But defense is what you can control, it’s what Klinger preaches, and what they will have been working on to straighten up for Saturday’s SCT final against Gill. That said, they’ve had an excellent season, challenging themselves with stiff out-of-conference competition, only taking two losses to New Jersey opponents this year: Paul VI and Morris Catholic.

Junior phenom Mikayla Blakes runs the show; she’s the team’s top scorer and leads in assists and steals, as well as three-pointers made, with 55 on the year for a team that has hit 148 in just 23 games. Katie Ledden is a veteran steadying presence, the only senior in the starting lineup, a scary proposition down the road once she heads off to Rhode Island next year. Freshman GiGi Battle has been a starter since she set foot on the Rutgers Prep campus, and fellow freshman Ava LaMonica is contributing, too. Zahra Alexander and Chloe Escanillas are key parts as well. This team is so deep and talented, they’re the team to beat until someone does. No one in Somerset County has really come that close in quite some time.

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Projected Starting Five:

  • PG Mikayla Blakes (5-8, Jr): 22.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 55 treys, 81 assists, 73 steals
  • G/F Katie Ledden (6-1, Sr): 14.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 26 treys, 43 blocks, 45 steals
  • G/F Gigi Battle (6-0, Fr): 9.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 13 treys, 30 steals
  • G/F Zahra Alexander (5-8, Jr): 7.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 52 assists
  • F/C Alex DeIasi (6-0, Jr): 2.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg

Coach’s Interview:

Rutgers Prep Head Coach Mary Klinger

SCT History (7-5):

2005 – #1 Hillsborough 40, #3 Rutgers Prep 29
2006 – #5 Hillsborough 51, #2 Rutgers Prep 45
2008 – #1 Rutgers Prep 38, #2 Watchung Hills 34
2011 – #1 Rutgers Prep 62, #6 Bridgewater-Raritan 56
2012 – #1 Gill St. Bernard’s 57, #6 Rutgers Prep 45
2015 – Rutgers Prep 52, Franklin 46
2016 – Rutgers Prep 41, Gill St. Bernard’s 28
2017 – Rutgers Prep 62, Gill St. Bernard’s 35
2018 – Franklin 68, Rutgers Prep 49
2019 – Franklin 63, Rutgers Prep 45
2020 – Rutgers Prep 60, Watchung Hills 34
2022 – #1 Rutgers Prep 64, #2 Gill St. Bernard’s 35

How they win: They can still win easily otherwise, and they often do, but getting out of the gate hot will make life a whole lot easier for Rutgers Prep. Don’t let Gill hang around. Get out early with the full-court press, force turnovers, and turn them into buckets.

Past Coverage:

Gill st Bernard’s takes on Watchung Hills in the Somerset County Tournament semifinals in Gladstone on February 16, 2023. (Photo: Chris Tsakonas)

#2 Gill St. Bernard’s
Head Coach: Mark Gnapp – 5th season, 80-36

There’s no secret who the star is for Gill St. Bernard’s: Brooke Baisley makes the offense go. The junior had a fantastic sophomore campaign and hasn’t disappointed in her junior season, leading the team in scoring, rebounding, three point shooting and steals, so she can play offense and defense. There is some balance, though on the rest of the team, from second-leading scorer and sophomore Maya Abramson – who contributed on a young team as a freshman last year – and fellow sophomore Sydney Quinn, the top scorer in the Knights’ semifinal win over Watchung Hills.

From Abranmson down to the third player off the bench, they range in scoring from 9 to 5.1 points per game. That’s good ball distribution, and good sharing. They’ll just need to take care of the ball against Rutgers Prep, something that’s easier said than done. They have some height, with 6-5 Gandy Malou-Mamel – another sophomore – in the middle and on the blocks, a matchup problem for Rutgers Prep, which has no one in the starting lineup taller than Katie Ledden, at 6-1.

