Tag: Watchung Hills

An audio look back at Watchung Hills boys’ basketball, 2021 CJSR Team of the Year, with Coach Justin Salton, Trevor Bokach, Elijah Lewis

The Watchung Hills boys basketball team didn’t like how they left 2021: with losses in the Somerset County Tournament Final to Rutgers Prep, and in the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 finals to Elizabeth.

So, they did something about it. They won the only tournament in which they could play in the 2021 season: they Skyland Conference Tournament’s top pod, the Blue Division.

READ MORE: The goal was: “Get hardware.” They did, and Watchung Hills is the CJSR boys’ basketball 2021 Team of the Year

They did it by beating the only two teams they lost to in the regular season, and then avenged last year’s loss in the SCT finals.

Click below to hear head coach Justin Salton, senior guard Trevor Bokach and junior guard Elijah Lewis talk about their season, from beginning to end:

The goal was: “Get hardware.” They did, and Watchung Hills is the CJSR boys’ basketball 2021 Team of the Year

There were many good boys’ high school basketball teams in the GMC and Skyland Conferences in this COVID-shortened season, but when you beat three of them – including two that you lost two a total of three times this season – en route to winning your league’s top pod trophy, that has to count for something.

For us, that counts for making Watchung Hills the No. 1 team in the final Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten of the year, and thus the 2021 Boys’ Basketball Team of the Year.

The Warriors finished the year 12-3, their losses coming to Hunterdon Central twice, and once to Gill St. Bernard’s, at the time the No. 1 team in our rankings.

Watchung Hills beat both of those teams in the first two rounds of the Skyland Conference Tournament’s Blue Division pod, then knocked off then No. 5 Rutgers Prep in the finals on the road, on a game-winning baseline bucket by Tyler Bokatch in the final few seconds, holding off one last chance by the Argonauts, who had to go the length of the floor in just under 1.5 seconds.

LISTEN: An audio look back at Watchung Hills boys’ basketball, 2021 CJSR Team of the Year, with Coach Justin Salton, Trevor Bokach, Elijah Lewis

Second in the final rankings was Colonia. The Patriots – in a four-team GMC pod – took down the No. 3 and No. 2 teams in the rankings, respectively: St. Joseph of Metuchen and St. Thomas Aquinas.

Below are the final rankings, including postseason tournament superlatives:

Bound Brook girls take Skyland Gold pod title with victory over Watchung Hills

There may not have been a state tournament for Bound Brook to win its sixth straight Central Jersey Group 1 crown, but no matter. They went out as champions anyway.

In fact, for the second year in a row, the Lady Crusaders went out with a win.

Last year, their season was cut short by COVID, when the NJSIAA shut down the state tournament. Bound Brook found out when they got back from their Group 1 semifinal road win over Woodbury.

This year, the end was more definitive, and they were all smiles.

Senior guard Arianna McCleod capped her stellar career with a season-high 24 points, including a game-high 11 field goals, as top seed Bound Brook took the title in the Skyland Conference Tournament Gold Division Pod with a 60-49 win over 2nd-seed Watchung Hills.

The Crusaders finish the season 12-1; the Warriors fell to 7-8.

Click below to hear postgame reaction from Bound Brook head coach Jen Derevjanik and senior guard Arianna McCleod:

Bound Brook Head Coach Jen Derevjanik
Bound Brook senior guard Arianna McCleod.

Watchung Hills girls won’t shy from the challenge of Bound Brook in tonight’s Skyland Tournament Gold Division title game

Here’s a math problem for you, but don’t ponder it too long.

Add one new head coach, and take away eight seniors. What do you get?

Apparently a 7-7 team that’s better than its record and is playing for a title.

Really, don’t ponder it too long.

Instead, ponder what the Warriors have done, and what they’ll face tonight at 5:30 when they square off against Bound Brook in the Skyland Conference Gold Division’s title game. Central Jersey Sports Radio will have live updates during the Rutgers Prep-Gill Blue Division title game, and postgame reaction from Bound Brook later in the evening.

Watching Hills has had a successful year, all things considered, thanks to the play of their three top scorers – junior Bella Murray (16.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg) and sophomores Morgan Groff (10.5 ppg) and Julia Puglisi (10.4 ppg) – and a cast of supporting characters.

It’s a young group going up against a Bound Brook squad that has won between 23 and 26 games each of the last five years, and winning the Central Jersey Group 1 title in each of those five seasons.

Click below to hear Watchung Hills first-year head coach Tim Corrigan talk about his team, and tonight’s title game against the Crusaders:

Gill closes regular season right where it started, No. 1 in rankings

Despite a loss to out-of-area Hunterdon Central, Gill St. Bernard’s held on to it’s No. 1 position in the Central Jersey Sports Radio Boys’ Basketball Top Ten.

The Knights finished the week 2-1, and the regular season with a 6-3 mark overall, with all losses out of area. Gill also lost to Bergen Catholic and the Patrick School.

They’ll have a bye in the first round of the Skyland Conference Tournament top pod, the “Blue Division,” and on Thursday will face the winner of 4th-seed Hunterdon Central and 5-seed Watchung Hills, with that game being played Tuesday night.

The only change in the Top Ten this week was a flip-flop of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Joseph-Metuchen, a reverse of what they did a week ago.

Aquinas (7-4) is back to No. 2 after beating state-ranked Hudson Catholic in double overtime Saturday, while the Falcons (9-3) lost at unranked North Brunswick.

The Trojans appear to have locked in the top overall seed in the GMC Tournament’s top pod. That postseason will be seeded Monday morning.

Below is the complete Week 5 Top Ten:

Gill still leads pack, Joe’s and Colonia climb in Week 4 Top Ten

A 2-0 week helped Gill St. Bernard’s hold the top spot in the Central Jersey Sports Radio Week 4 rankings. The Knights are 4-2 following a 90-71 win over then-No. 4 Watchung Hills on Tuesday and 71-70 over a tough Elizabeth squad on Saturday.

Big gainers in Week 4 included St. Joseph of Metuchen, which leap-frogged St. Thomas Aquinas into second, and Colonia. The Patriots had a 3-0 week to improve to 8-2, though all three wins were out of conference – over Rumson-Fair Haven, Newark East Side and Passaic.

Below are the full Week 4 rankings:

Rutgers Prep girls, Gill St. Bernards boys should be “top seeds” in Skyland’s “postseason”

Barring the unthinkable happening for either team, the Rutgers Prep Girls and Gill St. Bernard’s boys are likely to be the top seeds in their respective Skyland Conference “postseasons,” where eight-team pods will be formed to play down to champions.

On the girls’ side, Rutgers Prep – No. 1 in the Central Jersey Sports Radio rankings – showed their dominance against the No. 2 team in the rankings, Franklin, handing the Warriors their second Skyland Conference defeat this week (they lost to Hillsborough Tuesday). That hasn’t happened since January 2017. The Argos led 35-6 at halftime and won 65-33.

Gill, meanwhile, sits atop the Delaware Division, with a rematch with second-place Hunterdon Central not coming until Thursday, the day after the Skyland seeds the tournament Wednesday morning. Seeding committee chair Jason Miller says all games up to and including Tuesday, February 23rd will be considered.

The committee will include Miller, the athletic director at South Hunterdon, as well as six other ADs: Montgomery’s Chris Penna, Phillipsburg’s Tom Fisher, Bound Brook’s Jeff Steele, Immaculata’s Mike Gambino, Bridgewater-Raritan’s John Maggio, and Rutgers Prep’s Mary Coyle-Klinger. Jack Baum – the Sykland’s assignor of officials – also is on the committee.

Girls’ play begins Monday, and will continue Wednesday and Friday, while the boys will start Tuesday, and continue Thursday and Saturday, the final day of play allowed this season by the NJSIAA, which is not holding the state tournament this year due to the COVID-shortened season.

While the top picks on the girls’ and boys’ side seem easy, who will be right behind them? Who else will be in the upper pod of eight on the girls’ side? What other teams will be in the boys’ top pod of seven? (The boys’ side has one less team than the girls.)

Here’s a look at Central Jersey Sports Radio’s projections, based on results through Saturday, February 20th.

Oh, and one last request: please be kind? This is my first basketball tournament projection – ever! I don’t like to do projections unless there’s math involved – even if it is the Born Power Index.

Skyland Boys’ Top 7 Pod:

  1. Gill St. Bernard’s (4-2) – The Knights are the easy top pick from the league’s top division, despite their two losses, which have both come out of conference – to Bergen Catholic and Patrick School. They have legit D1 talent, are ranked No. 6 statewide, and pass the eye test. They’re the best team in the league until someone knocks them off. In the seven-team format, Gill would get a bye from Monday’s first-round.
  2. Hunterdon Central (6-2) – The Red Devils are right behind the Knights, and gave them a run in a 77-64 road loss on Feb. 4 (click here for our postgame coverage). Too bad they won’t get another crack at Gill – at home – before the seeding is done.
  3. Montgomery (7-1) – How much will Monday night’s result against St. Joseph-Metuchen (6 pm on Central Jersey Sports Radio – click here to listen) weigh in? Tough to say. A win against one of the top few teams in the GMC and a state power program may boost the Cougars’ standing here more than a loss to a solid non-conference opponent. Their only loss came this week, to Shore Conference opponent Middletown North.
  4. Bound Brook (7-0) – Sure, the Crusaders are a small-school program, but undefeated has to count for something. And Bound Brook has been playing well, and deserves a home game (in a 4-5 matchup). The only problem is, only two of their seven opponents (Warren Hills and Bernards) have winning records at the moment. They’ve been mostly scoring points in bunches.
  5. Watchung Hills (6-2) – Led by dual-sport star Chad Martini – the football QB who just scored his 1,000th point – the Warriors are quietly having a good season, overshadowed in the big-boy Delaware Division by Gill and Hunterdon Central. Making the top seven would put three teams from the Delaware in the upper pod, but they deserve it. Hills lost by five to the Red Devils on February 5th, and rematch Tuesday, the day before the committee seeds this thing. That game could disrupt the apple cart. Stay tuned…
  6. Rutgers Prep (2-3) – The Argonauts were first hit by the late preseason news that Villanova signee Trey Patterson would be leaving the Somerset school to enroll early down on the Main Line. Then, they had not one, but two COVID stoppages, and are still trying to find their sea legs. They’re a tricky team to figure; they deserve to be in the top seven given the talent they have, but have three losses – yet they’re undefeated in league play at 2-0, with wins over Phillipsburg (2-6) and Franklin (2-3). Out of conference losses have come to state No. 1 Camden, Elizabeth and Hudson Catholic. The Argos are a tricky one, for sure; it’s hard to seed any tournament when a team has only played two games against their peers. They have one more game this week before the cutoff, Immaculata (5-3) on Tuesday.
  7. Ridge (6-2) – The Red Devils dropped out of the Central Jersey Sports Radio Top Ten last week, but they’re the next best option down the list in the Skyland Conference. They should edge out Immaculata for the final spot, though the two have similar records. But Ridge has beaten them twice, including Saturday afternoon. However, should the Spartans beat Rutgers Prep on Tuesday, look for some movement here in the bottom two.

Skyland Girls’ Top 8 Pod:

  1. Rutgers Prep (7-0) – You know Rutgers Prep is good. Really good. No. 23 in the nation good. (How have they gone unbeaten and dropped seven spots since the preseason? Whatever!) But have you seen them play? Did you see them put on a defensive, ball pressure clinic against No. 2 Franklin Saturday afternoon. (Click here for our postgame coverage.) Probably not, thanks to COVID, but man they were impressive. They’re the odds on favorite to win the whole damned thing, let alone get the top seed.
  2. Gill St. Bernard’s (6-0) – Unfortunately, Franklin gets Gill on Tuesday – at least it’s at home – the day before the seeding committee puts this whole thing together. But Gill has been solid, too. Too bad we don’t get to see them play Rutgers Prep this year. Then again, maybe we will. Barring any more snow or COVID cancellations, the Knights should roll into the postseason at 9-0 or better.
  3. Mount St. Mary (8-0) – I’m still not sure if these are projections, or my version of the seeding. The Skyland postseason has never been done before, although much of the same seeding principles remain. But I’m a big believer in undefeated teams being rewarded. Regardless of school size or division, to maintain the focus says a lot. That said, I go with Mary’s here, with a perfect record. You play the schedule you’re handed, and when you beat them all, you deserve the credit.
  4. Bound Brook (6-1) – The Crusaders have one blemish, a loss to undefeated Mount St. Mary’s, which is why the Lions are ahead of them here. You can’t argue with that. But you also can’t argue with how good Bound Brook is. They should be winning their sixth straight sectional championship this year, but they won’t get a crack at it. Though they’re tied in the division behind Belvidere, they did dismantle the County Seaters in what will have been their only matchup this year, 78-34 on Feb. 6th.
  5. Ridge (5-4) – The Red Devils sandwiched between Rutgers Prep and Phillipsburg in the Division. They split with the Stateliners (but the win was more recent) and have losses to the Argonauts, plus Watchung Hills, Gill St. Bernard’s and Rutgers Prep, all “quality losses.”
  6. Voorhees (6-2) – The Vikings are red hot at the right time, having won four in a row after splitting their first four. The Voos have done it with defense, holding four teams under 40 points this year, allowing 37, 30, 30 and 27 on their recent streak. They’re deserving of being in the top eight.
  7. Franklin (3-2) – The Warriors should be in the top eight, as they’re one of the better teams in the county; they just don’t look elite this year. Part of that is being hampered by COVID, sure; they played one game before having to pause all team-related activities. They did not look good against Rutgers Prep, and the Hillsborough loss was a head-scratcher, no disrespect to the Raiders. Franklin – at least the Franklin on the last four seasons, with two TOC titles to their credit – doesn’t lose those types of games. They could make a big statement Tuesday against Gill, though, as mentioned earlier.
  8. Hunterdon Central (6-2) – Their only losses are to Gill St. Bernard’s and Franklin, and the jury is still out on Franklin. Still, the Warriors get the nod over the Red Devils due to their head-to-head: Audrey Taylor’s squad beat them by six – just last Wednesday. They’re the last team in, for now. Central has Watchung Hills, a team they beat by eight earlier this season – on Tuesday, but I’m not sure a win there moves the needle much.

Split week still enough to keep Gill at No. 1; Montgomery launches into rankings

It’s difficult to tell a teams body of work three games into a high school basketball season when they’ve only played three games.

Couple that with only one of those games coming against one of the peers they’re compared against in the Central Jersey Sports Radio rankings makes it doubly difficult.

Still, despite an 11-point loss to the Patrick School Saturday afternoon, 78-67, Gill St. Bernard’s remains the Number One team in the CJSR Boys’ Top Ten.

St. Joseph of Metuchen gained on the strength of a three-win week, while Rutgers Prep dropped two spots after a two-loss week against non-conference opponents, and ahead of a second COVID-related stoppage.

But the biggest gain belonged to Montgomery, which jumped from being an unranked team to No. 7 after a three-win week that doubled their perfect record to 6-0. The Cougars have held three opponents under 40 points this season: Bordentown, Bridgewater-Raritan, and previously-ranked Ridge, which dropped out of the rankings from its No. 9 spot this week after the loss to the Cougars.

Look out for a special story on Montgomery’s hot start tomorrow on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

Below are the full Week 3 Central Jersey Sports Radio Week 3 rankings:

Gill splits a pair, but keeps top spot in Week 2 boys’ rankings

A loss to Bergen Catholic – an out-of-area team ranked No. 3 statewide – wasn’t enough to knock Gill St. Bernard’s from its perch atop the Central Jersey Sports Radio boys’ basketball rankings.

The Knights went 1-1 in their opening week of play – with Week One cancelled due to COVID protocols – beating Hunterdon Central in their opener 77-64 as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio, powered by Bellamy & Son Paving.

The Knights weren’t the only Top Ten team to open the season this past week, as Rutgers Prep – also out due to COVID contact tracing – went 1-1 just like Gill, and held on to the third spot.

New this week, hear Mike Pavlichko’s audio version of the Week 2 Top Ten by clicking below:

The only two teams that moved this week were St. Joseph-Metuchen and South Brunswick, which flip-flopped the 5th and 7th positions after the Falcons – previously ranked 7th – knocked off the Vikings Saturday afternoon 69-64.

READ MORE: Cocozziello breaks down St. Joe’s win over state-ranked South Brunswick

View the full Week 2 Central Jersey Sports Radio Boys’ Basketball Rankings below:

Rutgers Prep’s 2-0 start keeps them No. 1

Rutgers Prep was widely expected to be the team to beat heading into the 2021 season.

So far, so good.

The Lady Argonauts opened the season with a 2-0 Week One, and remain the No. 1 team in the Central Jersey Sports Radio Girls Basketball Top Ten.

Below are the full Week One rankings:

How the Top Ten fared…

Rutgers Prep’s two wins were in typical fashion: scoring a lot of points and playing good defense. They won 73-39 at North Hunterdon, and won 83-19 at Montgomery.

No. 2 Franklin won its only game of the week, a 52-41 victory at Hillsborough.

Monroe moved up to No. 3 on the strength of a 2-0 week fueled by solid defense, winning 55-32 at Piscataway and 53-18 at Spotswood. That’s an average 25 points surrendered in two games.

No. 4 Gill St. Bernards didn’t play during the week, in a COVID contact tracing pause.

St. Thomas Aquinas dropped to No. 5 after splitting a pair of road games in Week One, dropping its opener on the road to Life Center Academy (Burlington County) 58-33, but holding Piscataway to under 30, in a 69-29 win.

Bound Brook held at No. 6 after a one-game week; they won their 16th straight game against Manville, putting the pedal to the medal to cruise past the Mustangs 70-36, as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.

MORE: Trio of Bound Brook standouts talk No. 6 Crusaders’ big season-opening win over Manville

Mount St. Mary moved up two places to No. 7 after a 3-0 week, holding two of their opponents to scoring in the teens. They beat Warren Hills at home 57-37, then won 56-13 at Bernards and 57-18 at Delaware Valley.

No. 8 Watchung Hills won 68-52 at Bridgewater-Raritan in its only game of the Week.

North Brunswick checks in at No. 9 after a 3-0 Week One. The Lady Raiders won a pair of road games – at Woodbridge 58-35 and at JFK 52-51, sandwiched around a home win against Colonia 47-41.

No. 10 Middlesex stayed put, powered by a 2-0 week. They won their opener at home 74-44 and then won at Spotswood 72-40.

Edison also received consideration for the rankings. The Eagles are 2-0, win win at East Brunswick (44-42) and at home against Piscataway (60-59).

Ridge – previously No. 7 – dropped out. They beat Immaculata 44-41, but lost at Phillipsburg 42-30.