Tag: GMC Conference

Multiple area boys’ teams in serious contention for top seeds in the state tournament

There are just three full weeks of play left before the NJSIAA cutoff for the state tournament, and a number of GMC and Somerset County teams have legitimate shots at earning top seeds in their respective sections come tournament time.

One of the big changes this year, mainly due to the potential for COVID stoppages and cancellations, which could shrink teams’ schedules, is that only the best 13 games before the cutoff will count toward power points, which are used to seed teams. Typically, the first 16 before the cutoff count.

As of now, 35 teams from the GMC and Somerset County are in playoff contention, and three teams – Watchung Hills (North 2, Group 4), South Plainfield (North 2, Group 3) and South River (Central Group 2) – sit in first place.

This week, we have a section-by-section look as to where area teams may be headed, based on the NJSIAA’s power points, as published on NJ.com as of Sunday, January 23rd:

Non-Public North B: Gill St. Bernard’s, highly regarded in the statewide rankings with much D-1 talent, sits in second, 13 points behind 12-0 Morris Catholic (271), one of just six unbeaten teams left in the state. This is a loaded section; Roselle Catholic sits in fourth. Timothy Christian is 5th, while Wardlaw-Hartridge (5-3) checks in 9th.

Non-Public South A: The top two teams here are Red Bank Catholic (390) and Christian Brothers (358), but St. Thomas Aquinas is right there at 343, undefeated at 14-0. Behind them is Rutgers Prep (11-0) in third at 296. Then, after St. John Vianney, St. Joseph-Metuchen is 6th with 265 points, ten behind the Lancers. Immaculata check in 12th, and Pingry is next-to-last in 13th among 14 teams.

Central Jersey Group 4: No doubt, Monroe’s win over St. Joseph-Metuchen helped the Falcons, who at 12-2 are in second place, just ten points behind 11-2 Marlboro; they lead 335-325. South Brunswick is in fourth, but with 210. Old Bridge sits in 12th, with North Brunswick, Sayreville and East Brunswick 14 through 16. Montgomery is just five points behind the 4-5 Bears, on the outside of the bubble at 4-7.

Central Jersey Group 3: With few are teams in this section, only Somerville, which is in 15th place (2-9), is in the picture.

Central Jersey Group 2: This is an intriguing one, as Bound Brook – winners of 24 straight and 10-0 this year, moving up from Group 1 – actually sits behind first-place South River, which is 11-1 and has 259 points, compared to the Crusaders’ 238. Of course, Brook also has only played ten games and has one less win. The top seed should be well within reach for Bound Brook. Spotswood checks in 9th with Middlesex right behind them. Metcuhen sits in 16th.

Central Jersey Group 1: Burlington City sits in first with 173 points, with the highest GMC team Perth Amboy Tech (8-1) in 4th with 133. Highland Park, Manville, Somerset Tech, South Amboy and Dunellen all are in the bottom half of the top 16 at the moment.

North 2, Group 4: Watchung Hills (9-3) is tied for first with Westfield (10-4), both having 260 points. Ridge has played one less game and has 225, sitting in third. Right behind them are JP Stevens, Franklin, Edison, and Bridgewater-Raritan in seventh. Perth Amboy (4-8) sits in 15th, while Piscataway (4-5) is nine points out, behind 5-7 Phillipsburg.

North 2, Group 3: South Plainfield (11-3) leads the pack here with 263 points, but 14 games played – remember, just the best 13 count this year – while Colonia sits in second at 9-2 with 226 points. But, they’ve only played eleven and are likely to pass the Tigers.

NJSIAA gets lenient on maximum games per week for basketball to alleviate COVID, winter weather stresses

The NJSIAA is giving high school basketball teams across the state a lot more leeway when it comes to how many games they’re allowed to play per week, in a move expected to allow teams more scheduling flexibility, in particular helping those who’ve suffered from a COVID shutdown.

Typically, high school basketball teams in New Jersey are allowed only one four-game week per season, and cannot play on three consecutive days. A week starts on Monday.

NJSIAA Assistant Director for Basketball Al Stumpf confirmed to Central Jersey Sports Radio this week that Association’s Executive Executive Committee approved a measure at it’s January 12th meeting that will allow an additional four weeks of four games each.