Projected Starting Five:

  • G Brooke Baisley (5-10, Jr): 13.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 30 treys, 57 assists, 64 steals
  • G Tessa Lozner (5-3, Soph): 5.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 80 assists, 11 treys
  • G Jennah Johnson (5-9, Jr): 7.1 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 10 treys
  • F Sidney Quinn (Soph, 6-1): 8.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 6 treys
  • F/C Gandy Malou-Mamel (6-5, Soph): 6.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 48 blocks

Coach’s Interview:

Gill St. Bernard’s Head Coach Mark Gnapp

SCT History (5-3):

2009 – #2 Gill St. Bernard’s 57, #4 Somerville 55
2010 – #2 Gill St. Bernard’s 64, #1 Bridgewater-Raritan 44
2012 – #1 Gill St. Bernard’s 57, #6 Rutgers Prep 45
2013 – Gill St. Bernard’s 63, Franklin 57
2014 – Gill St. Bernard’s 55, Franklin 51
2016 – Rutgers Prep 41, Gill St. Bernard’s 28
2017 – Rutgers Prep 62, Gill St. Bernard’s 35
2022 – Rutgers Prep 64, Gill St. Bernard’s 35

How they win: Gill will have to bring it’s A++ game. Take care of the basketball, and if you can get Rutgers Prep miscues, take advantage. Don’t fall behind early; it’s extremely tough to come back against the Argos, especially when they run that relentless full-court pressure that can swing the score or build a lead in the blink of an eye. Using their size advantage with Malou-Mamel would be a plus, too.

St. Thomas Aquinas seeks fourth straight, while Colonia girls vie for first-ever GMC Tournament Championship

It never gets old for Joe Whalen’s St. Thomas Aquinas Trojans.

“It feels like home,” said sophomore Gianna Chuffo two nights ago.

For a third straight full Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament, St. Thomas Aquinas is back in the championship game, and on Friday night will go up against a Colonia program that is making its first-ever appearance in the finals.

You can hear Friday night’s entire Championship Doubleheader presented by Dayton Toyota Service and Dayton Collision of South Brunswick on Central Jersey Sports Radio, as Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino call all the action. Pregame begins at 5:45 for the 6:00 girls title tilt between top Seed St. Thomas and third-seed Colonia.

That will be followed by the Boys’ final at 8:00 with top-seed Aquinas taking on seventh-seed South Brunswick. Click here to listen to the live broadcast for free.

Here’s a complete preview of the championship game, with audio from both coaches, analysis, stats, notes, nuggets and more.

#1 St. Thomas Aquinas (20-6) vs. #3 Colonia (14-10)
When: Friday, February 17 at 6 pm
Where: Monroe Township High School
Listen Live: Central Jersey Sports Radio, pregame begins at 5:45 pm

The St. Thomas Aquinas girls basketball team with its 2022 Championship Banner. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

St. Thomas Aquinas
Head Coach: Joe Whalen – 3rd season, 49-16

The Trojans are in the finals of the GMC’s postseason for a fourth straight year. The run started in 2019, before the school’s name changed from Bishop Ahr to it’s original moniker, St. Thomas Aquinas. As the top-seed, they beat second-seed Edison 47-32 under head coach Brittney Griffin. The next year, they had a new name, and Griffin’s squad again was the top seed, and beat third-seed Monroe, 64-41. In 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic results in a delayed, shortened season, with no full tournament – and no state tournament – just a series of four-game postseason pods. Under first-year head coach Joe Whalen, Aquinas made it to the final, but lost to Monroe in North Edison. They came back as the top-seed last year in the full tourney, and beat seven-seed South Brunswick 64-58.

One could say this is an experienced bunch, led by two D1-committed seniors in the front court: All Red-Division standout Jessica Cooper is headed to Albany, and Nia Clemons is headed to Caldwell. The rest of their starting lineup features two sophomores and one junior, but they’ve been here before – last year, to be exact. The third-year standout who played in the COVID pod final is Leah Crosby, a regular threat for a double-double who leads the team in steals. The two sophs are guard Gianna Chuffo – who had 21 points on seven treys in a 67-39 semifinal win over fourth-seed Monroe, and point guard Amarillis Shubick, who has given up some scoring pressure to me more of a distributor this year. She’s the “priority of every team we play,” says Whalen.

