By Jimmy Allinder
It would be tempting for the Spotswood High School boys basketball team to consider the rest of the regular season a cakewalk.
The Chargers had little trouble dispatching the five rivals that make up the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Blue Division in their first go-around and are currently the only team with a winning record (13-1 overall, 5-0 division). The one loss was by a point to non-conference Bound Brook High School before the holiday break.
But head coach Steve Mate remains cautious as his team prepares for the second half of the season.
“We were very well prepared the first time we played, and as I said before the season, we were going to surprise some people,” he said. “Under no circumstances are we taking for granted we can just walk on the court and [claim] victory. All our opponents are better, so it’s going to take our best effort to finish this thing.”
Spotswood’s best effort features a fast-paced tempo at both ends of the court engineered by seniors Eric Dadika and Marlon Hart. Dadika (20.2 points a game) and Hart (18.2 points per game) have produced the most points but have also led with 38 and 25 thefts, respectively — most of which have resulted in easy transition buckets.
The rest of the rotation has also added to the attack. Junior Andrew Fuzesi (11 points a game) has turned into a knockdown shooter from the outside, Mate said, and junior J.T. Vento has rebounded well and picked up the scoring pace lately.
Sophomore Justin Dekovics has become a pure shooter and only needs more experience to feel comfortable taking the big shot. Senior Dan Newton has come through with big 3-pointers to break open Spotswood’s few close games.
Despite the wealth of offense, Mate said the most important reason for his team’s success has been its suffocating defense.
“During preseason practice and scrimmages, I think our kids figured out that making defense our top priority would turn out to be our MO,” Mate said. “We learned how valuable that could be when we were down by nine points at halftime to Shore [Regional High School] and battled back to beat them (40-31).”
Spotswood is capable of scoring in bunches, but Mate said the team’s defensive mentality is what will carry it once tournament time arrives.
“I’d like to think we can at least get back to the [quarterfinals] of the [GMC] tournament,” he said. “As far as the states, there are so many outstanding teams in the [Central Jersey Group II] bracket, so it’s going to be a battle. We’ll see how things fall when the [tournaments] begin.”
The Chargers visited Carteret High School Jan. 27 and close out January with a road game against John F. Kennedy Memorial High School two days later.