That means a team could play as many as five weeks of four games each, provided they meet one other criterion: The rule prohibiting games on three consecutive days remains in place.

In the COVID-truncated 2021 high school basketball season, the NJSIAA allowed one addtional four-game week, for a total of two. This year, five are being allowed, in a move likely to be welcomed by many head coaches and athletic directors whose teams are trying to make up games lost due to COVID.

Of the 20 teams in the Bellamy & Son Paving Girls’ and Boys’ Basketball Top Tens to start the New Year, eleven – more than half of them – did not play over the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Some, like Franklin’s boys and girls, had a more than two-week layoff between Opening Night on December 17th and their next games.

As you count down to the New Year, here are the Top Ten stories of 2021 on Central Jersey Sports Radio

Top Ten lists are king. Ever since the first David Letterman Top Ten on the original “Late Night” on NBC, they’ve been funny, entertaining, and – when it comes to sports – a great source for debate.

There’s not much debate to be had here, though. We’ve compiled the Top Ten stories of 2021 – our first full calendar year of operation on Central Jersey Sports Radio – with the most read and listened to stories on our website. Read by you, the fans!

All these stories are about the teams, schools, student-athletes, and great plays that made 2021 special. Some are combined when written about the same subject. Click on each heading to read and listen to the original stories. Enjoy!

10) No. 5 Old Bridge routs South Brunswick as Hunter, Haughney star

Old Bridge players take the field for pre-game warmups at South Brunswick on September 17, 2021.

Sometimes, it’s not a game-winning hit, touchdown or basket that makes a good story. Sometimes, it’s just a old-fashioned football game. For whatever reason, that was the case with our tenth-most read story of 2021, a win for Old Bridge football over South Brunswick from early this season. Lawrence Hunter III was the Autoland Player of the Game, and Owen Haughney figured prominently in the win as well. Listen to postgame reaction from Hunter and head coach Anthony Lanzafama with CJSR’s Tim Catalfamo.

9) Old Bridge finally wins a close one, in a big spot

Seniors on the Old Bridge baseball team pose before their 2021 Senior Night.

Another Old Bridge story, this time baseball. The Knights were having a rough season, but still in the state tournament. With a 7-17 mark, they had lost ten games by three runs or less, and four by one or two runs. That is, until the opening round of the playoffs, where 12th-seeded Old Bridge knocked off 5th-seed South Brunswick, behind solid performances from two sophomores: Justin Herbstman and Thomas Papeo.

8) “Walk ’em off Spotswood!” Lewandowski’s double off the wall lets Chargers keep Commanders’ Cup trophy another year

Spotswood holds the Bill Thompson Memorial Commander’s Cup Trophy after a 6-5 walk-off win over East Brunswick on May 19, 2021. It was the Chargers’ fourth straight win in the series.

Spotswood High School – my alma mater, for full disclosure, Class of 1996 – has always had that underdog mentality. Baseball coach Glenny Fredricks just brings it to another level, and he has a bunch of scrappy guys to prove it. There’s no fear in this small Group 2 school going up against a Group 4 like East Brunswick year after year after year, for what they call the “Commanders’ Cup.” In 2021, Spotswood won their fourth straight in the series, thanks to a walk-off off the wall by Tyler Lewandowski.

7) National recruit Davison Igbinosun of Union says Farmers are “heartbroken” over playoff cancellation, vows to keep fighting

Union senior CB Davison Igbinosun (source: Twitter)

COVID didn’t nearly have the effect on the 2021 high school football season that it did in 2020. Sure, games were cancelled, but not in an amount even closely approaching what happened the season prior. That did nothing to comfort Union, which had one of its most talented teams in school history, and was the odds-on favorite to win North 2 Group 5, and maybe even go all the way to win the North 5 regional championship. Then, COVID hit a few members of the team, the Superintendent shut down the season, and four-star national recruit Davison Igbinosun and his teammates became vocal to try and save their season. It didn’t work, but we helped give him and his teammates a voice, and Igbinosun represented them with class and dignity.

Click here for additional coverage with Union head coach Lou Grasso, Jr.