Projected Starting Five:

  • PG Amarillis Shubick (5-5, Jr): 8 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 4.92 apg, 30 treys
  • G Gianna Chuffo (5-4, Soph): 10.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 76 treys
  • F Leah Crosby (6-2, Soph): 11.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 22 blocks, 65 FTM
  • F Jessica Cooper: 12.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 47 steals, 65 FTM
  • F Nia Clemons (6-0, Sr): 9.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 10 treys

Coach’s Interview:

St. Thomas Aquinas Head Coach Joe Whalen

GMC Tournament History:

1984 – #1 Bishop Ahr 52, #2 St. Peter’s 49 (MCT)
1985 – #1 St. Peter’s 40, #2 Bishop Ahr 21 (MCT)
1986 – #1 Hoffman 55, #2 Bishop Ahr 52
1987 – #1 Hoffman 74, #2 Bishop Ahr 46
1994 – #2 Bishop Ahr 51, #1 East Brunswick, 36
1996 – #2 East Brunswick 50, #5 Bishop Ahr 43
2001 – #5 Bishop Ahr 55, #2 East Brunswick 43
2014 – #2 Piscataway 50, #12 Bishop Ahr 45
2019 – #1 Bishop Ahr 47, #2 Edison 32
2020 – #1 St. Thomas Aquinas 64, #3 Monroe 41
2022 – #1 St. Thomas Aquinas 64, #7 South Brunswick 58

Aquinas is tied with four other teams from three other schools for most consecutive titles won, with three. In addition to the Trojans COVID-interrupted three-tournament run including titles in 2019, 2020 and 2022, Piscataway won three straight twice, from 2009 to 2011 and again from 2013 to 2015. JP Stevens won three in a row from 2003 to 2005, and Hoffman won the first three GMC Tournament titles from 1986 to 1988.

How they win: St. Thomas is battle-tested and clicking on all cylinders. They need to keep playing the great defense they’ve been all season long, and if they can keep another All-Red Division pick by the coaches, Taylor Derkack, from going off like they did in their last regular season meeting – she only had four going into the fourth quarter, when the game was long ago decided – they’ll be in great shape.

Past Coverage:

Colonia’s Mattison Chiera (l) and Taylor Derkack lead the way for the Patriots. (submitted photo)

Colonia Patriots
Head Coach: Sandi Chiera – 4th season, 57-36

The Patriots took a big step forward in 2021-22 and had a program year, setting a program record for wins with 25 and going 14-0 in the GMC White to win its first-ever divisional title of any kind. But their run ended in disappointment, getting upset by seventh-seed South Brunswick in the GMC Tournament semifinals. They made it to the Central Jersey Group 3 final, but lost to Ewing 69-46. This year’s team was hoping to take a step forward, but didn’t – at least in the win column. Part of that was moving up to the GMC Red Division, and facing tougher opposition. In six divisional losses, not counting two to Aquinas, Colonia dropped four division games to East Brunswick, Old Bridge, Monroe and South Brunswick by the sum total of 22 points, and lost none of those games by more than seven. They also split with all four teams. They learned how to make adjustments by getting revenge wins against the Knights and Vikings, but also dropped rematches to East Brunswick and Monroe.

There’s no secret that it’s junior Taylor Derkack and senior Matti Chiera – the coach’s daughter – who make the team go, accounting for 36.3 of the team’s 46.6 point per game average. Derkack does it all, leading in all but one major offensive category, socring 21.5 points per game, grabbing 12.2 rebounds, and adding 75 assists, 46 blocks, and 93 steals. She’s even made 139 free throws on the season, accounting for 26-percent of her points. She’s hit 34 treys, the only category she doesn’t lead; Chiera has 41. But the rest of the supporting cast doesn’t have the numbers scoring numbers. Beyond overall points, the duo has made 75 of the team’s 78 treys on the year. What’s been an enigma is this: Where has Colonia lost games? Even in defeats, Chiera and Derkack get their points, in general. It’s a matter of how hard they have to work.

Projected Starting Five:

  • PG Taylor Derkack (6-0, Jr): 21.5 ppg, 12.2 rpg, 75 assists, 46 blocks, 93 steals, 34 treys, 134 FTM
  • G Mattison Chiera (5-7, Sr): 14.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 41 treys, 50 steals
  • G Sarah Genoni (5-5, Sr): 1.1 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 1 trey, 10 steals
  • F Isabel Gidado (Soph): 4.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 27 steals
  • F Amani Moore (5-10, Sr): 2.7 ppg, 5 rpg

Coach’s Interview:

Colonia Head Coach Sandi Chiera

GMC Tournament History:

Last year was Colonia’s first-ever appearance in the county tournament semifinals, MCT or GMC. It ended there, with a loss to South Brunswick, making this the Patriots’ first-ever county tourney finals appearance.

