By Jimmy Allinder
It’s the midpoint of the winter high school season and a pair of teams from Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen are making a serious run at winning postseason titles when the tournaments begin next month.
The Falcons’ basketball team (10-2 overall, 6-0 division) is once again the class of the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Red Division and, except for a 70-65 win over Old Bridge High School, has dominated league play. Their lone defeats have both been by eight points to non-conference foes, Gill St. Bernard’s School and Paul VI Catholic High School of Fairfax, Virginia.
However, St. Joe’s is looking to do more than win the GMC regular-season Red Division and tournament titles. The Falcons will gear up for the postseason against more of the nation’s best in high-profile events. On Feb. 5, St. Joe’s travels to Lone Peak High School of Highland, Utah, as part of the ESPN Basketball Showcase and on Feb. 16 will meet Montverde Academy of Florida as part of the Metro Classic at Kean University.
The Falcons will likely be heavy favorites when the GMC Tournament begins in mid-February if they clinch the Red Division, but St. Joe’s also has its eyes set on winning the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions title, which it did two years ago.
Because of their dominance, head coach Dave Turco has assembled a deep rotation that St. Joe’s has used to its advantage. Leading the scoring parade are seniors Tyus Battle with a 19.3-point average and Breein Tyree, who has scored at a 15.5 point-per-game clip. Battle (committed to Syracuse University) and Tyree (committed to the University of Mississippi) lead St. Joe’s in assists with 45 and 38, respectively.
Sophomore Alanzo Frink has made an impact in the pivot by snaring nearly eight rebounds a game to go along with an average of nine points, and senior Branislav Vujadinovic has contributed 8.3 points per contest.
The Falcons’ ice hockey team (8-2-3 overall, 3-0 conference) has also established itself as the top GMC team but is also ranked among the best in the state. One of the highlights of the season came when St. Joe’s avenged an early-season, 2-2 tie to Notre Dame High School of Lawrence Township by scoring a 4-2 victory over the Fighting Irish to win the Egan Cup Jan. 15.
The Falcons have been led by senior Michael Nisky, who has eight goals and 19 assists, and junior Brian Coelho, who has a team-leading 11 goals to go with his 13 assists. Others who have contributed to the scoring are seniors Thomas Bauer (nine goals, 11 assists), Joseph Martillaro (five goals, 12 assists), Nick Sonej (11 goals, two assists) and Ryan Hille (seven goals, three assists) and junior Kyle Jeffers (seven goals, eight assists).
The J.P. Stevens High School boys basketball team is currently 6-3 overall and 5-2 in the GMC White Division. One of the highlights of the Hawks’ season has been the play of senior captain Alex Corrigan, who eclipsed the school record for 3-pointers when he nailed his 114th in a recent game.
The J.P. Stevens girls basketball team is currently 5-5 and is striving to finish the season with a winning record, which would be the program’s first since 2007.
“Our seniors have really jelled together,” head coach Amy Bonk said. “They have been completely unselfish, work extremely hard and deserve everything coming to them. This is a special group to coach.”
The Hawks’ senior contingent includes Molly Yelencsics (12.8 points per game), Rebecca DiSerio (7.9 points per game), Mary Kelly, Lauren Tencza, Grace Kau and Kathy Tong. Junior Jamyra Maye has averaged 7.5 points per game to be a valuable part of the Hawks’ lineup.
The J.P. Stevens boys bowling team is 1-13 in matches against GMC teams, but a bright spot has been the debut of freshman Cameron LaPlant. The newcomer began the season with a 757 series and finished runner-up in the recent GMC Individual Championships. His average has hovered over 200 for the season, and LaPlant has a high game of 279.
Other area bowlers to place in the GMC Individuals were St. Joe’s Billy Milligin (13th), Edison High School’s Tom Leone (16th place), Bishop George Ahr High School’s Kyle Heyman (21st) and Edison’s Wyatt Bucknay (24th).
The J.P. Stevens wrestling team is currently 2-10 in dual meets and is led by captains Sam Marshall (170 pounds) and Vraj Patel (138 pounds). The rest of the lineup includes Dan Defilippo (113 pounds), Arqum Masood (138 pounds), Paul Vargas (152 pounds), Rahul Konala (160 pounds) and Paul Kim (195 pounds).
The loss of 20-match winner Dan Ricigilano to a knee injury before the start of the season has had a negative impact on the Hawks. Juniors Jamari Lake (120 pounds), Abhishek Singh (132 pounds), Mike Gelberg (126 pounds) and Matt Jasinski (145 pounds) fill out the lineup and provide stability for the program.
“The overall numbers in the program are a bit down, which presents the greatest obstacle because we can’t fill all the weight classes,” head coach Vinnie Giofre said.
The Metuchen High School boys indoor track and field team finished eighth overall in the recent GMC Winter Track Relays, second in the Blue Division. The Bulldogs have been led by sophomores Jake Beacher and Caelan Johnson and senior Greg Poandl.