Tag: GMC Tournament

INSTANT REPLAY: GMC Tournament Championships

For the third time in a row, the St. Thomas Aquinas girls’ and boys’ basketball teams have swept the GMC Tournament Championships. The top-seeded Trojan girls won their fourth title in a row, while the boys won their third in a row, taking both titles on Friday, February 17th at Monroe Township High School. Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino were on the call from Monroe Township High School

In the girls’ final, St. Thomas beat 3rd-seed Colonai 49-42 behind 12 points from Leah Crosby, a sophomore who won her second MVP Award. Fellow sophomore Gianna Chuffo added 11. Colonia senior Matti Chiera led all scorers with 20 in defeat.

Girls’ Final: #1 St. Thomas Aquinas vs. #3 Colonia

The the boys’ final, St. Thomas Aquinas beat 7th-seed South Brunswick 53-50, with MVP Deuce Jones leading the way, scoring 21 points.Juniors Jaden Kelly and Samir Thomas each added eight. For South Brunswick, Kalani Antoine led all scorers with 23 in the losing cause.

Boys’ Final: #1 St. Thomas Aquinas vs. #7 South Brunswick

INSTANT REPLAY: GMC Tournament Boys’ Semifinals

Top-seed and two-time defending champion St. Thomas Aquinas and seventh-seed South Brunswick moved on to Friday’s Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament Championship Game with semifinal wins on Wednesday, February 15th at Monroe Township High School, as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio. Scroll down to hear Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe call all the play-by-play.

In Game One, South Brunswick knocked off 3rd-seed South River behind 20 points from Harmehar Chhabra, and 11 from Kalani Antoine, while Jeremy Grospe had nine on three treys to lead the Rams in defeat.

#3 South River vs. #7 South Brunswick

In Game Two, St. Thomas Aquinas beat fourth-seed St. Joseph-Metuchen 91-49. The Trojans were led by Michael “Deuce” Jones with 16, including three treys, while the team hit 15 overall, a team record in the five seasons under head coach Bob Turco. Jaden Kelly added 15, while Terrell Pitts chipped in 14. Josh Ingram scored 28 to lead all scorers in a losing effort for the Falcons

#1 St. Thomas Aquinas vs. #4 St. Joseph-Metuchen

St. Thomas Aquinas boys win back-and-forth GMC Tournament final to complete the three-peat

In a game that saw 18 lead changes – ten in the third quarter – and neither team lead by more than six, No. 1 seed St. Thomas Aquinas got by No. 7 seed South Brunswick 53-50 to win the GMC Tournament Boys’ Championship, as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio Friday night from Monroe Township High School, presented by Dayton Toyota Service and Dayton Collision.

South Brunswick (17-6) had been vying to be the lowest seeded team to win the title, which has never been won by any lower than a sixth-seed.

Instead, the Trojans (24-3) now have won three full GMC Tournament Championships in a row, and – coupled with their girls’ 49-42 win over Colonia earlier in the evening – you can make it three straight sweeps by the Aquinas girls’ and boys. No other school has done that.

Deuce Jones led Aquinas with 21 points; the Trenton Catholic transfer had two thunderous jams that brought Monroe’s gym to its feet.

South Brunswick led after each of the first three quarters, even though the third was back and forth. St. Thomas Aquinas – which only led by as many as two until taking the lead late in the fourth quarter, was up two with 34.9 seconds to go when Jones – shooting only 5 of 10 from the line at that point, strode to the foul line and hit two free throws to put Aquinas up by four.

South Brunswick senior Harmehar Chhabra scored on a drive to cut it to two, and after an Arshvir Singh foul sent Jaden Kelly to the line and he split a pair, the Vikings had it with 14.9 seconds to go, down 53-50.

South called time out, and on the ensuing inbound, Chhabra got the ball up the floor, but the play designed in the huddle by head coach Joe Hoehman seemed to not materialize. Stuck, Chhabra threw up a three from right of the key with just one foot on the hardwood. It hit the back iron, the rebound tipped around, time expired, and the Trojans had their championship.

Kalani Antoine of South Brunswick had game-high honores, with 23, including three treys, and two big ones in the third quarter when the game was back-and-forth.