How they win: St. Thomas did a number on Colonia defensively in their last meeting. Colonia hung in, but was gassed by halftime. Down just 17-11 after one quarter, Aquinas ratcheted things up in the next eight minutes and led 47-14 at the half, and won 83-33. The first meeting was a 29-point loss. It’s hard to say Derkack and Chiera need to step up any more than they already do, so it falls upon the supporting cast to set screens and give the due the best looks possible. Draw defenders down and kick out. Move the ball, and value it.

Past Coverage:

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Top Seeds Rule: More often than not, the No. 1 seed wins the GMC. Including MCT play (1975-1985) the top-seed has won 28 titles, while the three-seed has won only seven. Even the No. 2 seed has won only nine. The five-, seven-, and 13-seeds have each won one apiece. Overall, the No. 1 seed is 28-12 in the championship game, while third-seeds are 7-7. But third-seeds have also done fairly well against the top-seeds considering. The combo has happened 13 times, with the top seed only prevailing in seven of them. The most recent to do so was in 2011, when third-seed Piscataway beat top-seed Cardinal McCarrick, 67-45, in the South Amboy school’s final appearance in the GMCT final before closing after the 2014-15 school year.

Big Loss: One other reason for Colonia’s struggles this year was the loss of Mya Patino. The junior guard suffered a season-ending knee injury in a scrimmage against Hillsborough. She averaged 5.1 points per game and 2.4 rebounds last year, and was expected to make a significant contribution this year. She’ll be back next season, but not before the Patriots lose Matti Chiera to graduation.

Aquinas Success: Going back to the start of the 2017-18 season, St. Thomas has won 71 of 84 GMC divisional games – and 43 straight – whether in the White or the Red, which they’ve been in for two seasons now.

Ahr/Aquinas Success Against Colonia: The last win for Colonia against the school now known as St. Thomas Aquinas came when they were still known as Bishop Ahr, on February 1st, 2014, a 52-35 Patriots win. Since then, Ahr/Aquinas has won 15 straight in the series, including twice this season. 58-29 on January 12th, and 83-33 on February second on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Halftime Leads: When St. Thomas Aquinas leads at the half, they don’t look back. Their last loss when going into the locker room with a lead was a 46-41 defeat at the hands of Monroe in the Somogyi Family Pod to end the 2021 COVID-shortened season.

Gill St. Bernard’s girls move on to SCT title game with 76-47 win over Watchung Hills

It started as a defensive battle, then things opened up.

And when the dust settled, second-seed Gill St. Bernard’s had a 76-47 Somerset County Tournament semifinal win over third-seed Watchung Hills, to move on to its second straight title game.

Four Knights finished in double figures – and Sidney Quinn led the offensive effort with a career high 16 points in the win.

Also finishing in double figures for Gill (17-6) were Brooke Baisley with 14 points, Jennah Johnson with 11 and Maya Abramson with 10. For Watchung Hills (17-6), Claire Gillenwater and Giana Lobozzo finished with 11 points each.

After a defensive-minded opening quarter ended 12-5, Gill began to pull away late in the half, going into the locker room up 32-20. That momentum carried over into the third quarter, where Gill outscored Watchung Hills 29-11.

With the semifinal in the rearview mirror, the stage is set for rematch against Rutgers Prep with a county title on the line this Saturday at 1 pm at Montgomery High School, a game you can hear on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Gill lost both meeting with Rutgers Prep this year.

Click below for postgame reaction sponsored by SportsPlex at Metuchen:

Gill St. Bernard’s sophomore Sydney Quinn
Gill St. Bernard’s Head Coach Mark Gnapp

Colonia girls clinch historic first-ever county finals berth with win over South Brunswick

On another in a long line of strong offensive and defensive nights from junior Taylor Derkack – who finished with 27 points, a career-best four treys, and too many blocks to count – third-seed Colonia beat second-seed South Brunswick 49-31 Tuesday night in the GMC Tournament semifinals at Monroe High School, in a game heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio, presented by Dayton Toyota Service and Dayton Collision.

The game was a rematch of last year’s semifinal between the teams, which ended with disappointment after a program-best year for Colonia, including their first-ever division title. This year was not the same.

Colonia led never trailed and was in control the whole way, leading 15-4 after one quarter and 26-15 at the half.

