Tag: HS Basketball

GMC will keep pilot program for Red Division boys’ basketball in ’23-’24

The pilot program that allowed GMC Red Division boys’ basketball teams to only play each other once this past season will continue next year.

Greater Middlesex Conference President Mike Pede confirmed the recent extension of the program by the division’s Athletic Directors for another season, since the league is in the middle of a two-year scheduling cycle.

Typically, teams in each division play each other twice. But some public schools didn’t want to play powerhouses like St. Joseph-Metuchen and St. Thomas Aquinas twice in a season, fearing it would hurt their potential playoff standing. And the pilot allowed some schools more scheduling flexibility to play in showcases in and out of the state.

The GMC Red was a mammoth nine-team division last year, meaning each team otherwise would have had 16 division games, more than anyone else in the conference. With a shorter season thanks to NJSIAA changes to the school year sports calendar, that limited opportunities to find opponents that could help their power point totals.

So, a pilot program approved last spring that would allow teams to play each other once. They would be permitted to play any other school twice, but when it came to seeding the county tournament, only the first matchup would count.

Now, that will continue for another season. Beyond that, in the future, the league could change divisional alignments, scheduling, or come up with some other idea entirely.

“The GMC has done an amazing job looking forward and thinking outside the box,” Pede told Central Jersey Sports Radio. And he says all those changes are considered with the student-athletes in mind.

For example, in baseball, the league moved to a five-division setup based on factors beyond school size, adding the GMC Silver. As a result, Piscataway – a large school which has struggled in the Red (5-15 in 2021) and White (7-18 last year) Divisions of late – is in the Blue this year. They are 3-5, but have lost only one of those five games by ten runs or more. Last year, they lost eight of their 15 games by that margin.

“This is not a GMC issue,” Pede said, indicating that it’s not something being considered in other sports. “This is a boys’ basketball Red Division issue.”

“If they feel there’s a problem with boys’ Red Division basketball, let’s fix the problem,” Pede added. “Let’s not fix what’s not broken.”

Unranked wins by Immaculata, St. Joseph-Metuchen jostle bottom half of Bellamy & Son Paving Boys’ Basketball Rankings

The top four teams didn’t move in the Week 8 Bellamy & Son Paving Boys’ Basketball rankings, but the bottom half got shuffled this week after two wins by unranked teams over ranked opponents, namely Immaculata and St. Joseph-Metuchen.

The Spartans knocked off previous No. 6 Bound Brook Saturday, 75-53, while the Falcons stunned Rutgers Prep in Somerset, 73-61, behind 33 points from Josh Ingram.

These are the final rankings until the season is over.

St. Thomas Aquinas (20-2) remained No. 1 after a 1-1 week in which they beat Colonia, 49-48, for their second win over the Patriots this season. They lost Saturday to the Patrick School, 68-52.

Rutgers Prep (14-7) held at No. 2, dropping their only game of the week to St. Joe’s. The Argonauts are likely to earn the No. 1 seed in the Somerset County Tournament, which will be seeded tonight in Somerville. Central Jersey Sports Radio will have the seeds as soon as they come out.

Gill St. Bernard’s (15-5) had a 2-0 week, with wins out-of-league against Linden and Arts.

Colonia (16-6) held serve in fourth, despite the loss to Aquinas. The Patriots also beat Union Tuesday, but lost to Ewing Saturday.

The rest all moved around, starting with South Plainfield. The Tigers (19-3) moved up two spots to No. 5 on the strength of a 3-0 week, that included just one win over a GMC team, New Brunswick on Thursday, as well as victories over Rahway and Oratory Prep.

Ridge (15-4) checks in at No. 6 after a 2-0 week highlighted by a 66-53 win over previous No. 5 South River, handing the Rams (20-2) just their second loss of the season.

Immaculata (16-4, unranked last week) checks in seventh after a mammoth 75-53 win over Bound Brook on Saturday. The Spartans had a 3-0 week, also picking up wins over Pingry and Warren Hills.

North Brunswick (19-3) held in 8th on after a three-win week against the GMC, over Old Bridge, Woodbridge and North Plainfield.

South River (20-2) checks in at No. 9, dropping four spots after the loss to Ridge. They picked up league wins during the week over JFK and Carteret.

Tied for tenth are Bound Brook (16-3) and St. Joseph-Metuchen (12-8). The Crusaders had wins over Newark Vocational and Dayton before the loss to Immaculata, while the Falcons lost to Linden Tuesday in the Investors Bank Challenge at AL Johnson in Clark before knocking off Rutgers Prep.

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

Two GMC division leaders fall, but what will the impact be on tourney seeding?

The teams atop the Greater Middleex Conference White and Blue Divisions both suffered losses this Saturday, with South River taking its first L of the season, and South Plainfield picking up its second.

There’s still a lot of basketball to be played, but how will it affect the seeding in the GMC Tournament next month?

Well, a lot still depends on what happens in the Red Division.

There has been much talk about South River getting one of the top three seeds in the tournament after the Rams shocked St. Joseph with a win over the Falcons in Metuchen by eight on the day after Christmas. Any Blue Division team beating a Red is a big deal, let alone one considered at the top of the division.

But what about a loss to a Red Division team, and one that has been struggling immensely?

That’s what happened Saturday, when South River suffered a stunner of its own, falling by a single point to Piscataway, which is now just 5-8 on the season.

Put a pin in that for a moment and let’s circle back to the Red Division title race. With Colonia having beaten St. Joe’s, and St. Thomas Aquinas beating Colonia last Thursday night (as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio), the division comes down to this: if Aquinas can beat the Falcons on the road Tuesday night – also to be heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio – the Trojans will be division champs. Colonia will be second, and the Falcons third.

Should that happen, Aquinas is easily your No. 1 seed, followed by Colonia. What about South River?

The prevailing thought was the Rams could – and should – get the third seed by virtue of having beaten St. Joseph head-to-head. And while there has long been a perceived Red Division bias in many sports in the GMC, there are rarely head-to-head matchups to consider. More often, a debate has been something like: “Do we go with this undefeated Blue team or this 5-win Red Division team as the sixth seed?”

The head-to-head makes this one different. Will the loss to Piscataway make a dent? After all, if a Blue beating a Red is such a big deal, that would be because of the preconceived notion that a Blue team is not supposed to beat a Red. So, why should a loss to a Red team be a knock on South River?

Should the Rams lose one of their remaining Blue Division games, all bets are probably off. And that’s not out of the realm of possibility; they host Spotswood on Friday night in a rematch of an early season game that saw the Rams win by their closest margin against a GMC opponent all year, just six points. But if they finish the season without another GMC loss, they really should be in play for one of the top three seeds.

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The White Division played itself out of one of the top three seeds (Why top three? Because everyone wants to avoid playing the No. 1 in the semifinals.) in the past week when the Tigers lost to St. Joseph, and the division took its final body blow when North Brunswick beat South Plainfield Saturday, leaving the top two teams in the White with division losses (the Raiders already lost to Perth Amboy earlier this season).

In the GMC Tournament seeding room, it goes like this. All the division winners are considered first. So – if Aquinas wins Tuesday – you would likely have Aquinas from the Red, North Brunswick or South Plainfield from the White, South River from the Blue, and Highland Park or Calvary Christian from the Gold.

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Aquinas goes first. Then Colonia. Now the four on the board are Joe’s, North Brunswick/South Plainfield, South River, Highland Park/Calvary. The Gold will get the eight-seed, the lowest a division winner can be seeded. North Brunswick would be out, with a loss to Amboy, so it comes down to Joe’s and South River. Assuming the Rams are unbeaten in Blue play, with the win over Joe’s, and despite a loss to Piscataway of the Red, it would be mighty hard to still pick Joe’s over South River.

The real wrinkle? Well, that comes if St. Joe’s beats Aquinas at home on Tuesday night on Central Jersey Sports Radio. That would force a three-way tie in the division, and Aquinas, Colonia, and Joe’s would be co-champs. The rematches would not factor into who the champions are, per a one-year pilot program in effect this year in the Red Division where the teams only have to play each other once. However, the rematches would be used to “break the tie” among the three teams, a process done by the seeding committee before slotting teams in the bracket.

That means that if Joe’s wins, and all three are tied, the committee would use all available games to see who comes out first. The three-way tie would give new life to St. Joe’s. For example, if they win both rematches with Colonia and Aquinas, they would have three wins in the series, more than anyone else, and could go No. 1 in the tournament. That would push Colonia and Aquinas to Nos. 2 and 3 in any order, and leave South River no better than fourth, most likely.

(Of course, there’s also the question of: should South River be seeded ahead of Piscataway?)

The upshot is this: The White Division won’t have a shot at one of the top four seeds in the GMC Tournament. But South River should still be very much in play as long as St. Thomas Aquinas takes care of business Tuesday night.

GMC Conference shuffle will have two dozen teams in new divisions, plus an add-on from Somerset County

A total of 11 boys’ and 13 girls’ basketball teams in the Greater Middlesex Conference will have new homes this year when it comes to divisional play in the 2022-23 season.

Every two years, the GMC shuffles its divisions, moving teams up or down, generally based on how they have done in the standings.

And a new team is in the mix this year for both the boys’ and girls’ sides, as North Plainfield of Somerset County moves over from the Skyland Conference. It’s unclear how that will affect the GMC Tournament, which typically has a play-in round, with the winners facing the 9-16 seeds in the preliminary round, then those winners facing seeds 1-8 in the first round.

On the boys’ side, last year’s bottom two GMC Red Division teams, New Brunswick and Perth Amboy, move down to the White, while St. Thomas Aquinas and Colonia move up from the White to the Red, considered the league’s top division. That puts for 20-plus game winners from a year ago together in the same division.

Also moving into the White Division is South Plainfield, which will be joined by neighbor and rival North Plainfield. The Canucks are in Somerset County, and come over from the Skyland Conference.

Meanwhile, Carteret and JFK – the bottom two teams in the GMC White last year – move down to the GMC Blue, where Timothy Christian and Wardlaw-Hartridge come up from the Gold.

Highland Park and Dunellen – the bottom two in last year’s Blue Division – go down to the Gold.

Scroll down for the complete GMC Boys’ Basketball divisional alignments.

On the girls’ side, the top two White Division teams move up to the red: Colonia and North Brunswick.

Three of the four bottom GMC Red Division teams will move down to the White: Edison, JP Stevens and Perth Amboy. The White also will send its bottom two teams from a year ago down to the Blue, in the name of Carteret and New Brunswick.

The Blue Division sends last year’s champ Middlesex up to the White, while taking on Mother Seton, Dunellen and South Amboy from the Gold.

The Gold Division sends Calvary Christian and Somerset Tech up to the Blue.

Scroll down for the complete GMC Girls’ Basketball divisional alignments.

2023-23 and 2023-24 GMC BOYS’ BASKETBALL DIVISIONS

  • Red Division: Colonia, East Brunswick, JP Stevens, Monroe, Old Bridge, Piscataway, St. Joseph-Metuchen, St. Thomas Aquinas, South Brunswick
  • White Division: Edison, New Brunswick, North Brunswick, North Plainfield, Perth Amboy, Sayreville, South Plainfield, Woodbridge
  • Blue Division: Carteret, JFK, Metuchen, Middlesex, South River, Spotswood, Timothy Christian, Wardlaw-Hartridge
  • Gold Division: Calvary Christian, Dunellen, East Brunswick Magnet, Highland Park, Perth Amboy Magnet, Piscataway Magnet, Somerset Tech, South Amboy

2023-23 and 2023-24 GMC BOYS’ BASKETBALL DIVISIONS

  • Red Division: Colonia, East Brunswick, Monroe, North Brunswick, Old Bridge, Piscataway, St. Thomas Aquinas, South Brunswick
  • White Division: Edison, JFK, JP Stevens, Middlesex, North Plainfield, Perth Amboy, Sayreville, South Plainfield, Woodbridge
  • Blue Division: Calvary Christian, Carteret, Highland Park, Metuchen, New Brunswick, Somerset Tech, South River, Spotswood
  • Gold Division: Dunellen, East Brunswick Magnet, Mother Seton, Perth Amboy Magnet, Piscataway Magnet, South Amboy, Timothy Christian, Wardlaw-Hartridge, Woodbridge Academy

Central Jersey Sports Radio announces 2022-23 High School Basketball schedule

Central Jersey Sports Radio is taking no time off with the end of football, and getting ready for the 2022-23 high school basketball season.

This year’s coverage of high school basketball on Central Jersey Sports Radio will kick off on Thursday, December 15th – the season’s Opening Day – as the Rutgers Prep girls, the defending Somerset County Tournament Champions, entertain rival Franklin. We’ll also have coverage of Somerset County Tournament boys champ Gill St. Bernard’s, GMC Tournament boys and girls champions St. Thomas Aquinas, and many more.

Click here for the full broadcast schedule.

Thanks to our loyal sponsors, the CJSR coverage is all free to you – with no paywall – whether it’s games, stories, interviews or analysis.

Bellamy & Son Paving will be the sponsor of the boys’ and girls’ Top Ten rankings once again this year. Joe Bellamy has been a founding sponsor of CJSR since the 2020 football season, and we thank him for his unending support of local student-athletes. Click here to visit the Bellamy & Son Paving website.

All season long, our game recaps and postgame reaction will be sponsored by SportsPlex at Metuchen. For an immersive sporting experience, they have youth and adult leagues and classes, and can host your party. Click here to visit the SportsPlex at Metuchen website.

Of course, we’ll have coverage of both county tournaments. GMC Tournament coverage – starting with the seeding meeting in early February – will be sponsored by Dayton Toyota Service and Dayton Collision on Route 130 in South Brunswick. We’ll be expanding our coverage this season, adding the girls’ semifinal games to the boys’ semifinals we’ll be covering from Monroe Township High Schools, as well as the Championship Doubleheader.

We’ll have semifinal coverage of at least one Somerset County Tournament game – as those are played at higher seeds all on the same night rather than on a neutral court – plus the girls’ and boys’ Championship Doubleheader.

State tournament coverage will be announced at a later date.

Car got wrecked and feeling blue? They’ll make it good as new!

Soon-to-be-senior Katie Ledden reflects on Rutgers Prep’s run to TOC Final

Sure, we joked a lot on Central Jersey Sports Radio that this year’s Tournament of Champions would be the last one ever, until it’s not. But getting to the historic final game and winning it all was a goal for the Rutgers Prep girls’ basketball team from Day One.

They didn’t win it all, but they went as far as they could: the TOC final, running (again) into St. John Vianney, nationally ranked, and the No. 1 team in the state.

But it was a fantastic year when all was said and done. They won the Somerset County Tournament, again. They won the Non-Public South B title, the Group B title, and got contributions from everyone, however little or small.

And yet, this team has so much more to do.

That’s because its two biggest stars will be back next year: sophomore Mikayla Blakes – CJSR’s inaugural Girls’ basketball Player of the Year – and junior Katie Ledden. She averaged 15 points and over 6 rebounds a game, while Blakes led the team in scoring with 18.2 points per game, and nearly five assists per contest.

Rutgers Prep’s Katie Ledden (left) goes for a rebound against Franklin’s Tiffany Pecorella in the third quarter of a 60-34 win on December 17, 2021 (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

And then there’s the supporting cast. Though Antonia Bates – who’s headed to Rutgers – Leyla Castro and Morgan Ryan graduate, sophomores Chloe Escanillas and Zahra Alexander return.

And all of that will have Rutgers Prep starting the 2022-23 season right where they begin this year – and last year, for that matter: at No. 1.

Ledden spoke with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko about the 2021-22 season, and the prospects for next year; click below to listen:

Battling MS, winning the GMCT, Aquinas’ Joe Whalen named CJSR Girls’ Basketball Coach of the Year

Winning a GMC Tournament Championship is not an easy feat. Some winners do, but most don’t have a clear road and path to the title.

In the case of St. Thomas Aquinas this year, there were numerous obstacles, like replacing key players, and getting new players to gel.

But for head coach Joe Whalen, the challenge was monumental, and life-changing: dealing with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis that explained so many things the 64-year-old had simply attributed to age and previous sports injuries.

He’d had knew issues years ago, and suffered concussions from his time boxing. But this was different, and it was starting to affect his coaching, even remembering simple plays, or strategies at the end of a game.

Yet, he and his team – players and assistant coaches – overcame it all, and Whalen is the 2021-22 Central Jersey Sports Radio Girls’ Basketball Coach of the Year.

Click below to listen to Mike Pavlichko talk with St. Thomas Aquinas Head Coach Joe Whalen:

Rutgers Prep’s Matt Bloom named CJSR Boys’ Coach of the Year after historic season

The first-ever sectional title in Rutgers Prep boys’ basketball history has earned Argonauts’ head coach Matt Bloom Boys’ Basketball Coach of the Year Honors from Central Jersey Sports Radio.

They certainly reached new heights in 2022, getting contributions from so many players.

And Bloom is quick to deflect all praise to them: guys like Jadin Collins, Ryan Pettit, Cameron Piggee, Jordan Atkins and Ryan Zan.

So, Mike Pavlichko sat down not just with the head coach, but with Piggee and Atkins in the room, to get a sense of the player/coach/family dynamic Bloom has instilled at Prep.

Click below to hear Matt Bloom, Cameron Piggee and Jordan Atkins talk about Bloom’s recognition as Boys’ Basketball Coach of the Year by Central Jersey Sports Radio:

Super sophomore Mikayla Blakes is Central Jersey Sports Radio Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year

It’s rare that a senior – sometimes even a junior – isn’t named Player of the Year, in just about any sport, whether in high school or college.

But when someone is as good as Mikayla Blakes, just a sophomore at Rutgers Prep, the class year gets thrown out the window.

And so, Blakes is the inaugural Central Jersey Sports Radio Girls’ Basketball Player of the Year, an honor that’s well-deserved.

The numbers are impressive. Consider that as a frosh in the short COVID year she scored double figures in seven of 13 games – and in each of the season’s final five games – her encore was even more impressive: 18.3 points per game, and double figures in all but three games – two of which were blowout wins, while the other was a loss to Westtown, PA.

But she was so much more than the numbers showed. A double-threat, she could get hot from downtown – hitting five times in a game twice, including against Gill St. Bernard’s in the Somerset County Tournament final – but was devastating off the drive as well.

And as she explained to Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko this week, there’s a reason for that.

Click below to hear Rutgers Prep’s Mikayla Blakes talk about her 2021-22 season:

Trojans’ Adam Silas named CJSR Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year

Even in a year when St. Thomas Aquinas lost the de facto GMC championship to Colonia, junior Adam Silas was one of the best players on the floor.

In his senior year, he was almost always the best player on the floor. Even on the rare night he didn’t pour in 20-plus points, or have double digits in assists or rebounds, Silas was always doing something to lead and steer his team to new heights, like beating Gill St. Bernard’s in a battle for No. 1 in the Bellamy Top Ten, or holding off Colonia to win the program’s second GMCT title.

READ MORE: CLEAN SWEEP! St. Thomas Aquinas boys win GMC Tourney title, make it two trophies for the Trojans in one night

For that, he is Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year for the 2021-22 season. (Scroll down to see Honorable Mentions, in no particular order.)

Silas went through a lot to get to North Edison. He started his scholastic career four years ago at St. Benedict’s, which turned out not to be the right fit for him. Silas finally thought he found a home at Marist, but the school closed after his sophomore year.

That’s when he found his new home on Tingley Lane.

Silas scored 12 points a game last year in the COVID-shortened season, but upped his game this year, averaging 19 even, and 5.1 assists per game to boot. And yet, it wasn’t just about the numbers.

St. Thomas Aquinas head coach Bob Turco (left) and senior guard Adam Silas are all smiles after a huge win over national power Gill St. Bernard’s on February 12, 2022. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

All year, head coach Bob Turco, at least publicly, expected, or maybe just hoped – to have back Jaquan Harris, the Seton Hall-bound point guard who was the leader of the team. He suffered an ACL injury late last basketball season, and missed all of football. But he never came back. And slowly, but surely, the leadership role fell to Silas, who welcomed it with open arms.

Click below to hear CJSR’s Mike Pavlichko talk with 2021-22 Player of the Year Adam Silas of St. Thomas Aquinas:

HONORABLE MENTIONS (in no particular order):

  • Saivon Pressley, Colonia
  • Jadin Collins, Rutgers Prep
  • Denver Anglin, Gill St. Bernard’s
  • Mackenzie Mgbako, Gill St. Bernard’s
  • Quadir Harrell, Bound Brook
  • Ethan Simmon, St. Joseph-Metuchen
  • Elijah Lewis, Watchung Hills
  • Ryan Curry, Montgomery
  • Brandon Dean, South Plainfield
  • The Okocha Trio (Jon, Josh and Eli), Monroe