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St. Thomas Aquinas junior Michael “Deuce” Jones
St. Thomas Aquinas head coach Bob Turco

Two-time MVP Crosby leads St. Thomas Aquinas to fourth straight GMC Tournament Championship

A 12-point night from 6-2 sophomore Leah Crosby earned her MVP honors, and she helped lead top-seed St. Thomas Aquinas (21-6) past stubborn 3rd-seed Colonia 49-42 in the GMC Tournament girls’ championship game Friday night in a game heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio, presented by Dayton Toyota Service and Dayton Collision of South Brunswick.

The win was the Trojans’ fourth straight county title.

Colonia (14-11) held the ball for over a minute on the first possesion of the game, and was content to slow things down in order to have a better chance than they did 15 days ago, when they lost to the Trojans in North Edison by 50.

And they were in this game almost to the final horn. In fact, it was down to a one-possession game on a drive by Taylor Derkack for the Patriots, who trailed 45-41 with under 40 seconds to go. But Colonia couldn’t hit the buckets they needed, and St. Thomas hit the free throws they had to, to finish with a seven point win.

It was also the second straight for head coach Joe Whalen.

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Behind Crosby, Gianna Chuffo scored 11, Amarillis Shubick had 8, and Albany Commit Jessica Cooper had nine.

For Colonia, senior Mattison Chiera finished with a game-high 20 points, while junior Taylor Derkack finished with 24.

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Sophomore MVP Leah Crosby
Seniors Jessica Cooper and Nia Clemons
Head Coach Joe Whalen

Dominant, peaking, scary-good Aquinas to battle smart, quick South Brunswick for GMC Tournament boys’ title

The St. Thomas Aquinas boys’ basketball team has to be feeling pretty good about itself after Wednesday night’s performance in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament semifinals at Monroe High School.

In just two minutes and change, they opened up with a 15-0 run that saw them hit five of their first six shots from downtown.

The South Brunswick boys’ basketball team has to feel pretty good about what it accomplished, too, on Wednesday night: beating a South River team that had looked unbeatable for most of the year. They frazzled the Rams, and beat them at their own game, handing them just their third loss this season.

The two come together tonight – top-seeded St. Thomas and seventh-seed South Brunswick – one more time in Monroe, this time for the GMC Tournament title.

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.

The boys’ game is scheduled for an 8 pm start, immediately follow the girls’ final, which starts at 6 pm, with pregame coverage starting at 5:45 for the top-seed Aquinas and 3rd-seed Colonia girls. 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 (23-3) vs. #7 South Brunswick (17-5)
When: Friday, February 17 at 8 pm
Where: Monroe Township High School
Listen Live: Central Jersey Sports Radio, pregame begins approximately 7:45 pm

The St. Thomas Aquinas Trojans with their 2022 GMC Tournament Championship banner. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

#1 St. Thomas Aquinas
Head Coach: Bob Turco – 5th season, 101-22
(345-100 overall, including 148-46 in 7 years at Notre Dame, and 97-42 in 5 years at Monroe)

What else can be said about St. Thomas Aquinas at this point? Coaches want their teams playing their bast basketball at this point of the season, and the display we saw in the first two-and-a-half minutes against St. Joe’s in the semifinals Wednesday night was out of this world. Five of six from the floor, all from downtown, and killer defense, staking the Trojans to a 15-0 lead. What could Bob Turco have said during the time out? “Nice shot,” is what he said to Deuce Jones after he missed one of those threes. That’s because his team is laser-focused right now. He could see it in his team’s eyes as they warmed up, a moment when a coach knows he need not say anything, or even that anything he might say may not matter. His team is going to do what it’s going to do. And what it did was blow the Falcons out of the water 91-49 en route to a third straight GMC Tournament finals appearance.

Perhaps what’s been most impressive about St. Thomas is how well a player like Jones has been able to integrate with this bunch. It was a very tight-knit group last year, and the face of the program – the glue – Adam Silas is now off at Wofford. With a solid group of returnees like Terrell Pitts, Kamal Lee, Jaden Kelly, Samir Thomas, Jalen Pichardo and more, who knew how a knew point guard would fit in. Well, he fit in like the last jigsaw puzzle piece. And Aquinas is at a completely different level now than the rest of the GMC. St. Joe’s had played the Trojans to seven- and eight- point games in the regular season. This time, when it mattered most, Aquinas won by 42.