6) Loaded North Brunswick aiming high behind Garbolino and Co.

North Brunswick junior QB Frankie Garbolino

Coming off a 7-1 season, with an experienced junior quarterback and a talented ensemble cast returning, North Brunswick entered the 2021 football season with high hopes. They might have been achieved if not for a once-in-a-lifetime-talented Hillsborough squad, which they met twice – once in the regular season finale and once in the playoffs. Hear Frankie Garbolino and head coach Mike Cipot talk about the 2021 team, in our most-listened to preview story of ’21.

5) Somerville’s dynamic duo – Cookie and AJ – taking divergent paths after H.S., with big hopes for the future

From left to right, Somerville RB Cookie Desiderio, head coach Dallas Whitaker, and DE A.J. Pena pose with their commemorative footballs honoring their CJSR Player of the Year picks, and Somerville’s Team of the Year award for 2020.

They were two of the most dominant football players in the Big Central – maybe even the state – in the COVID-shortened 2020 season: runningback Cookie Desiderio and defensive end A.J. Pena of Somerville. The “Cookie Monster” scored almost every time he touched the ball (every 5.8 carries, in reality, but who’s counting) and A.J. loved “making quarterbacks cry,” which he did 12 times in seven games. They were named CJSR’s Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, but in the strange world of extra college eligibility and the FCS season being moved to the Spring – neither got the D1 offers they deserved.

4) Who’s the strongest team in the Big Central? Here are the league’s SI ratings heading into 2021

Phillipsburg was the “strongest” team in the Big Central heading into 2021, according to the NJSIAA’s Strength Index.

Yes, sometimes even true numbers, purely mathematical, can stir debate. And such has been the case since the NJSIAA revamped its playoff formula in 2018, initially using the Born Bower Index, and since 2019 using its own formula, loosely based on the BPI. It uses the OSI, or Opponent Strength Index, but needs the strength value of each individual team to calculate. So, we simply compiled the numbers for all the Big Central and published them. Not everyone may be a fan of our extensive knowledge of the system – it can be a dull read at times – but we do have many fans of this kind of thing, apparently. And we’re sure a good number of them are coaches, too, from both inside and outside the conference, as we’ll frequently get calls and texts asking “Where do you see us ending up?”

3) Listen to Bobby Ulmer talk with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko about his walk-off grand-slam

Bobby Ulmer, Jr., live on the CJSR postgame, talking about his dramatic walk-off grand slam.

Kids dream of this kind of stuff, acting it out in their backyards. Bases loaded, two outs, last inning, two strikes, grand slam to win the game. Bobby Ulmer, Jr., of Middlesex lived it. His walk-off grand slam in the Group 1 semifinals sent Middlesex to the state title game, where they would win again in walk-off fashion, albeit in 13 innings on a seeing-eye single by Mark Geist. Ulmer’s moonshot in the team’s last home game of the year was as dramatic as they come.

Bonus coverage: Middlesex gains Group 1 final on Ulmer’s dramatic, walk-off grand slam

2) Big Central releases All-Division Teams

It doesn’t always have to be a Top Ten list that inspires debate, or at least inspires people to go to your website. Simply honoring student-athletes is a big draw. So a list recognizing all the outstanding football players in the Big Central Conference in 2021 – all-division teams chosen by the league’s head coaches featuring 384 players in toto – brought readers out in droves.

1) He brings the water bottles, and the excitement. And he wants to help bring Greg Schiano and Rutgers a national championship

Edison senior Raymond Taub wants to be a team manager for Greg Schiano at Rutgers.

This may be one of our most favorite stories – if not, favorite interviews – ever. I can’t really tell you how we first came to know about Raymond Taub – that’s an entertaining story just for a few of us to know – but suffice it to say, he’s an awesome kid. He’s the autistic, well-loved-by-everyone manager of the football team, keeps meticulous pitch counts for the baseball team, and is the Eagles’ biggest fan. He also may be the biggest Rutgers fan out there, and his Senior Night “goal” was to become a manager with the Scarlet Knight football team and “help Greg Schiano win a national championship.” He’s a little busy right now, but someone bookmark this story for him when he gets back from Jacksonville in 2022, will ya?