Tag: Monroe

Ridge debuts at No. 1 in preseason Bellamy & Son Paving H.S. Baseball Top Ten

The Ridge Red Devils – coming off a 24-4 season, a Somerset County Tournament championship, and a heartbreaking 11-inning loss in the Central Jersey Group 4 semifinals to end their season – will begin 2023 right where they left off: Number One in the Bellamy & Son Paving Top Ten.

Not only does Ridge take the top spot in our preseason rankings, but the top four teams remained the same. The rest saw some significant movement.

The Red Devils have some key pieces back from last year’s club, including pitchers Connor Byrne and Brendan Callanan, while Callanan, Luke Somelofske and Julian Kielb – the team’s top run producer a year ago – are among the top hitters returning.

In second, it’s North Brunswick, which won its first-ever GMC Tournament Championship last year, beating defending champ St. Joseph of Metuchen in the final. The Falcons check in at No. 3.

The Raiders went 22-10 last season, and have a lot of key hitters back, including Omar and Yomar Carreras and Frankie Garbolino, while Rutgers-bound strikeout whiz Zach Konstantinovsky returns for his senior season. Last year, “Zack K” threw 67 innings, struck out 120 hitters, and walked only two, with a miniscule 0.73 earned run average.

The Falcons finished 22-9 last year, and were the Red Division Champions. Their returning lineup is loaded, with standouts like Mark Gialluisi, Robbie Carvelli, Josiah Brown and many more returning, though they lose two of the best pitchers in the league – Donovan Szak and Andrew Goldan, both of whom are now at Rutgers.

Checking in at No. 4 is Woodbridge. The Barons were 25-7 last year and a North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 finalist, having won an epic 11-inning game at Ridge, but falling to Hunterdon Central in the final. The Barrons return their top pitcher in Eddy Nunez, as well as key offensive players like senior Ty Kobylakiewicz, and juniors Drew Lukachyk and A.J. Bosch.

In fifth is Rutgers Prep, which was 19-6 last season and won the Skyland Conference Valley Division, and made it to the Somerset County final, falling to Ridge. A young team in 2022, they still won’t have a lot of seniors, but players like sophomores Andrew Parisi (.537, 54 RBI, 11 HR) and Zach Fronio (42 2/3 innings pitched, 1.34 ERA) will have lots of experience to call upon.

East Brunswick checks in at No. 6. A Central Jersey Group 4 finalist, the Bears were 17-13 last season, and lost an epic GMC Tournament semifinal game to North Brunswick 1-0 in 12 innings.

Monroe – 16-11 a year ago – is in seventh, while Pingry comes in eighth. The Big Blue were 23-3 last season and had just one regular season loss, to Ridge. Their other two losses were in the county and state tournaments.

Immaculata – 14-13 a year ago – comes in ninth. A young ballclub went 14-13 last season, but lost some key offensive players and some big arms, like Aiden Rumain, Matt Warzeniak and Christian Martell.

And Bridgewater-Raritan, which has a veteran group returning from last year’s 15-13 team debuts in this year’s poll at No. 10.

Below is the complete Bellamy & Son Paving Preseason Top Ten:

Colonia gets past Snyder to win 2nd straight North 2, Group 3 title; Monroe girls fall to Jax Memorial in CJ4 final

The Greater Middlesex Conference public schools went 1-1 in sectional title games Monday night, as the Colonia boys won their second straight North 2, Group 3 title – and third in the last four postseasons – while the Monroe girls fell in the Central Jersey Group 4 championship.

The Patriots led a tight game most of the way, and were up the half by four, 29-25, but pulled ahead on a 12-2 run to lead 41-20 under the three-minute mark in the third quarter. The fourth-seeded Patriots came out with a 64-51 win, to make it back-to-back titles in the section, and their third in the last four playoff seasons.

Jaeden Jones led Colonia with 17 points, while Noah Taylor chipped in a double-double, with 15 points and ten rebounds.

Now, for the second year in a row, they move on to the Group 3 semifinals in Phillipsburg, and will play the North 1 champion Wednesday night at 7 pm at Phillipsburg High School. Tonight’s North 1 final features top-seed Ramapo and 2-seed Teaneck, and tipped off at 7 pm. Ramapo knocked Colonia out last year in the group semis, also in Phillipsburg.

Click below for postgame reaction with Colonia head coach Jose Rodriguez:

On the girls’ side, third-seed Monroe fell 53-45 to 5th-seed Jackson Memorial, which also knocked them out last year in the semifinal round. Senior Haley Higgins led the Faclons with 13 points, while sophomore Evangelina Francisco scored 12 in the loss.

The season ends at 17-10 for the Falcons.

“Revenge tour” continues for Monroe girls, as Falcons play for CJ4 title Monday evening

The Monroe Falcons girls’ basketball team had lost twice to South Brunswick this year, and the third time turned out to be the charm.

A semifinal win over the Vikings Saturday morning – on the road, mind you – now has them in the Central Jersey Group 4 title game against another somewhat familiar foe. They’ll take on defending champion Jackson Memorial, a team they don’t play all too frequently, but which knocked them out of the CJ4 bracket in last year’s semifinals.

Everyone remembers, and you know how things go in the state tournament.

Monroe is 17-9 this season, fairly on par with last year’s 18-6 campaign. Jackson is 20-9 under head coach Rachel Goodale – the sister of Rutgers wrestling coach Scott Goodale – also about where they were last year.

So how do things go in the state tournament?

Well, when the third-seeded Falcons beat 2-seed South Brunswick on Saturday, they probably figured they should hire a bus just down the road to Hightstown, the top-seed, for Monday night. But as it turns out, the Jaguars upset the Rams, 61-44 Saturday, leaving Monroe as the higher seed, and thus hosting a title game for the first time since 2016. They won CJ4 that year, too, beating Hunterdon Central before losing to South 4 champ Lenape in the group semifinals.

The Falcons have only one player scoring in double figures on the season, and don’t go terribly deep, but their starting five all averages at least seven-and-a-half points a game. Junior Halley Cottrell leads with 11.8 per contest, though it’s sophomore Evangelina Francisco who has really come on in the NJSIAA Tournament.

Of her five highest games the entire season, the last three in the states all figure into that mix, including a career-best 26 – her only 20-plus point game ever – in the semifinals against South Brunswick. She’s averaging 12.7 points a game in the playoffs.

No other Falcon has more than one 10-plus point game in the last three. But they really haven’t had to, and Francisco will look to continue the hot hand.

But in all, the lineup is steadied by two seniors – Haley Higgins and Katie Louro – who have been starters all four years in high school, and have been a part of 71 total victories in that span, an enormous feat considering 2021 was shortened by COVID.

Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with Monroe seniors Haley Higgins and Katie Louro:

As for Jackson, they’ve had a similar season to last year, record-wise. They made it through the preliminary round of the Shore Conference Tournament – an invitational, not an automatic qualifier tourney like the GMC – with a win over Monmouth, before getting bounced by St. Rose of Belmar in the first round. They were 8-2 in the Shore A South division, finishing second to Toms River North. But the Mariners were bounced from South 4 in the semifinals by Lenape.

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Senior Zoie Maffei is the top scorer, at 18.2 points a game, and fellow senior Chloe Messer is right behind at 13.7. And they have a little more height than Monroe, which could present some matchup problems.

In the 61-44 semifinal win over Hightstown, the Jags got a double-double from Maffei – 12 points and 10 rebounds – while another senior, Kamile Makselyte – added 18 points and 12 boards.

And then there were five: South Brunswick, South River, Colonia boys; Monroe, Middlesex girls will vie for sectional titles

CORRECTION: The girls’ sectional finals are opposite days from the boys in each group. Monroe girls play Monday, Midesex plays Tuesday.

Week One of the NJSIAA state tournament is in the books, and the public sectional title games have all been determined. Five teams from the Central Jersey Sports Radio listening area are on to Championship Week, and will play for trophies next week, including three on the boys’ side and two on the girls’ side.

Here’s a full breakdown of who will play for titles.

Scroll all the way down to see the upcoming public and non-public schedule for CJSR-area teams remaining in the state tournament.

For the boys, the standard-bearers are Colonia, South Brunswick and South River.

The Patriots (21-8) were the first to punch their ticket, doing so on Friday night with a win over top-seed South Plainfield in the North 2, Group 3 semifinals. (Click here for a full recap and postgame audio from our very own Chris Tsakonas.) They will be the first to play this week when they host 6th-seed Snyder (17-7) out of Jersey City. Game time is 6 pm.

Colonia is going for its third straight sectional title in the past four seasons and second straight, as they won the section last year over South Plainfield in a 58-56 double-overtime thriller in their own gym – where they will play again Monday – but were knocked out in the Group 3 semifinals by Ramapo.

The Patriots also are making their fourth straight appearance in a sectional title game. There was no state tournament during the shortened COVID year of 2021, but in 2020, Colonia lost to Irvington in the title game, a year after beating West Morris 57-33 on the road to take their first of two North 2, Group 3 crowns so far under Jose Rodriguez.

Then on Tuesday, two more teams will play for titles. In South River (26-3), the top-seeded Rams are in the Central Jersey Group 2 title game – their first appearance since they won it all in 1991 – where they will play host to second-seed Manasquan (25-4) at 7 pm. South River got there with a tense win over fourth-seed Bound Brook Saturday, 72-66.

While South River made it to the GMC Tournament semifinals before falling to St. Joe’s of Metuchen, the Warriors are the Shore Conference Tournament Champions, beating Ranney of Eatontown 61-46 in the final.

Also Tuesday night, it will be sixth-seed South Brunswick (20-6) traveling to take on top-seed Trenton (28-1) in the Central Jersey Group 4 title game at 5:30 pm. The Vikings were 72-62 home winners in the semifinals Saturday over 7th-seed Marlboro, a surprise home game after the Mustangs had upset 2nd-seed Freehold Twp. in the quarters. But this time they will have to go on the road, and play a top ten team statewide, to boot. Many consider the Tornadoes a favorite to go all the way and win Group 4.

South Brunswick last made the sectional finals in 2020, when they beat Marlboro 72-20 in the title game on March 10, 2020. The date is significant because the season ended there – before playing in the statewide Group 4 semifinals – when the NJSIAA shut down high school sports at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s one of the rare instances of a team ending their season with a win in a sectional finals.

On the girls’ side, one team will play each day: Monroe, then Middlesex.

On Monday, it’s the Central Jersey Group 4 title game at 5:30 pm, which third-seed Monroe (17-9) finds itself hosting against 5th-seed Jackson Memorial (20-9). The Falcons knocked out 2-seed South Brunswick on the road Saturday morning, 59-42, in a game that tipped off at 10 am as part of a doubleheader with the Viking boys. But they probably figured they would be playing on the road. They found out they’d get to host after the Jaguars upset top-seed Hightstown, 61-44.

Monroe and Jax Memorial met in last year’s CJ4 semifinals, with the Falcons falling 46-44. Monroe last made a sectional final in 2016, when the girls beat Hunterdon Central 48-35 to take the Central Jersey Group 4 title, before falling to Lenape in the statewide Group 4 semis. They had also lost the year before in the finals, 60-52 to Marlboro.

Then on Tuesday, second-seed Middlesex (20-8) will visit top-seed Shore Regional (22-6) in West Long Branch for a 6:30 title tilt in Central Jersey Group 1. The Blue Jays have had a stellar run under head coach Kevin Harper, and senior Neysa Aguilar has been they key reason. She scored 32 points in a 69-42 semifinal win over Dunellen, and has averaged 22.7 points in three state tourney games so far.

The last sectional final appearance for Middlesex came in 2020, when the Blue Jays lost to Bound Brook 56-41 in the Central Jersey Group 1 title game. (The Crusaders, incidentally, also had their tourney run cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, after a 48-32 group semifinal win over Woodbury.) That was the third straight year Middlesex had lost to Bound Brook in the CJ1 finals. They also lost to South River in the sectional finals in 2015. The Blue Jays won their only title in 2004, when they rallied to beat Dayton 60-41in the Central Jersey Group 1 finals; they would go on to lose to South 1 champ Riverside in the Group 1 semifinals.



Boys – North 2, Group 3 Final
#6 Snyder (17-7) at #4 Colonia (21-8), 5:30 pm

Girls – Central 1 Final
#2 Middlesex (20-8) at #1 Shore Regional (22-6), 6:30 pm

Boys – Non-Public South A Semifinals
#5 Union Catholic at #1 Camden Catholic, 7 pm
#7 Rutgers Prep at #6 St. Joseph-Metuchen, 6pm

Boys – Non-Public North B Semifinals
#4 Roselle Catholic at #1 St. Thomas Aquinas, 6 pm (CJSR)
#6 Montclair-Immaculate at #2 Gill St. Bernard’s, 6 pm

Girls – Non-Public South B Semifinals
#5 Holy Spirit at #1 Wildwood Catholic, 6 pm
#3 Rutgers Prep at #2 St. Rose-Belmar, 5 pm


Boys – Central 4 Final
#6 South Brunswick (20-6) at #1 Trenton (28-1), 5:30 pm

Boys – Central 2 Final
#2 Manasquan (25-4) at #1 South River (26-3), 7:00 pm

Girls – Central 4 Final
#5 Jackson Memorial (20-9) at #1 Monroe (17-9), 5:30 pm

A split for the Vikings, as South Brunswick boys win, gain final, but girls lose, putting Monroe in a final, too

Both South Brunswick and Monroe will be playing for titles Tuesday night.

The South Brunswick boys – the top-seed in Central Jersey Group 4 – advanced to the sectional final with a 72-61 home win over 7th-seed Marlboro.

The Vikings will play the winner of today’s other semifinal between top-seeded Trenton and fifth-seed Middletown South. Either way, South Brunswick would be playing on the road.

The Monroe girls – the third-seed in CJ4 – knocked off two-seed South Brunswick on the road, 59-42, to advance to their sectional final. Evangelina Francisco again led the way for Monroe, scoring 26 points

The Falcons will play host to 5th-seed Jackson Memorial on Tuesday night at a time to be announced. Jackson shocked top-seed Hightstown on the road Saturday, 61-44.

Nine girls’ basketball teams advance, Bound Brook and South River notch upsets as Groups 2 and 4 begin NJSIAA Tournament play

The bigger schools in the CJSR coverage area had mostly good nights in their opening round NJSIAA State Tournament games, while nine teams advanced overall, and seven were eliminated.

East Brunswick, Edison, Hillsborough, Monroe, Old Bridge, South Brunswick, and Watchung Hills all advanced in Group 4 play in their respective sections. All those teams were higher seeds in their first-round games.

Among the smaller schools, there were two upsets in Central Jersey Group 2. The biggest – by seed – was 11th-seed Bound Brook winning at 6th-seed Spotswood, 52-40. And in an all-GMC matchup, 10–seed South River beat 6th-seed Metuchen on the road 45-44.

Below are opening round results of all games in sections with area teams remaining. Scroll further down for the upcoming schedule, including matchups resulting from today’s games.

Central Group 4:
#1 Hightstown def. #16 North Brunswick, 52-28
#8 Old Bridge def. #9 Marlboro, 62-54
#5 Jackson Memorial def. #12 Princeton, 71-37
#4 East Brunswick def. #13 West Windsor-Plainsboro North, 46-29
#3 Monroe def. #14 Northern Burlington, 69-33
#6 Howell def. #11 Middletown South, 51-34
#7 Long Branch def. #10 Trenton, 64-47
#2 South Brunswick def. #15 Freehold Twp., 63-31

Central Group 2:
#16 Delaware Valley def. #1 New Providence, 62-26
#8 Roselle def. #9 Delran, 48-45
#5 Voorhees def. #12 Hillside, 64-44
#4 Rumson-Fair Haven def. #13 Point Pleasant Boro, 54-26
#3 Holmdel def. #14 Monmouth, 60-35
#11 Bound Brook def. #6 Spotswood, 52-40
#10 South River def. #7 Metuchen, 45-44
#2 Manasquan def. #15 Wall, 66-38

North 2, Group 4:
#1 Bayonne def. #16 Newark East Side, 65-31
#8 Hillsborough def. #9 Woodbridge, 76-49
#5 Edison def. #12 Union, 65-46
#4 Westfield def. #13 Phillipsburg, 61-29
#3 Irvington def. #14 Linden, 52-35
#6 Watchung Hills def. #11 Franklin, 52-46
#7 Scotch Plains-Fanwood def. #10 Ridge, 58-50
#2 Elizabeth def. #15 Hunterdon Central, 46-40

North 2, Group 2:
#4 Dayton def. #13 Bernards, 54-46


Central Group 3 Quarterfinals
#8 Colts Neck at #1 Ewing
#5 Somerville at #4 Allentown
#11 Brick Memorial at #3 Red Bank Regional
#7 Robbinsville at #2 Ocean Twp.

Central Group 1 Quarterfinals
#8 South Hunterdon at #1 Shore
#13 Keyport at #5 Pt. Pleasant Beach
#6 Highland Park at #3 Dunellen
#7 New Egypt at #2 Middlesex

North 2 Group 3 Quarterfinals
#8 North Plainfield at #1 Randolph
#5 Colonia at #4 Fort Lee
#11 Mendham at #3 Millburn
#7 Warren Hills at #2 Chatham

Non-Public South A First Round

#9 Our Lady of Mercy at #8 Pingry
#12 Union Catholic at #5 St. Thomas Aquinas
#11 Immaculata at #6 Camden Catholic

Non-Public South B First Round
#14 Moorestown Prep at #3 Rutgers Prep
#11 Timothy Christian at #6 Trenton Catholic
#10 Calvary Christian at #7 Bishop Eustace


Non-Public North B Quarterfinals
#5 Gill St. Bernard’s at #4 Montclair-Immaculate
#7 Wardlaw-Hartridge at #2 Morris Catholic


Central Group 4 Quarterfinals
#8 Old Bridge at #1 Hightstown
#5 Jackson Memorial at #4 East Brunswick
#6 Howell at #3 Monroe
#7 Long Branch at #2 South Brunswick

Central Group 2 Quarterfinals
#8 Roselle at #1 New Providence
#5 Voorhees at #4 Rumson-Fair Haven
#11 Bound Brook at #3 Holmdel
#10 South River at #2 Manasquan

North 2, Group 4 Quarterfinals
#8 Hillsborough at #1 Bayonne
#5 Edison at #4 Westfield
#6 Watchung Hills at #3 Irvington
#7 Scotch Plains-Fanwood

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.

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Click below for postgame reaction sponsored by SportsPlex at Metuchen:

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

2023 GMC Tournament Girls Final Four: Aquinas-South Brunswick title rematch still on the table, as Colonia looks for revenge and Monroe plays on home floor

Storylines about as the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament gets ready for its girls’ semifinals Tuesday night, with no surprises among the four teams vying for the two spots up for grabs in Friday night’s 2023 championship game.

We’ll start with the top-seed, St. Thomas Aquinas. The Trojans have been the team to beat all year long in the GMC, and so far nobody has. In fact, they haven’t lost to a GMC opponent since January of last season, a 29-game streak.

Of course, the last team to beat them was Monroe, and now here come the Falcons, getting to play in the semifinals on their own floor with a solid coach in veteran Leigh Vogtman – now in her tenth season at the helm – and with a chance to play giant-killer once again.

There’s South Brunswick, who had a fantastic run to the GMCT final last season, but came up short against the behemoth that is Aquinas. But that squad was young. They’re back, with a whole lot more experience.

READ MORE: GMC’s first girls’ semifinal is set, as Colonia and South Brunswick advance

To get that crack in the finals again, they will have to beat a Colonia squad that’s led by two of the best players in the league, but has had a hit-or-miss campaign in 2022-23 after having a program year last season. In the GMC Tournament, though, consider them a hit, since they’re once again a win away from the county finals.

Central Jersey Sports Radio will broadcast both semifinal games Tuesday night – presented by Dayton Toyota Service and Dayton Collision – with second-seed South Brunswick taking on third-seed Colonia at 5 pm, and top-seed and three-time defending champion St. Thomas Aquinas facing fourth-seed Monroe at 7 pm. Full coverage begins at approximately 4:45 with our pregame show, as Mike Pavlichko and Chris Tsakonas call all the action.

Click here to listen to every minute of the live play-by-play!

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

#2 SOUTH BRUNSWICK (17-6) vs. #3 COLONIA (13-10), 5:00 pm

It hasn’t been the easiest transition for Colonia, moving up from the White to the Red Division. Forget having to play St. Thomas Aquinas twice a year, their other four division losses were heartbreakers: to Monroe by five and East Brunswick by seven in late January, and in their first game of the New Year by seven to Old Bridge. The other of those four defeats came to South Brunswick, 43-40 back on December 22nd, which left the Patriots 2-3 at the time, a humbling experience after the best season in program history last year, including their first-ever division title of any kind. The Patriots were able to avenge the losses to the Vikings and Knights, but the losses to the Bears and Falcons came after earlier season wins.

Prior to a 55-52 win by Colonia in February of 2021, these teams had not met for at least a decade. Now, it’ll be their fifth meeting in three seasons, so there’s a lot of familiarty here. The teams have split their last four matchups. But last year in the GMC Tournament semifinals was a biggie, and a shocking win by South Brunswick, 57-40, the largest margin in any of those four games.

Last year was a Cinderella run for South Brunswick. The Vikings were the seventh-seed, and pulled off two upsets to get to the finals, over two-seed Monroe in the quarters, then over third-seed Colonia in the semis. Now, they are one of the next-best favorites behind the team-to-beat, Aquinas.Back are key players like leading scorer and senior Katie Rausch (13.6 ppg) and sophomore and fellow sharp-shooter Alexis Lease -Springer (12.9 ppg), not to mention Leilani Pinder and Meher Vig, who played out of her mind in last year’s GMCT, averaging 13.3 points per game in four tourney contests, and pouring in 18 to challenge STA every step of the way in the final.

READ MORE: Price, defense help No. 4 South Brunswick girls stifle No. 5 Colonia at home

They will have to deal with Colonia’s dynamic duo of Mattie Chiera and Taylor Derkack, of course. Derkack, a junior, is leading the team in just about every scoring category – all except three pointers made. She’s scoring at a 21.3 point per game clip, averaging 12.7 rebounds, and has made 129 free throws, 66 more than the next best on the team, Chiera. She also leads with 75 assists, 46 blocks and 93 steals. Chiera is averaging 14.7 points a game, and has a team-leading 38 treys.

The Patriots don’t always look to shoot from beyond the arc, but they’ll have to defend that against the Vikings, who have hit 139 times from downtown, almost double Colonia’s total. Rausch has 45 treys on the year to lead the team, Lease-Springer 33, Meher Vig 26 and Leilani Pinder 21. Three players average in double figures, and two more no fewer than seven points per game. And that’s another difference with Colonia. After Derkack and Chiera, Isabel Gidado is the third-leading scorer on the team at 4.5 points per game.

How they got here:

South Brunswick walloped 15th-seed Metuchen in the first round 68-35, then topped 7th-seed East Brunswick Saturday in the quarterfinals 80-49, their third win over the Bears this season.

Colonia beat 14th-seed South Plainfield in the first round 56-38, then won a low-scoring affair in the quarterfinals Saturday, 38-27 over sixth-seed Old Bridge.

Coaches’ Previews:

South Brunswick Head Coach Jeff Johnson
Colonia Head Coach Sandi Chiera

How they win:

It’s tough to slow Chiera or Derkack; few teams have success doing that. South Brunswick has to at least keep one of them from going off and having a monster game.

Colonia will have to defend the three-ball against South Brunswick, and take care of the ball on offense. The Vikings were frantic last year – in a good way – against Aquinas in the finals.

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#1 ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (19-6) vs. #4 MONROE (14-7)

Don’t let the six losses fool you, St. Thomas Aquinas is battle-tested. We’ve told you about their 29-game streak against GMC opponents, but their losses not only have come all out of conference, but half of them have come out of state, including to the team that was the No. 1 ballclub in the nation at one point, Long Island Lutheran. Joe Whalen is now 204-42 in his ninth season as a head coach, 48-16 in his third season at Aquinas, and they’ve got some serious players. Senior Jessica Cooper – an Albany commit – is scoring 12.7 points per game and grabbing 9.4 boards to lead the team in both categories. Sophomore Leah Crosby has taken some of the scoring pressure off junior Amarillis Shubick, averaging 11.1, while Shubick is scoring 8.1. Everyone contributes, up and down the lineup. It’s not different players, different nights. It’s everyone, every night.

But While Cooper leads most offensive categories for the Trojans, it’s a different story for Monroe, where five different players lead the Falcons in at least one offensive category. Start with junior Halley Cottrell, who’s averaging 12.9 points per game to lead the team, and the only player in double figures. She also leads Monroe with 45 treys. Haley Higgins – a senior – is right behind at 9.2 a game. Senior Katelyn Louro is tied for top rebounding honors with junior Avery Labaska at 5.9 a game, and leads the team with 89 assists. Junior Nicole Turco – daughter of Kean head coach and former St. Joseph and Carteret head coach Dave Turco, current Aquinas coach Bob Turco’s brother – leads in steals (45) and two-point baskets made (70). Senior Grace Reagan tops the Falcons with 10 blocks. It’s everyone doing their part.

READ MORE: Aquinas, Monroe advance to GMC Tournament girls’ semis with Saturday wins in quarterfinals

As far as history between the two, while Aquinas has won seven of the last 12 meetings dating back to 2014-15, Monroe has won some big games when they counted, like last year in the regular season, a 55-41 stunner at home – where they will be playing tonight – and then in North Edison in March of 2021, the COVID-shortened year. They topped Aquinas 46-41 in the GMC’s Somogyi Family Pod, the top grouping in that one-off postseason. Higgins, Lauro and Reagan were on that team, and surely remember it well.

In two meetings this year, Aquinas won by 19 on January 5th (59-40) and by 13 on January 26th (68-55). In the first, Monroe kept it close at the half, and only trailed by nine. In the second, Aquinas got out to a big first quarter lead at 27-12 and led 42-25 at the half.

How they got here:

St. Thomas Aquinas crushed 16-seed JP Stevens in the first round 81-34, then beat 9th-seed Middlesex 86-60 in Saturday’s quarterfinals.

Monroe stifled 13th-seed North Brunswick with defense to beat the Raiders 61-25 in the first round, then topped 5th-seed Edison 58-39 in the quarterfinals.

Coaches’ Previews:

St. Thomas Aquinas Head Coach Joe Whalen
Monroe Head Coach Leigh Vogtman

How they win:

Aquinas will face one of its tougher challenges in the conference this year, but they just have to play their game and not get out of their comfort zone. That means play defense, share the ball, and put it through the hoop, including from beyond the arc.

Monroe will need to utilize its whole bench, and get production. Aquinas is deep, and Vogtman will have to have everyone contribute. And if not in the lead, keep it within ten at halftime.


Who’s won it? Of the GMCT’s Final Four teams, two have never won a title. St. Thomas has won the last three full tournaments, the first of which came as Bishop Ahr in 2019. They also won it it 2001 and 1994. Pre-dating the GMC, they won the Middlesex County Tournament in 1984, giving them six overall MCT/GMCT titles. South Brunswick won the first two MCTs in 1975 and 1976, and didn’t win it again until their first GMCT crown in 2012, their last title, giving them three. Monroe is winless in three trips, and Colonia has never reached the finals, getting knocked out by South Brunswick in last year’s semis.

Leading at the half: St. Thomas Aquinas has trailed at halftime a grand title of six times this season. All of them were losses. Every game they’ve led at the half, they’ve won. The last time they lost a game they were leading at the half? That was in the Somogyi Family Pod in 2021, when they lost at home to… Monroe. That’s 41 wins with 41 halftime leads since.

Something in the water? A team from Edison has been in the last four GMC Tournament finals. Aquinas/Bisho Ahr won in 2022, 2021 and 2019, while Edison made the finals – and lost both times – in 2019 and 2018.

Frequent fliers: At least one of the teams in this year’s final four have made it to the finals eight of the the last nine years, if you also count the COVID-year of 2021. Last year it was Aquinas and South Brunswick in the title game, with Monroe and St. Thomas in the Somogyi Family Pod the year before, the GMC’s top pod. Aquinas beat Monroe in 2020. Bishop Ahr won in 2019. None of them made it in 2018, but South Brunswick was a finalist in 2017, Monroe in 2016 and 2015, and Ahr in 2015.

Aquinas, Monroe advance to GMC Tournament girls’ semis with Saturday wins in quarterfinals

The second half of the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament is now set, with top-seed St. Thomas Aquinas and fourth-seed Monroe advancing to Tuesday’s semifinals at Middlesex County College in Edison. They will square off at 7 pm, immediately following the opener between 4th-seed Colonia and 3rd-seed South Brunswick.

Both games can be heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio – presented by Dayton Toyota Service and Dayton Collision of South Brunswick – with Mike Pavlickho and Chris Tsakonas calling all the action. Click here to listen on Tuesday.

#1 St. Thomas Aquinas 86, #4 Middlesex 60: The three-time defending champion Lady Trojans (19-6) are a win away from making it to the finals once again. (They won last year and in 2020 – there was no full tournament in 2021 due to COVID-19 – and won in 2019 as Bishop Ahr.) The Blue Jays (17-6) gave it all they got, and were within three at 37-34 at the half. But Aquinas pulled away in the third quarter.

Click below to hear from St. Thomas Aquinas head coach Joe Whalen:

#4 Monroe 58, #5 Edison 39: The Falcons (14-7) had three players score in double figures Saturday afternoon, led by Nicole Turco’s 14 points, a dozen from Haley Higgins and 10 from Evangelina Francisco. Monroe doubled up Edison (19-5) in each of the first two quarters, leading 18-9 after one, and 42-23 at the half, in a game that saw them in control virtually wire to wire. The Lady Eagles were led by Keisha Ortiz, who scored 16 points.

Click below to hear from Monroe head coach Leigh Vogtman:

Girls’ Bellamy & Son Paving Top Ten takes out-of-area losses, but top remains mostly unchanged

Rutgers Prep lost once, St. Thomas Aquinas lost twice, and South Brunswick lost, too. But with all those defeats coming out-of-area or out-of-state, they failed to drop in the Week Four Bellamy & Son Paving Girls’ Basketball Top Ten.

While Colonia dropped, it was their fourth loss of the season, and the Patriots’ are the only team below .500 in the rankings, though three of those losses – including their most recent – are out-of-area.

Gill St. Bernards (5-1) was the only team that went unbeaten over the Christmas break, and the Knights check in third, behind Prep (4-2) and Aquinas (5-2), with the Vikings (6-2) behind them.

The Vikings are followed by Edison (7-0) in fifth, then Hillsborough (4-1), Franklin (2-3) and Monroe (4-1) with Colonia (2-3) in ninth. There was a tie for tenth, with Bernards (5-2) holding court, and Middlesex (5-0) debuting at No. 10.

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