Tag: semifinals

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

INSTANT REPLAY: Somerset County Tournament Semifinals

The Rutgers Prep girls’ and boys’ basketball teams advanced to their respective Somerset County Tournament Championship games with wins over Franklin on Thursday, February 16th, 2023, as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio. Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino had the call.

In Game One, the Rutgers Prep girls ousted No. 5 seed Franklin 67-38, getting a game-high 26 points from junior Mikayla Blakes, and 11 each from senior Katie Ledden and freshman GiGi Battle. Precious Wheeler led Franklin with 14 in defeat.

Girls: #1 Rutgers Prep vs. Franklin

In Game Two, the Rutgers Prep boys beat 5th-seed Franklin 81-66, getting game-highs of 20 points apiece from juniors Jadin Collins and John Kelly. Junior Cam Brown had 18 to lead Franklin in the loss.

Boys: #1 Rutgers Prep vs #5 Franklin

After defensive start, Gill St. Bernard’s boys need OT to dispatch of Ridge, gain trip to SCT finals

Each team had a touchdown, missed the extra point, and Gill St. Bernard’s had a field goal just before the half.

No, not really, but that’s what the scoreboard inside the Knights’ gym looked like when it read 15-12 in favor of Gill at halftime of their Somerset County Tournament semifinal game against Ridge in Gladstone Thursday night.

Repeat: That wasn’t the score after one quarter. That was the halftime score. Only two players each had scored for their respective teams, and the leading scorers at the time – Mario Castro-Sanchez for second-seed GSB and Nikola Borovicanin for the 6th-seeded Red Devils – each had only eight points.

It looked for a moment as if the game would be decided in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, when Castro-Sanchez scored the go-ahead bucket to make it 46-44 Knights with 12.1 seconds remaining. But Ridge had the answer, as Liam Clark finished a layup with 2.1 to go. to end it to the extra period tied at 46.

Gill (18-6) then closed the deal in overtime, outscoring the Red Devils 11-6 for a 57-50 win. Ridge fell to 19-5 with the loss.

Castro Sanchez finished with a game-high 26 points, with eight of them coming at the free throw line in OT. Ebrahim Kaba added 16, while Nick Losada finished with 13.

For Ridge, Nikola Borovicanin led with 16 points, and Liam Clark had 14.

Now, it’ll be a rematch of last year’s title game when Gill meets top-seed Rutgers Prep (19-7) in the Somerset County Tournament Final at Montgomery High School, Saturday at 3 pm. Gill won last year’s matchup 84-63.

That game can be heard live on Central Jersey Sports Radio, and will immediately follow the 1 pm girl’s title tilt with the same teams, top-seed Rutgers Prep and second-seed Gill St. Bernards. Pregame coverage starts at 12:45.

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Click below for postgame reaction sponsored by SportsPlex at Metuchen:

Gill St. Bernard’s senior guard Mario Castro-Sanchez
Gill St. Bernard’s Head Coach Mergin Sina

Make it an eighth straight trip to the SCT Finals for Rutgers Prep, 67-38 winners over Franklin

It wasn’t quite the fast start the Rutgers Prep girls’ basketball has been used to in its last four meetings with Franklin, which the Argonauts have won by an average of almost 33 points.

But slowly, and surely, that trademark full-court pressure and stifling half-court defense wasa too much for the 5th-seeded Warriors, as top-seeded Rutgers Prep pulled away a little at a time for a 67-38 win in the Somerset County Tournament semifinals Thursday night in Somerset, as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Junior point guard Mikayla Blakes led all scorers, putting on a scoring clinic, with 26 points, including four treys. Freshman GiGi Battle added 15, while Rhode Island-bound senior Katie Ledden added 11.

Sophomore Precious Wheeler led Franklin with 14, the only Warrior in double figures.

The victory puts the Argonauts (19-4) in their eighth straight SCT title game, having not missed since 2015, and they will go for their third straight title, having won last year and in 2020. They’ll be seeking their seventh overall.

Prep will take on second-seed Gill St. Bernard’s in the finals Saturday at 1 pm on Central Jersey Sports Radio

Franklin fell to 12-12 with the loss.

Click below for postgame reaction sponsored by SportsPlex at Metuchen:

Rutgers Prep junior Mikayla Blakes
Rutgers Prep head coach Mary Klinger

Franklin boys hope third time’s the charm in rematch with Rutgers Prep, with SCT finals berth on the line

You’ll have to forgive the youngest members of Franklin’s boys basketball team for not attending the program’s most recent appearance in the Somerset County Tournament semifinals.

It happened in 2007. They hadn’t been born yet.

Fast forward 16 years, and the Warriors have returned to Somerset County’s Final Four. With their eyes on a championship, they’ll have to get by a familiar foe to continue their postseason run.

Five-seed Franklin travels to top-seeded Rutgers Prep on Thursday night to play for a berth in the County Finals. Central Jersey Sports Radio will broadcast the game live at 7 pm, with the pregame at 6:45 following the girls’ matchup between the same teams at 5:00. Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino will call all the action. Click here to listen.

The Warriors are hoping the third time is the charm against Rutgers Prep, which won both of the regular-season meetings between the crosstown rivals. Both games were decided by single digits.

The more recent of the two games happened more than a month ago, though. And since then, Franklin has played its best basketball of the season, winning 10 of its last 11.

That includes Tuesday’s mini-upset of 4-seed Hillsborough in the Somerset County quarterfinals. The Warriors led wire-to-wire and got 20-point performances from Cam Brown and Cam Snowden. Before that, Franklin opened the tournament with a 25-point win over Bernards, led by Jake Novielli’s career-high 32 points.

Click below to hear Franklin head coach Tony Mento talk about his team’s hot streak and rematch with Rutgers Prep:

It’s the real season now for Rutgers Prep, as Lady Argonauts seek fourth straight SCT Final

Mary Klinger says the regular season is the pre-season. It’s the tune-up for the games that count. It’s where you find your strengths and weaknesses, and work on them before the county and state tournaments.

Well, now the games count. The top-seeded Rutgers Prep girls basketball team has already won its first Somerset County Tournament game, a quarterfinal victory over 8th-seed Ridge, 82-33. Now, it’s the semifinals Thursday night against a familiar foe in big games: Franklin.

Central Jersey Sports Radio will broadcast both games of a girls’/boys’ doubleheader involving the Rutgers Prep teams, both seeded No. 1 in their respective SCT brackets. The Rutgers Prep girls (18-4) take on fifth-seed Franklin (12-11) at 5 pm. Then it’s the boys’ turn at 7:00, with the same matchup: the Argonauts (18-7) versus the fifth-seeded Warriors (16-9).

Mike Pavlichko and Dom Savino will call all the action, with pregame for the first contest beginning at 4:45. Click here to listen.

Klinger’s squad is led by junior sensation Mikayla Blakes, with her 22.5 points a game, with significant contributions from veterans like Katie Ledden, Chloe Escanillas, Zahra Alexander and more. That includes freshman GiGi Battle, averaging 9.3 points a game in her rookie campaign.

Franklin isn’t the same team they were pre-COVID, when head coach Audrey Taylor’s team was a pretty regular fixture in the Tournament of Champions, winning it in 2017 and 2019. But they’re still a talented bunch, and can give teams fits.

Click below to hear Rutgers Prep head coach Mary Klinger talk about her team’s season, and the matchup with Franklin:

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).

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.

A complete preview of the 2022 GMC Tournament semifinals

Central Jersey Sports Radio will have live play-by-play coverage of both GMC Tournament Semifinal games today from Ray Cipperly Field at East Brunswick Tech, presented by Dayton Toyota Service, Route 130 in South Brunswick!.

Mike Pavlichko and Justin Sontupe will call all the action starting at 11:35 am with the pregame show for Game One.

Thanks also to all our local sponsors for supporting the broadcast, and the fine student-athletes from all four schools:

  • Dayton Collision
  • Bellamy & Son Paving
  • Baseball Warehouse
  • New Jersey State Federation of Umpires, Mickey Sedlak Chapter
  • Woodbridge Township & Mayor John McCormac

Scroll down for a closer look at today’s games, including pitching matchups, each team’s path to the semifinals, team notes and stats, past coverage from this season, and each team’s tournament history.

Click above to learn more about how to be an umpire and join the NSJFU.

(6) NORTH BRUNSWICK (16-8) vs. (7) EAST BRUNSWICK (13-10), noon

How they got here: North Brunswick def. (11) Colonia 7-0 in the first round, def. (3) Middlesex 14-13 in the quarterfinals. East Brunswick def. (10) Spotswood 11-1 in the first round, def. (2) Monroe 4-2 in the quarterfinals.

Starting Pitchers: Zach Konstantinovsky for North Brunswick (5-1, 0.75 ERA). Michael Marchese for East Brunswick (5-3, 2.64 ERA)

Team Notes – North Brunswick:

For North Brunswick, Konstantinovsky – as always – is doing it at the plate and on the mound. The Rutgers-bound senior has struck out 94 batters, while walking only one, and he’ll need that pinpoint control and attack on the Barrons’ batters, as he’ll be limited to just 64 pitches, having already thrown 86 in six innings of first-round work against Colonia. At the plate, he’s second on the team behind Omar Carreras (.458) with a .385 batting average, knocking in a team-leading 24 RBIs. He also leads the Raiders with four home runs. The bats exploded in the 14-13 come-from-behind, almost-blew-it win against Middlesex in Wednesday’s quarterfinals on their home field at Community Park. Frandy Martinez and Konstantinovsky were both 3-for-4 with a home run, Martinez knocking in five runs and Konstantinovsky two.

More Coverage on North Brunswick:

Team Notes – East Brunswick:

East Brunswick may have ten losses, but four have come by just one run, and eight by three runs or less. It may not add up to wins, but they play tight games, and showed they can win them against Monroe in the quarterfinals, knocking out the No. 2 seed with a 4-2 victory after losing both regular season contests with the Falcons, by 3-2 and 2-1 scores. Ryan Basham is hitting .342 and leads the team in that and nearly every other offensive category, including singles (15), doubles (8) and triples (2), as well as slugging percentage (.486). He also pitched well against Spotswood in their second meeting of the week, Thursday in the Commander’s Cup game, another 4-2 win, to keep head coach Chris Kenney from having to use his bullpen. That’s a big deal, with the Bears playing their fourth game in five days today. (It would have been five, but Senior Day against Hightstown was rained out Friday).

More coverage on East Brunswick:

Tournament History:

Before last year’s appearance in the semifinals against South Brunswick, the Raiders’ hadn’t made the semis since 2010, when they went all the way to the finals.  They were a 16-seed and just 4-11 going into the semis that year. They beat Cinderella 20th-seed Carteret (which was just 9-12) to move on the finals for a second straight year, but the Raiders fell to South Brunswick, 9-2. Had they won, they would have become the lowest seeded team to win the GMC Tournament.  That was their second straight and second overall trip to the finals, having lost to St. Joseph 6-0 the year before, in 2009.

North Brunswick hasn’t been to the finals since that 2010 season. Their only two appearances came that year, and the year before. The Raiders were blanked by St. Joseph in the 2009 final 6-0, and lost 9-2 to South Brunswick in the 2010 title game.

It is East Brunswick’s first trip to the GMC Tournament semifinals since they won the whole thing in 2016.  They beat South Brunswick 10-0 in the semis to advance to the title game, where they beat JP Stevens 1-0 to win the Championship.

(1) ST. JOSEPH-METUCHEN (19-6) vs. (5) WOODBRIDGE (19-4), 2:30 pm

How they got here: St. Joseph def. (16) South River 5-0 in the first round, def. (9) South Brunswick 14-4 in the quarterfinals. Woodbridge def. (12) Metuchen 7-5 in the first round, def. (4) Old Bridge 3-1 in the quarterfinals.

Starting Pitchers: Donovan Zsak for St. Joseph (4-0, 0.75 ERA). Matt Troche for Woodbridge (4-1, 3.72 ERA)

Team Notes – St. Joseph:

St. Joseph has six losses, but only one coming to a GMC team, that being Old Bridge, which Woodbridge knocked off to get to this game. Zsak is a dominant pitcher who could get drafted right out of high school, even if missing all of last season due to injury. This is his first full year of high school ball since his freshman year, 2019, though he did pitch in the Mike Murray-organized Last Dance tournament in the summer of 2020. He’s got great control, striking out 43, while walking ten. Blessed with a bevy of arms they can throw at you all week, no pitch count issues here for the Falcons. Zsak is completely available, as is Andrew Goldan, who started against South Brunswick in the quarterfinals, but came out in the fourth with a comfortable lead. At the plate, pick your poison, with four players hitting .350 or better, including Mark Gialluisi at .476 and Josiah Brown at .419, then Tyler DelVecchio at .368, and Andrew Goldan at .364. The Falcons can also go yard, hitting nine homers, getting three each off the bats of Brown and Gialluisi, the latter of whom hit a grand-slam in the bottom of the sixth against South Brunswick that invoked the ten-run rule in walk-off fashion.

More Coverage on St. Joseph

Team Notes – Woodbridge:

Woodbridge has only lost to two teams this season, getting swept a pair by both Metuchen and Middlesex, who are both up from the GMC Blue this year; the Blue Jays won the White Division with the two victories over the Barrons right before the tournament seeding meeting. Senior Brett Lukachyk – whose brother Drew, a sophomore, may pitch in relief today – is tearing the cover off the ball, hitting .472 with 24 runs batted in. In a mild “upset” of fourth-seed Old Bridge in the quarterfinals, Ty Kobylakiewicz was 2-for-3 with a pair of singles, but knocked in two runs, including what turned out to be the game-winner. The Barrons tuned up with a 10-0 win over Linden Thursday, which saw Josh Vazquez go a perfect three-for-three at the plate, with a trio of singles and 3 RBIs. Matt Troche gets the ball here, with Vazquez and Nunez out due to pitch counts and their starting efforts in the first two rounds of the tournament earlier this week.

Tournament History:

St. Joe’s is the defending champion, having beaten South Brunswick in last year’s GMCT Final, 2-0, behind a complete game from Andrew Goldan. In other recent history, St. Joseph made it to the semifinals in 2019, but lost to Old Bridge 2-1.  Their last title before last year was in 2017, when they blanked Monroe in the title game 1-0.

READ MORE: “Goldan!” St. Joes wins seventh GMC Tournament title behind scoreless, 10 K effort from Andrew Goldan

Woodbridge is seeking its first trip to the finals in almost a quarter century. In their only trip to the GMC title game, the Barrons beat in-town rival JFK 1-0. The Barrons’ last appearance in the semifinals was in 2017, when they lost 3-1 to Monroe, which eventually lost 1-0 to St. Joseph in the title game.

Potential Finals Matchups:

  • St. Joseph and East Brunswick have played once in the finals, with the Falcons winning 8-1 in 2005.
  • St. Joseph and North Brunswick have played once in the finals, with the Falcons winning 6-0 in 2009.
  • Woodbridge has never faced East Brunswick nor North Brunswick in the finals.  Their only trip was a 7-1 win over JFK in 2000.


We’ll send a Central Jersey Sports Radio t-shirt and hat combo to whoever can guess the correct answer to our trivia question, which we’ll give out in the fourth inning of Game One of the doubleheader, between East Brunswick and North Brunswick.

The first person to correctly tweet the answer to @cjsportsradio.com will win a heather grey, super soft t-shirt and a grey New Era cap with our logo on it. Good luck!