The Patriots move on to play the winner of Tuesday night’s second semifinal between top-seed St. Thomas Aquinas and fourth-seed Monroe, which can be heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio by clicking here.

Mattison Chiera added 16 for Colonia (14-10), while Katie Rausch led South Btrunswick (17-7) with nine on three treys.

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Click below for postgame reaction presented by Sportsplex at Metuchen:

Colonia junior Taylor Derkack
Colonia head coach Sandi Chiera

Super Saturday: A game-by-game look at the GMC Tournament girls’ quarterfinals

One site, two days, eight games – four on the girls’ side, four on the boys.

It’s time for the Greater Middlesex Tournament quarterfinals, as the girls take the first day of four games at Middlesex County College in Edison all day Saturday. Seven of the top eight seeds made it to the quarters, with the only one not to make it eighth-seed Spotswood, which got knocked off by No. 9 Middlesex in the “first round” on Wednesday night.

Here’s a closer look at all four games on Saturday’s schedule:

#3 Colonia (12-10) vs. #6 Old Bridge (13-8), 11 am

The Patriots have taken their lumps having moved up from the White to the Red Division, but they can be a dangerous team, and they’re still the No. 3 seed for a reason. They also could just as well by 16-6 right now, with four of their five losses in the division coming by a total of 22 points, and none by more than seven. These teams have split their last four games, but only played once each in 2018 and 2021 before meeting twice this year. Old Bridge won 52-45 on January third, while Colonia won the rematch 46-43 on January 24th.

For the third season in a row, the Patriots are led by Mattison Chiera and Taylor Derkack. A junior, Derkack is the team’s top scorer at 21.6 points per game, while Chiera is averaging 14.7. That’s a combined 36.3 points; the problem is, they’re only scoring 47. They’ll need others to chip in, like swing sophomore Isabel Gidado, who’s third in scoring at 4.5 a game. No one else has scored more than 51 points the entire season. That’s something head coach Sandi Chiera – Mattie’s mom – was looking for coming into the year, a supporting cast, and so far, it’s been elusive.

Old Bridge, meanwhile, has won four of its last five, including a 52-44 win over Piscataway Wednesday night in the first round, their third win over the Chiefs this season. In their early January win over Colonia, Gabrielle Walker led the way with 14 points and seven boards, while Malvina Sullivan grabbed 11 rebounds. Limiting Chiera and Derkack will be the main goal here for Alec Alspach’s team. It doesn’t happen often, but Colonia is 1-3 when Chiera is held to single digits, 3-5 when Derkack scores in the teens.

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#2 South Brunswick (16-6) vs. #7 East Brunswick (13-10), 1 pm

The Vikings are a serious No. 2 seed, and have a lot of offensive weapons. They finished 10-4 in the Red Division, second behind top-seed St. Thomas Aquinas, which they lost to twice this year, but only by eight in their first meeting back on December 20th. That, along with Aquinas’ following game against Old Bridge, were their closest division games all year. Senior Katie Rausch – a newly-minted 1,000-point scorer – leads the team at 13.7 points per game, along with a team-best 44 three-pointers. But they have balance at the top. Alexis Lease-Springer – just a sophomore – averages 12.8 a game, and has hit 31 from downtown, while junior Meher Vig averages 11.1 per game. She’s hit 26 threes, while Leilani Pinder – another junior – has hit 20. Senior guard Cynai Price rounds a tough lineup that shares the ball, which is part of what makes them so tough.

The Lady Bears dropped both meetings this year to the Vikings, but played them to within 11 their last time out, just nine days ago, an 80-49 defeat. And they may be the hottest team all of a sudden on the GMC girls’ side. Consider than on January 26th, they were 6-9, and come into this one 13-10, having won seven of their last eight games. In the first round Wednesday, it was senior guard Nicole Motusesky, willing her team to a win in the final two minutes of the game, spurring a monumental comeback from down 12, scoring the last dozen points of the game on four three-point baskets. And she’s not even the team’s leading scorer. That falls to senior forward Tamea El with 12.1 points per game (and 10.8 rebounds) as well as Brooke Motusesky – Nicole’s cousin – with 11 a game. The Bears are deep as well, which makes this a great matchup.

#4 Monroe (13-7) vs. #5 Edison (19-4), 3 pm

The Falcons have beaten Edison five straight times, dating back to 2018, and none but that first one five years ago – by a 54-52 score – was close. The others have been wins by 34, 21, 25 and 24 points. This year’s matchup went Monroe’s way, 60-36, but the Falcons have come up with some big wins in years past, and this goes right on the list (see: their upset of eventual GMCT Champion St. Thomas Aquinas in the regular season last year). Leigh Vogtman is one of the top coaches in the GMC, and she will have her team ready for an Edison squad that is having its best year since 2018-19, when they went 20-7, lost to then-Bishop Ahr in the GMC Tournament final, and went to the North 2, Group 4 quarterfinals. Junior Halley Cottrell is the team’s leading scorer at 13 points per game, also getting significant contributions from seniors Katelyn Louro (also the team’s top rebounder at 5.5 a game) and Haley Higgins, as well as sophomore Evangelina Francisco, and junior Nicole Turco, the niece of Aquinas boys’ coach Bob Turco, daughter of his brother Dave, the current Kean men’s basketball coach who lead St. Joseph-Metuchen to the Tournament of Champions title in 2014.

Edison won its first eleven games of the year before that loss to Monroe on January 12th, and since has defeats to North Plainfield, East Brunswick and South Brunswick. They’re coming off a dismantling of Woodbridge in the opening round, 62-31, behind Ghelsey Go’s 24 points and 14 rebounds, her ninth game with 20 or more points this season. She averages 16.7 points and 7.8 boards a game, and is having a fantastic year. But so is the rest of the team. Go, senior Keisha Ortiz and freshman Trista Whitney – both averaging 12.7 points per game – all can score from deep; all have at least 30 made threes this year, with Go leading the way with 34. They’ve won some big, and some close this season, and that should make this one a good one to watch.

#1 St. Thomas Aquinas (18-6) vs. #9 Middlesex (17-5), 5 pm

An intriguing matchup as Blue Jays’ head coach Kevin Harper goes up against his old school, which unceremoniously let him go in 2016. The winningest coach in GMC girls’ history, he was quickly snapped up by Middlesex AD Mike O’Donnell, and has flourished since, now 122 and 26 with the Jays’ program. (He’s 719-322 overall, including 27 years at then-Bishop Ahr, where he won two GMCT titles.) And these teams naturally don’t play much. Their last meeting was in the COVID-shortened season, a game Middlesex won 59-50, but a highly anticipated matchup in the GMC’s Somogyi Family Pod that year never materialized, as they had to bow out due to COVID cases on the team before the four-game mini-tournament even began.

It’s a tall order for them in Saturday’s finale, simply because of their depth. Only six, maybe seven players see significant minutes, but they do have some very talented players in that group. Senior Neysa Aguilar – the only senior in the rotation leads the team in scoring at 21 points per game, grabbing nearly eight rebounds per contest. Then there’s sophomore Jess Divine, who is averaging 18.7 a game, along with a whopping 6.4 steals per, and dishing out 6.4 assists per contest. She sure get everyone involved, and is a three-point threat herself, with 31 from downtown, second only to junior Jaclyn DeShields, with a team-leading 41 treys on the year. Aguilar his hit 21 on the season, as well. Middlesex can get up and down the floor, and they will, but so can Aquinas.

St. Thomas – led by another girls’ basketball coaching giant in Joe Whalen, who’s 203-42 in his nine seasons in North Edison, plus time spent at St. Rose Belmar and Montclair-Immaculate – is deep and talented. And they’ve won three straight GMC Tournament titles. Amarillis Shubick is the point guard who makes everything go, and has not been needed to score as much this year. Senior Jessica Cooper – an Albany commit – leads the team there with 12.6 points per game. Gianna Chuffo (9.7 ppg) can bury it from deep, with 66 made baskets from beyond the arc. But maybe the biggest plus is the defense, which is averaging nearly 11 steals a game. They can get up and down the floor, too. They’re long, smart, and have been challenged by a grueling out-of-conference schedule, playing teams like Saddle River Day and Long Island Lutheran, the top team in the country for much of the year, among others. They’re the tournament’s clear-cut favorite, and watching them play, it’s easy to see why.

