Confidence, wins increasing for Knights’ boys hoops team


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By Warren Rappleyea

On the heels of a 59-50 victory over Sayreville War Memorial High School Jan. 16, Old Bridge High School’s boys basketball team is 8-3 and coach Jim Macomber believes his team can make its way to the final four of the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Tournament.

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There’s a lot of basketball to be played between now and late February, but the Knights are showing a balanced offense and solid depth as they move through the campaign. More important, Macomber thinks the best is yet to come.

“This is the best start we’ve had in a long time and you can just see the confidence growing,” the fourth-year coach said. “They’re starting to realize how good they are and how good they can be. I know that these kids can beat any team in the conference.”

Old Bridge certainly played well against a Sayreville (10-3) team that won 10 of its first 11 games. Stephen Strom connected for three 3-pointers and scored 24 points to lead the offense. Kyle Paris added 16 points and Connor Romano contributed 12 points to the win. Macomber termed the result a “signature win.”

Earlier in the month, Macomber’s team battled Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen down to the wire before finally bowing, 70-65.

The Knights have seen at least three players reach double figures in scoring for most of their games. Romano, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, averages 18 points to top the team in scoring. He also leads in assists with five a game and averages 5.5 rebounds.

Strom is the kind of sharp-shooter who can produce points in bunches. The senior is averaging 15 points, and he leads the GMC with 31 3-pointers. Paris averages 11.5 points, and the junior is a force on the boards as well.

Point guard C. J. Santoro is quietly having a solid season, averaging six points, including 14 in the loss to Saint Joseph, and four assists and playing good defense. Another junior guard, Will Osvald, is known as a defensive specialist, but he has been coming on as a shooter, scoring 13 points in the Knights’ 67-64 loss to East Brunswick High School.

Senior forward Zach Attianese, who has been playing with a sore ankle, provides toughness and defense. Rich Calandrino, a senior guard, can provide offense off the bench, and junior Joe Papeo is a strong on-the-ball defended.

Jake Esposito, better known for his exploits on the gridiron, has had an impact in his first varsity basketball campaign. The senior gives Old Bridge a physical presence and a never quit attitude. Esposito has shown a willingness to crash the boards and dive for every loose ball in his vicinity, which has had a positive effect on the rest of the team, Macomber noted.

“Most of our guys have played together since the fourth or fifth grade,” the coach said. “They work hard. They play over the summers in AAU and in Jersey City, so they’ve played against really good teams. That’s eliminated the awe factor when we play a team like St. Joe’s. They have great camaraderie and they pull for each other. There’s no telling how much they can accomplish this year.”

Old Bridge was scheduled to meet Perth Amboy High School Jan. 19 and will host South Brunswick Jan. 21. The Vikings downed the Knights, 54-40, earlier in the season. J.P. Stevens visits Jan. 23. The Knights defeated both Perth Amboy and J.P. Stevens in their first meetings.

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