Projected Starting Five:

  • PG Michael “Deuce” Jones (6-3, 175, Jr): 16.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 33 treys, 6.5 apg, 81 steals
  • G Kamal Lee (6-0, 165, Sr): 9.1 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 43 treys
  • G Jaden Kelly (6-3, 185, Jr): 10.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 49 treys, 17 blocks
  • G/F Terrell Pitts (6-4, 195, Sr): 12.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 16 treys
  • G/F Jalen Pichardo (6-7, 215, Sr): 9.2 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 5 treys

Coach’s Interview:

St. Thomas Aquinas Head Coach Bob Turco

GMC Tournament History (4-0 overall: 1-0 in MCT, 3-0 in GMCT):

1982 – #6 St. Thomas Aquinas 49, #6 St. Joseph 47 (MCT)
1992 – #1 Bishop Ahr 61, #2 St. Joseph 47
2020 – #2 St. Thomas Aquinas 63, #4 South Brunswick 52
2022: #1 St. Thomas Aquinas 69, #3 Colonia 53

Believe it or not, a win by St. Thomas Aquinas Friday night would put them in a three-way tie with Perth Amboy and the long-closed St. Peter’s in New Brunswick for most consecutive GMC Tournament wins. The Panthers won the first three GMC Tournament titles from 1965 to 1967, while the Cardinals won three straight from 1983 to 1985. Though St. Joseph-Metuchen had an amazing run in the 2000s, winning nine of ten, that was broken into two strings of four and five straight. Five is the record, which was done from 2010 to 2014, culminating in the Falcons’ Tournament of Champions title season with the trio of Karl Towns, Marques Townes and Wade Baldwin. This program, with players like Jones, Kelly, and Thomas back – and we’re sure some newcomers – could very well challenge that mark.

How they win: Keep on keepin’ on. The same formula they’ve used all year long is what will bring them the title: great defense, steals, score in transition, hit from the arc. Why mess with a good thing.

Past Coverage:

South Brunswick’s Harmehar Chhabra goes up for a shot against South River’s Laz Rodriguez in the GMC Tournament semifinals on February 15, 2023. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

#1 South Brunswick Vikings
Head Coach: Joe Hoehman – 16th season, 223-156

Hoehman has been at this a long time in South Brunswick, and this may be one of his better teams yet. To look at the seeds and say Wednesday’s semifinal win over South River was an upset wouldn’t be doing justice to the Vikings, who – as a seven-seed – are still 16-5, with four of those losses coming to teams “on the board” as they say in the GMC Tournament seeding meeting: teams above them in the standings. That means two losses to Colonia – both by a single possession – as well as a three-point loss to St. Joe’s and a 26 point loss to Aquinas. Well, the Falcons are out of the tournament, and the Vikings too it upon themselves to emphatically knock out Colonia in the quarterfinals, by 20 points, after three- and a two-point losses in the regular season.

How many teams do you know have a forward who leads their squad in assists and blocks? Harmehar Chhabra is just that player, with a team leading 95 on the year, while also registering 42 blocks. The senior can rise, and when he drives the paint it’s like he can see above the clouds, and then dishes out to the wings or the corners where the Vikings can get an open look. It’s a talent and a skill, and Chhabra’s got it. He’s also smart, and it’s a treat to watch him without the ball in his hands, directing traffic around him like a 5th Avenue Blue in Manhattan at rush hour. Fellow senior Kalani Antoine may be responsible for the greatest chunk of the offense at 18.6 points a game, but with Chhabra’s 20-point effort the other night, Antoine didn’t need a ton of points; he only had 11. But that’s ok. Chhabra says he knows that’s his turn to pick it up, and pick it up he did.

Projected Starting Five:

  • PG Arshvir Singh (6-1, Sr): 6.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 15 treys, 41 assists, 25 steals
  • G Kalani Antoine (5-7, Sr): 18.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 40 treys, 51 steals
  • G Bryce Muniz (5-10, Sr): 4.0 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 16 treys, 46 assists, 22 steals
  • F Daniel Swirad (6-3, Jr): 9.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg
  • F Harmehar Chhabra (6-6, Sr): 13.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 95 assists, 42 blocks

Coach’s Interview:

GMC Tournament History (0-3):

1993 – #3 St. Joseph 57, #4 South Brunswick 54 (OT)
2016 – #1 St. Joseph 56, #2 South Brunswick 48
2020 – #2 St. Thomas Aquinas 63, #4 South Brunswick 52

Though the Vikings have made few appearances in the GMC Tournament finals, this is their second appearance in the title game in the last three full tournaments. This is the lowest seed they’ve ever been – seventh – when reaching the final.

How they win: Much as we are impressed with South Brunswick, beating St. Thomas Aquinas is going to be a Herculean task, not just for the Vikes, but maybe for anyone in the state right now. Nothing is ever impossible, mind you, but the challenge in front of them is this: don’t get frazzled by the Trojans’ defense. Finding a good shot is going to take a lot of hard work. St. Thomas has the better physical matchup, so Joe Hoehman will have to outcoach Bob Turco. To put it in baseball parlance, Aquinas blows the high heater right by you. South Brunswick needs to be the wily veteran who doesn’t have the flamethrower for an arm, but can put some wicked movement on the ball.

Past Coverage:

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Red Division Dominance: Some say there’s always been a Red Division bias to the seeding of the county tournament. We’re not here to take a side either way, but what the numbers bear out is that the Red Division has won 22 titles in the history of the GMC, and it’s sure to add one more to that total this year since both finalists are from the Red Division.

Turcos for Titles: Bob Turco is one of 13 coaches in MCT/GMCT history who have won multiple titles. The list includes some legendary names, like Perth Amboy’s Bill Buglovsky and St. Peter’s John Somogyi, but also Turco’s brother, Dave, who won seven titles at St. Joseph and one at Carteret. Oh, and they’re the only brother combo to have won GMC Tournament titles.

Gone, Gone, Gone… Did you know that there are only two active GMC coaches who have won GMC titles? Bob Turco is one, of course. The only other active GMC boys’ coach to have won a GMC title is Ed Breheney, who’s now in his 33rd season with the Raiders. They won in 1997 as the fifth-seed, upsetting second-seed St. Joe’s. They’ve only reached the finals one other time, in 2012, losing to the Falcons.

Will Someone Top Silas??  In last year’s final, Adam Silas of Aquinas poured in 37 points.  It was the second highest scoring total in a GMC Tournament final, behind Keith Hughes of Carteret, who scored 40 in the very first GMC title game in 1986.  Only two other players have ever scored more than them in a county final, both coming in the MCT title game:  Gary Brokaw of New Brunswick (46, 1971) and John Somogyi of St. Peter’s (49, 1968).

Records Are Made To Be Broken:  The 15 threes by St. Thomas Aquinas in Wednesday’s semifinal win over St. Joe’s were the most in a game in the Bob Turco era.  If they can duplicate that effort in the finals, they would shatter the GMC Tournament record for most threes in a GMC Tournament final, currently ten.  Three teams have done it, most recently North Brunswick in 2012.  St. Joseph did it in 2010, and South Plainfield turned the trick in 2005.  The record for threes by an individual player is Darren Smith of South Plainfield, who hit six in 2005.

Two To Go, Please:  Should Aquinas win in the finals, they would tie for third on the list of most consecutive titles won.  Perth Amboy won three from 1965 to 1967, and St. Peter’s in New Brunswick won three from 1983-1985.  Two teams have won four:  Perth Amboy from 1972-75 and St. Joseph-Metuchen from 2016 to 2019.  They lost in 2015 to Colonia, or else they would have won ten straight.  Instead, they had to settle for nine of ten, including five in a row – the record – from 2010 to 2014, the last year being their TOC title year with Karl-Anthony Towns.

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.

St. Thomas Aquinas “stuns” St. Joseph, bombing the Falcons in GMCT semis to move on to the finals yet again

It wasn’t “stunning” in terms of the result, or maybe even the margin, since it’s what St. Thomas Aquinas has been doing to opponents all year long.

But the fact that the Trojans and St. Joseph-Metuchen have played two games this year with a grand total differential of seven points – both Aquinas wins – made what happened in Wednesday night’s GMC Tournament semifinals stunning in every sense of the word.

Aquinas hit five of its first six three-point attempts before Joe’s could even blink, and found themselves with a 15-0 lead just over two minutes into the game.

Overall, the Trojans (23-3) hit 15 threes in the game, the most by Aquinas in the past five years under head coach Bob Turco. All five starters scored in double figures, seven different players hit from downtown, and two – Terrell Pitts and Deuce Jones – had a pair of thunderous jams each.

Jones led all scorers with 16, including three treys. Kamal Lee had 12, all on threes. Jaden Kelly had 15, including three trays. Jalen Pichardo has 12 including two threes, while Samir Thomas, Jebron Harris and Sherief Guinyard each had threes off the bench.

In a losing cause for St. Joe’s (15-10), senior Josh Ingram finished with 28 points, enough on a normal night, but this one was anything but, with Aquinas bringing it’s A++ game.

Now, the GMC Tournament Finals Friday night are set. Top-seed and two-time defending champ St. Thomas Aquinas will take on seventh-seed South Brunswick at 8 pm on Central Jersey Sports Radio. No team higher than a six-seed has ever won the GMC or Middlesex County Tournament

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St. Thomas Aquinas Senior Jalen Pichardo and junior Michael “Deuce” Jones
St. Thomas Aquinas Head Coach Bob Turco

2023 GMC Tournament Boys’ Final Four: South River looks to continue historic run against South Brunswick, Aquinas-Joe’s set to do battle a third time

No matter how the Greater Middlesex Conference Boys’ Semifinals turn out Wednesday night at Monroe Township High School, an exciting finish is sure to be on tap for Friday.

South River is having a whale of a year, the Rams’ best in decades, seeking its first tournament championship since it won the Middlesex County Tournament (pre-GMC) in 1978 and 1979. They’ll face a South Brunswick team that was there as recently as three years ago, but has never won either tournament. St. Joseph of Metuchen appears to be peaking at the right time. And St. Thomas Aquinas is looking to keep the ball rolling and win their third in a row.

READ MORE: GMCT Semifinals set for Wednesday, with South River, South Brunswick, St. Joe’s and Aquinas all advancing on Super Sunday

Central Jersey Sports Radio will have live coverage of both semifinal games Wednesday, presented by Dayton Toyota Service and Dayton Collision on Route 130 in South Brunswick. It all begins at 4:45 with the pregame show before Game One of the doubleheader, with third-seed South River taking on seventh-seed South Brunswick at 5 pm. Then, at 7:00, it’s top-seed and two-time defending champion St. Thomas Aquinas facing fourth-seed St. Joseph-Metuchen.

Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino will call all the action; click here to listen.

Here’s a closer look at both of the GMC Tournament Boys’ Semifinals, complete with preview interviews with all four coaches:

#3 SOUTH RIVER (13-2) vs. #7 SOUTH BRUNSWICK (16-5), 5:00 pm

What a year the Rams have had, but they are not content to rest on their laurels. All they have is the GMC Blue Division title, but they want more, and they definitely can have it. From opening night to the tournament semifinals, South River has been relentless, playing great defense, getting up and down the floor, and hitting from beyond the arc, the recipe for success. People started to take notice on December 26th, when the Rams knocked off St. Joseph 74-66 in Metuchen. Some still wondered if they could keep up the pace. They’ve answered the bell and then some. In the quarterfinals, they came out of the game hot against North Brunswick, leading 24-2 after the first quarter, allowing just a single field goal.

Senior Roman Santos leads the team in scoring with 16.7 points per game, and is second with 5.6 rebounds, while fellow senior Laz Rodriguez is second in scoring at 14.6 points per game, and averages a team-leading 6.7 boards a contest. Another senior, Jeremy Grospe, is coming off a hot game against the Raiders, with four treys, giving him a team best 69 this year.

South Brunswick is the upset team in this year’s semifinals, shocking second-seed Colonia in the semis by 20, with a 63-43 win. Kalani Antoine had a monster game with 20 points, while Arshvir Singh had ten points and six rebounds. But it’s Antoine who has made the Vikings go all year, averaging 19 points a game to lead the team, and hitting a team best 39 three-pointers. South Brunswick is peaking at the right time. They started out the season slow, splitting their first four games, and sitting at just 4-4 after the first two games of the New Year. But since then, they have won 12 of their last 13. And they’ve showed the ability to make adjustments. Their quarterfinal win over the Patriots came after losing both regular season matchups by a single possession, three points each time.

There’s not much recent history between the teams. Since 2010-11, they’ve only met twice, with South Brunswick winning a 70-62 last year on February 25th in a regular season “bridge” game between the GMCs and states. Their 2019 meeting was a similar game on February 22nd, a 90-64 win for the Vikings

How they got here:

South River beat 19th-seed Middlesex in the first round 77-65, then ran past 6-seed North Brunswick in the quarterfinals.

South Brunswick beat 10-seed JP Stevens in the first round 65-52, then beat second-seed Colonia 63-43 in the quarterfinals.

Coaches’ Previews:

South River Head Coach Brandon Walsh
South Brunswick Head Coach Joe Hoehman

How they win:

South River just has to keep playing the game they play. Get out in transition, hit some threes in half court, and play their pesky style of defense.

South Brunswick won’t want to get into an up-and-down game wit the Rams, but they will want to attack the basket and try and get them in foul trouble. And they’ll want to avoid falling behind early; South River is tough to come back against.

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#1 ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (22-3) vs. #4 ST. JOSEPH-METUCHEN (15-9)

While the Trojans are the team to beat in the GMC, and they’ve won three straight over St. Joe’s, only recently have they played often. Their last four matchups have all been since 2020, and in their previous matchup before that, in 2016, when the Falcons were in the midst of winning nine out of ten GMC Tournament titles from 2010-2019 – the “Decade of St. Joe’s,” if you will – Joe’s came out with a 72-17 win. But these teams are not those teams. They are more even that one might think, with none of their most recent four games decided by more than seven points. They include a St. Joe’s win by five in 2020, a seven-point Aquinas win last year, and two Trojan wins this year – 66-62 on January 17th, and 62-59 a week later. That’s two games this year decided by a total of three possessions.

Let’s start with Aquinas, which is what South River reminds us of, except the Trojans have more size. They play great, in-your-face defense, which fuels the transition game, but can also drive the hoop and score from beyond the arc, evidenced by their 168 three-pointers on the season, led by 46 from junior Jaden Kelly. And senior Kamal Lee is not far behind with 40. But “the straw that stirs the drink,” as head coach Bob Turco puts it, is Michael “Deuce” Jones, a transfer from Trenton Catholic who has blended seamlessly with a solid core of players as he runs the point and gets them the ball (162 assists). But he’s not just a distributor. He can score the ball, too, and is leading the team with 16.3 points per game, with 29 treys on the year – fourth on the team. And he takes pride in his defense, with a team-leading 81 steals on a team that gets a bunch of them night in and night out. Jalen Pichardo is the team’s top rebounder, averaging 9.2 a game, and he can turn a lot of those boards into putbacks, often drawing contact along the way and getting to the line for an and-one.

St. Joe’s has relied on Josh Ingram all year long, but the senior has faced some added pressure with the absence of Jeremy Clayville due to injury. He and his 18.5 points per game haven’t played since late January. But Ingram – averaging a team-best 16.3 points per game on the season has stepped it up, averaging 26 points a game in that span, four times topping 30 points, with 38 in the first-round win over Spotswood, a tight game until the final horn. He’s been a special player all year long, and his legend is growing. With Clayville out, Anthony Williams is the next best active scorer, at 10.7 points per game. Junior Jeremy DeCaro has hit some big threes along the way this season, including against the Chargers, and he’ll be an X-factor if St. Joe’s is to beat their rivals from a couple miles up Plainfield Avenue.

How they got here:

St. Thomas Aquinas rolled to an 81-50 win over 16th-seed East Brunswick int he first round, but was a little more sloppy in an uninspired 62-47 win over 8-seed Piscataway in Sunday’s quarterfinals.

St. Joseph had to fight off punch after punch from a game Spotswood ballclub to come away with a 75-72 win over the 13th seed, then beat fifth-seed South Plainfield 60-42 in the quarterfinals.

Coaches’ Previews:

St. Thomas Aquinas Head Coach Bob Turco
St. Joseph-Metuchen Head Coach Jan Cocozziello

How they win:

Aquinas, like South River, will have to play its game, and get everyone involved. And shake off whatever it was that had them struggling to put away an inferior Piscataway team at Middlesex County College.

St. Joe’s will have to value the basketball, and attack the hoop, trying to get Aquinas into foul trouble. And Ingram will need to go off and have one of his patented big-scoring games/


Non-Public Dominance: South Plainfield won the GMCT in 2004 and 2005, then Colonia in 2006, and Piscataway in 2007. Since the, a non-public has won it all but two seasons. Now-defunct Cardinal McCarrick of South Amboy won it in 2008, followed by the Chiefs again in 2009. But St. Joseph went on to win nine of the next ten titles – the only exception being Colonia’s upset of the Falcons in 2015. Joe’s won the next four, and then Aquinas won in 2020 and 2022. (There was no full tournament in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)

This tournament brought to you by the letter “S” (Or, Meaningless Fact of the Day): All four schools in the semifinals begin with the letter “S”: St. Thomas Aquinas, South River, St. Joseph, South Brunswick. But more than that, never has the GMC Tournament (1986-present) nor the Middlesex County Tournament (1965-1985) ever had a semifinal with all four teams beginning with the same letter.

Who’s won it? Three of the four semifinal participants have won GMC or Middlesex County titles. St. Joseph has won more than anyone else, with 12 GMC titles to its credit. Aquinas has won three times, including once as Bishop Ahr in 1992. And South River won the Middlesex County Tournament in 1978 and 1979. But South Brunswick has never won it; they are 0-for-3 in the GMCT finals, with berth is 1993, 2016 and 2020.

Trailblazer? If South Brunswick reaches the final and wins the whole shebang, the Vikings – the 7-seed – will be the first team lower than a six-seed to win a title. Unseeded Piscataway won the MCT in 1968, as only the top four teams were seeded that year.

Combos: If South River makes the final, it will be against no one it’s ever played before in the final, as they beat Perth Amboy and Colonia in their back-to-back tourney wins in 1978 and ’79. If South Brunswick makes it, they could be playing Aquinas in the title game for the second time in three tournaments; they met in 2020 with the Trojans coming out with a 63-52 win, their only finals matchup. If it’s St. Joe’s in the final against the Vikings, well that’s happened twice. The Falcons beat them in 2016 (56-48) and in 1993 (57-54 in overtime).

St. Thomas Aquinas girls will go for the four-peat after GMCT semifinal win over Monroe

Another GMC foe, another win for St. Thomas Aquinas.

The top-seeded Trojan girls were 67-39 winners over 4th-seed Monroe Tuesday night – on the Falcons’ home floor – in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament semifinals as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio, presented by Dayton Toyota Service and Dayton Collision of South Brunswick.

Sophomore Gianna Chuffo led all scorers in the game with 21 points, all on threes, matching a career-high seven treys, a feat she also did just a couple of weeks ago in a non-conference loss to Saddle River Day.

Leah Crosby added 16, and finished with a double-double, adding 18 rebounds for Aquinas (19-6).

Monroe (14-8) was led by Haley Higgins with 12 points.

St. Thomas now gets a chance at a fourth straight full GMC Tournament title. They won in 2019 as Bishop Ahr and in 2020, but lost the Somogyi Family Pod final in 2021 to Monroe, before winning last year’s title game over South Brunswick.

You can hear Friday night’s final live on Central Jersey Sports Radio, with pregame at 5:45 and tipoff at 6, presented by Dayton Toyota.

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:

St. Thomas Aquinas sophomore Gianna Chuffo
St. Thomas Aquinas head coach Joe Whalen

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.

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

Click below for postgame reaction presented by Sportsplex at Metuchen:

Colonia junior Taylor Derkack
Colonia head coach Sandi Chiera