Rutgers Prep sweeps top seeds in Somerset County Tournament; Gill St. Bernards takes both No. 2 seeds

There was little surprise at the Somerset County Tournament seeding meeting Monday night at Immaculata High School in Somerville, where the boys’ and girls’ coaches both went with Rutgers Prep as the top seed, and Gill St. Bernard’s at No. 2.

The third and fourth seeds for the girls are Watchung Hills and Hillsborough, while the boys’ third and fourth seeds are Immaculata and Hillsborough.

On the girls’ side, Prep has been dominant for several years now, and just made it 26 straight weeks – out of 26 – atop the Central Jersey Sports Radio/Bellamy & Son Paving Top Ten.

On the boys’ side, the Argonauts split with Gill; the Knights won 67-65 on a buzzer-beating three by Nick Losada 67-65 in Gladstone January fifth, then the Argos won 64-43 in Somerset in the January 24th rematch.

Below are the matchups for both tournaments, projecting ahead to the semifinals. Seeds 1 through 4 get double byes to the quarterfinals in both tournaments, while the 5 through 9 seeds get byes to the second round on the girls’ side, and 5 through ten skip ahead on the boys’ side. The girls’ tournament is down to 15 teams this year with North Plainfield leaving for the GMC, while the Canucks departure leaves the boys with just 14 teams.

The opening round for both is this Thursday. The second round is February 11th, quarterfinals are on the 14th, and the semis are on the 16th, all at higher seeds. Central Jersey Sports Radio will have coverage of the semifinals, with live play-by-play TBA. We’ll also broadcast the girls’ and boys’ finals live on Saturday, February 18th.

Somerset County Girls’ Bracket:

  • #13 Bridgewater-Raritan at #12 Immaculata, winner at #5 Franklin, winner at #4 Hillsborough
  • #15 Montgomery at #10 Somerville, winner at #7 Pingry, winner at #2 Gill St. Bernard’s
  • #8 Ridge and #9 Bound Brook both get first round byes, winner plays at #1 Rutgers Prep
  • #14 Manville at #11 Bernards, winner at #6 Mount St. Mary, winner at #3 Watchung Hills

Somerset County Boys’ Bracket:

  • #13 Bernards at #12 Somerville, winner at #5 Franklin, winner at #4 Hillsborough
  • #14 Manville at #11 Bridgewate-Ratritan, winner at #6 Ridge, winner at #3 Immaculata
  • #8 Bound Brook and #9 Montgomery both get first round byes, winner at #1 Rutgers Prep
  • #7 Watchung Hills and #10 Pingry both get first-round byes, winner at #2 Gill St. Bernard’s

Rutgers Prep girls hold court in final Bellamy & Son Paving Top Ten before season’s end

In the last Bellamy & Son Paving Girls’ Basketball rankings before the end of the season, Rutgers Prep held onto the top position, making it 26 weeks out of 26 the Lady Argonauts have been No. 1 in the three-year history of the rankings.

Prep is 15-3, with wins last week over Blair and Rumson-Fair Haven, the latter coming in the Coaches’ Choice USA Shore Conference Challenge.

Holding on at No. 2 is St. Thomas Aquinas (17-5) which went 2-1 last week, including a loss to two-point loss to state-ranked Saddle River Dayy, a win over Colonia, and a victory over Wall in the Coaches’ Choice showcase.

Gill St. Bernard’s (14-5) holds at No. 3 after a 2-1 week, with the only area game a 74-45 win over Pingry.

South Brunswick (15-6) and Edison (18-4) flip-flopped on the strength of a 2-1 week that included a Vikings’ win over the Eagles on Friday, 61-34.

Bernards (14-5 held in sixth with two non-league wins over Johnson and Parsippany Hills, while Watchung Hills (15-4) remained in seventh, having not played last week.

Middlesex (15-5) moved up two spots to No., 8, with a 2-1 week that included wins over North and South Plainfield, and a loss playing up to the Red Division and East Brunswick.

Hillsborough (12-9) split four games last week to hold in ninth place, beating Monroe and Pemberton, falling to Pennginton and Ewing, while Monroe joined the Top Ten at No. 10. The Falcons were 2-1 with win at North Brunswick, home over Mount St. Mary, and a loss at Marlboro in non-conference play.

Previous No. 8 North Plainfield (14-6) dropped out.

Below are the full Bellamy & Son Paving Girls’ Basketball Rankings for Week 8: