Tag: Matt Bloom

Piggee’s “and-one” with :02.9 left makes Rutgers Prep boys Somerset County Tournament Champions

Gill St. Bernard’s had double-digit leads in every quarter but the first, and Rutgers Prep led the game for just 2.9 seconds. But that was all they needed.

Senior Cameron Piggee gave the Argonauts their first lead of the game – with 2.9 seconds to go as he slashed through the lane, scored as he drew contact, then coolly hit his free throw, putting Prep up 69-67 in a game Gill led virtually wire-to-wire.

After the inbound, with no timeouts left, Gill’s Mario Castro-Sanchez heaved a 50-footer from the near sideline near mid-court, but it wasn’t close, completing a sweep by the Rutgers Prep girls and boys of the SCT.

Piggee finished with 20, including four three-point baskets. Junior Jadin Collins chipped in 16, and Senior Franklin Jones added 15 for Prep, which will head into the state tournament at 20-7.

Castro-Sanchez led the way for Gill (18-7) with 20 points, while junior Nick Losada added 19.

Click below for postgame reaction sponsored by SportsPlex at Metuchen:

Rutgers Prep senior Cameron Piggee
Rutgers Prep Head Coach Matt Bloom

Another war on tap in SCT Boys’ Final as Rutgers Prep and Gill St. Bernard’s will rematch

Last year’s Somerset County Tournament title win for Gill St. Bernard’s was a blowout over Rutgers Prep.

This year, Gill won a regular-season matchup with the Argonauts at the buzzer, then Prep turned it around at home and handled the Knights, who were in it, but never really threatened.

What’s next today?

You never know what can happen when Rutgers Prep and Gill St. Bernard’s meet, and today at Montgomery High School will be no exception when the top-seeded Argonauts take on the second-seeded Knights in the SCT title game, which you can hear on Central Jersey Sports Radio as part of a girls’/boys’ doubleheader.

Mike Pavlichko and Chris Tsakonas will call all the action, starting with pregame at 12:45 pm for the 1:00 girls game – also between top-seed Prep and second-seed Gill – then with the boys’ final starting at 3 pm. 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, and more.

#1 Rutgers Prep (19-7) vs. #2 Gill St. Bernard’s (18-6)
When: Saturday, February 18 at 3 pm
Where: Montgomery High School
Listen Live: Central Jersey Sports Radio, pregame begins at 2:45 pm

Jordin Collins of Rutgers Prep brings the ball up the floor in the second half against Gill St. Bernard’s on January 24, 2023. Collins finished with a game-high 22 points. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

#1 Rutgers Prep
Head Coach: Matt Bloom – 6th season, 111-32)

Having just played an all-out battle with Franklin on Thursday night, with a quick turnaround to Saturday, Bloom says his players will have watched film on the day in between, and go through some walk-throughs in an hour-long practice. Mental and physical healing is needed after an all-out banger against the Warriors, which literally drew blood; point guard Jordan Atkins had to come out of the game briefly after getting hit, and came back with a bandage in the area above his eye.

Expect much of the same Saturday afternoon. Atkins runs the point so well, even to the point of a play that won’t show up in the box score. Against the Warriors, after Jake Novielli hit back-to-back threes to get his team back in the game, Atkins got a pass on a drive and quickly realized the better play was to kick it back out. He did so, to Johnny Nsenkyire on the wing, and he hit a three-ball to stop the Franklin win. It was a critical moment. But the fact is, those moments also don’t happen without the offensive finish. Jadin Collins is one of those guys, leading in every scoring category, and he’s the team’s top rebounder, too. He can play defense, to boot, with a team-leading 105 steals. John Kelly has been playing great defense for the Argonauts, and Cameron Piggee has been nailing it from downtown since his return from injury.

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Projected Starting Five:

  • PG Jordan Atkins (6-0, Sr): 8.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 140 assists
  • G Cameron Piggee (6-2, Sr): 14.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 50 treys
  • G Franklin Jones (6-5, Sr): 8.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 27 blocks
  • G Jadin Collins (6-1, Jr): 20.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 105 steals
  • F John Kelly (6-7, Jr): 11.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg

Coach’s Interview:

SCT History (1-5):

1988 – #1 Bridgewater-Raritan West beat #2 Rutgers Prep 94-66
2011 – #1 Gill St. Bernard’s beat #2 Rutgers Prep 68-59
2017 – #1 Gill St. Bernard’s beat #3 Rutgers Prep 71-61
2018 – #1 Gill St. Bernard’s beat #2 Rutgers Prep 56-54
2020 – #1 Rutgers Prep beat #3 Watchung Hills 71-57
2022 – #1 Gill St. Bernard’s beat Rutgers Prep 84-63

Gill St. Bernard’s head coach Mergin Sina talks to his team before a matchup at Rutgers Prep on January 24, 2023. (Photo: Mike Pavlichko)

#2 Gill St. Bernard’s
Head Coach: Mergin Sina – 13th season, 272-69

Head coach Mergin Sina was working with a completely new lineup in the preseason, and as it was coming together, it took another blow, the return of Jon Ismaijli to his native Serbia. Back to the drawing board, sort of. The results have been typical Gill St. Bernard’s, even without household names like Mackenzie Mgbako and Naas Cunningham, who transferred after last year.

Senior Mario Castro-Sanchez has shouldered the burden of the scoring this year, also leading the team in the three-point department, and can dish the ball to people like fellow senior Nick Losada, who hit the game winning three as time expired in the first meeting with Rutgers Prep, in Gladstone in early January. Freshman Dorsett Mulcahy can run the point, too, and looks more and more like his older brother on the court than than off it, with great moves off the dribble-drive. But he’s not the only Rutgers connection; Scarlet Knight head coach Steve Pikiell’s son, Kevin, also is on the team.

Projected Starting Five:

  • G Mario Castro-Sanchez (6-1, Sr): 22.5 ppg, 68 assists, 95 treys
  • G Andy Hearn (6-1, Sr): 4.6 ppg, 8 treys
  • G Nick Losada (6-2, Jr): 14.3 ppg, 47 steals, 46 treys
  • G Luke Ruggerio (6-3, Sr): 2.1 ppg
  • F/C Ebrahim Kaba (6-8, Jr): 9.2 ppg, 17 treys

Coach’s Interview:

Gill St. Bernard’ Head Coach Mergin Sina

SCT History (8-2):

2011 – #1 Gill St. Bernard’s beat #2 Rutgers Prep 68-59
2012 – #1 Gill St. Bernard’s beat #2 Bridgewater-Raritan 88-72
2013 – #1 Ridge beat #2 Gill St. Bernard’s 69-56
2014 – #3 Hillsborough beat #1 Gill St. Bernard’s 53-52
2015 – #3 Gill St. Bernard’s beat (1) Ridge 48-39
2016 – #1 Gill St. Bernard’s beat #3 Somerville 66-51
2017 – #1 Gill St. Bernard’s beat #3 Rutgers Prep 71-61
2018 – #1 Gill St. Bernard’s beat #2 Rutgers Prep 56-54
2019 – #1 Gill St. Bernard’s beat #3 Watching Hills 73-53
2022 – #1 Gill St. Bernard’s beat Rutgers Prep 84-63

Battle tested Rutgers Prep boys will battle Franklin a third time, this time for a trip to the SCT title game

The Argonauts boys’ basketball team earned its No. 1 seed in the Somerset County Tournament the hard way, with some gritty basketball games in the top division in the conference.

After a buzzer-beater loss at Gill St. Bernard’s, they took firm control with a solid rematch on their home floor. But they didn’t just have to beat the Knights. They also had to gut out tough games like their two matchups with resurgent Franklin this year, including a 90-82 road victory on opening night, and a6 62-55 home win just under a month later on January 12th.

Thursday night, Rutgers Prep (18-7) and Franklin (16-9) will square off for a third time, this time with a trip to Saturday’s Somerset County Finals on the line. It’s a game you can hear live on Central Jersey Sports Radio at 7 pm, with pregame at 6:45 following the girls’ matchup between the same teams at 5 pm.

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

For Prep, they are seeking a third straight trip to the Somerset County Tourney title tilt, and fourth in the last five tournaments. They lost to Gill St. Bernard’s in both 2017 and 2018, missed the final in ’19, won it in 2020 by beating third-seed Watchung Hills, then after a one-off Skyland Pod tournament in 2021, fell to top-seed Gill St. Bernard’s last season.

The games with Franklin this year have been good ones. The first one on opening night, December 15th, saw the teams knotted up at 15 after one quarter before Rutgers Prep pulled out to a 14-point halftime lead, and a fourth-quarter rally by the Warriors fell short, losing by eight.

In the second one, it was a similar pattern. Prep led 14-11 after one, then 35-22 at the half, before Franklin made a move in the third quarter and fell short. Jadin Collins scored 23 in both games for the Argonauts.

Click below to hear Rutgers Prep head coach Matt Bloom talk about his team’s season and the matchup with Franklin:

Gill St. Bernard’s may have upper hand, but after buzzer-beating win, top SCT seed up for grabs in battle at Rutgers Prep tonite

In a series that has been dominated by Gill St. Bernard’s over the years – which has won 17 of the last 19 meetings between the schools, there’s a lot legitimately on the line tonight when the 2nd-ranked Knights travel to Somerset to square off against No. 3 Rutgers Prep.

Gill (12-3, 7-0 Skyland Delaware) is in the driver’s seat, of course, thanks to a buzzer-beating three-point shot by Nick Losada that gave the Knights a 67-65 win at home back on January 5th. A win, and they lock up the Skyland Conference’s top division title, and the top-seed in the Somerset County Tournament.

But a Rutgers Prep win would likely leave them co-champs, and then you can let the debate begin.

You can hear tonight’s game live on Central Jersey Sports Radio with pregame beginning at 6:45 pm and tip-off at 7. Mike Pavlichko and Chris Tsakonas will call all the action. Click here to listen.

The Argonauts (11-6, 5-1) have not won in this series very often, but there have been some close games. In addition to this month’s previous matchup, Prep beat them in 2020, played to an eight-point game in February 2019, and lost by two in the county final the year prior.

Add to that the fact that Rutgers Prep has been without captain Cameron Piggee for a good chuck of the season, including the prior matchup this month with Gill, in which the Knights drained 12 three-pointers, while the Argos only hit one.

Click below for preview interviews with both head coaches:

Chris Tsakonas with Gill St. Bernard’s head coach Mergin Sina
Mike Pavlichko with Rutgers Prep head coach Matt Bloom

Somerville’s Bloom officially appointed full-time football coach

“You learn a lot about what to do from the people before you.”

That thought from Matt Bloom may best sum up the reason the Somerville Board of Education officially appointed him as the full-time football coach at the high school at its meeting Tuesday night, after he took over with just two games to go in the season from first-year head coach Ian Pace.

Though the move was not disclosed publicly and inspired a bit of a sense of mystery around the Big Central Conference, there’s no mystery as to why Bloom now has the job. He was the lone holdover from the highly successful Jeff Vanderbeek/Dallas Whitaker era, which saw the program go 57-8 under the two head coaches – winning a state title in 2017 and reaching two other sectional finals – after losing 25 straight from 2012 through 2015.

Bloom went 2-1 after being elevated from offensive line coach to head coach in time for the Pioneers’ October 14th home game against Hillsborough. With a 2-5 record at that point – in part due to a forfeit against Mastery Charter of Camden for using an ineligible transfer – and needing to likely win two games to clinch a playoff berth, Somerville did just that.

They beat the Raiders 35-14 at Brooks Field, then came up with an equally as critical and convincing 41-28 road win at South Brunswick on the Friday night of Cutoff Weekend to make the postseason at 4-5, though they eventually dropped a first-round game at Seneca.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko’s exclusive interview with Matt Bloom upon being approved by the Board of Education as Somerville’s full-time head football coach:

Somerville fends off South Brunswick to clinch playoff berth

It was a game that looked like it would be a rout at halftime, but turned out to be an old-fashioned Donnybrook.

That is, until Somerville finally decided to eat the clock before scoring its final touchdown in a 41-28 win over South Brunswick, a victory that appears to have locked up a playoff spot for the Pioneers, avoiding a miss for the first time since 2015.

On touchdowns from runningbacks Terrell Mitchel and Hashym Hobbs-Harris, and a touchdown catch by Quinn Carran that opened the scoring, Somerville led South Brunswick on the road 21-0 in a game heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio Friday night.

But South Brunswick came out angry in the second half, with Jacob Brokaw leading the way on his Senior Night.

Brokaw had a five-yard touchdown run to pull the Vikings withing 21-7. But Julian Finger’s touchdown pass answered right back for the Pioneers.

Then quarterback Braden Paulmenn finished off a drive led by Brokaw to make it 28-14, but Hobbs-Harris came back with a 54-yard score.

Paulmenn added another one-yard run, but QB Mike Miller of the Pioneers got it back to a three-schore lead at 41-21.

South Brunswick would add another touchdown from Brokaw with 1:19 left, but that would be all they’d get as Somerville came away with a 41-28 road win that should clinch a playoff berth.

Official state playoff pairings will be out Sunday from the NJSIAA, but Central Jersey Sports Radio will have a live Playoff Update Saturday morning at 11 (click here to listen) followed by a live Twitter Spaces at noon for a Q&A with Central Jersey Sports Radio’s Mike Pavlichko. Then, at 6, Mike is back with a full Playoff Projection Show, with a live look at the likely matchups.

Click below for postgame reaction from Somerville’s playoff berth-clinching win over South Brunswick Friday night:

Somerville sophomore RB Terrell Mitchell (13 carries, 192 yards, 1 TD)

Somerville head coach Matt Bloom

Somerville looking to finish strong, facing a “Win and In” game at South Brunswick Friday night

At 2-5, having a season-opening victory taken off the board, and going through the gauntlet of a mostly Group 5 schedule for Group 3 Somerville, the Pioneers season had come down to two games. But one at a time.

In rolled Hillsborough, ranked No. 3 in the Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten. Banged up to be sure, with its first two quarterbacks out due to injury, but a team whose only loss came at the hands of Phillipsburg, the top-ranked team in the league.

And with a coaching change less than 48 hours before kickoff at Brooks Field, Must-Win Game No. 1 could have gone a lot of different ways.

That kickoff was the difference. Terrell Mitchell took it to the house, and before Hillsborough could blink, the Pioneers were up 14-0, en route to a 35-14 win.

Now, the second of those two must-win games, as Somerville (3-5) visits South Brunswick (3-4) in a game that can be heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio, where the winner will make the playoffs, and the loser may have to do some scoreboard watching.

You can hear Friday night’s game with Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe calling the play-by-play starting with pregame at 6:15, and kickoff at 6:30 pm from Mike Elko Field in Monmouth Junction. Click here to listen.

Somerville appears to have a new fire in its belly since offensive line coach Matt Bloom – the only holdover from the Dallas Whitaker/Jeff Vanderbeek era – was handed the reins, with Ian Pace no longer coaching the team. School administrators have not publicly commented on the change.

It wasn’t a distraction last week, and you can bet it won’t be this week.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with Somerville head coach Matt Bloom:

Somerville shocks No. 3 Hillsborough to keep playoff hopes alive

The game started with a bang for Somerville, getting a kickoff return for a touchdown to open the game by sophomore Terrell Mitchell, and the Pioneers never took their foot off the gas.

After a defensive stop of Hillsborough, Somerville got another score to go up 14-0, en route to what would turn out to be perhaps the biggest upset of the so far in the Big Central: a 35-14 win over the third-ranked Raiders, to keep their playoff hopes alive.

The ‘Ville has not missed the playoffs since 2015, first under Jeff Vanderbeek, then under Dallas Whitaker. But they were coached Friday night by offensive line coach Matt Bloom, as head coach Ian Pace was not on the sidelines for Somerville.

Yet somehow, avoiding the distractions, the Pioneers prevailed over a young but talented Hillsbrough squad that was ranked third in the Week 7 Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten.

Somerville needed to likely win its final two games to have a shot at making the playoffs, and Hillsborough would have been the bigger of the two. They sit 21st in the South Group 3 playoff standings, but the win Friday night will give them a huge bump in trying to make the top 16.

The Pioneers visit South Brunswick next Friday night.

Click below to hear CJSR’s Mike Pavlichko talk with Somerville coach Matt Bloom:

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:

Rutgers Prep boys fall short of TOC bid in historic season

Rutgers Prep boys’ basketball coach Matt Bloom wants his team to remember that they made history in 2021-22, something no one can ever erase: they won a sectional championship that had eluded them in the prior nine seasons as a member of the NJSIAA.

But they will not make the Tournament of Champions in the final year of the event, as the South champion Argonauts fell to North winner Bergen Catholic in the Non-Public Group A Championship game at Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway, 66-54, as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

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Rutgers Prep had brief leads of 2-0 and 4-2, but never lead again, as the Crusaders slowly built out to a double digit lead, which went back-and-forth to single digits on a number of occasions throughout the night. But most of the second half was spend with a double-digit deficit, though the Argonauts only trailed by seven at the break, 32-25.

Part of the problem was Prep wasn’t hitting its good looks, which it normally does. Junior Jadin Collins – who had back-to-back career highs in the sectional semis (30 against St. Thomas Aquinas) and finals (33 versus Red Bank Catholic) – came back to Earth with a 21-point night, to lead all scorers in the game.

Prep was active on defense. Senior Ryan Pettit had a handful of quick baskets off inbound turnovers by Bergen Catholic, all forced by the Argos being active on the trigger.

But Rutgers Prep only connected on one three-point bucket all night, a triple by Collins in the fourth quarter for his last three points of the game.

Prep – which ends its season at 26-4 – will graduate two key parts of its starting five, in 6-7 forward Ryan Zan, as well as Pettit. Senior swing Donovan Long, who didn’t get in Saturday’s final, also will graduate. Late in the game, Bloom got two other seniors some time on the Rutgers floor – Ryan Kokoszka and Kridshna Lekhi.

Looking like a college kid plucked from the stands with a chance to win a free tuition, Lekhi chucked a three from just inside half court with the game out of reach and 15-seconds left. There was no hurry, he just wanted to take the shot. He banked it off the glass, but it narrowly missed, bringing a chuckle and some smiles from the bench and Prep fans in attendance.

Click here for postgame reacton as Mike Pavblichko talks to Rutgers Prep head coach Matt Bloom: