By Jimmy Allinder
The Monroe Township High School girls basketball team (19-2) is the top seed in the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Tournament.
However, as many as four teams could have earned that distinction, which promises this year’s tournament will be a wide-open fight to the finish.
Based on its record, East Brunswick High School (16-3) merited serious consideration as the No. 1 seed. However, a 50-42 setback to fourth-seeded South Brunswick High School Feb. 11 — the night before the GMC Tournament committee made its selections — dropped the Bears to the second seed.
A year ago, Monroe lost the championship game in overtime, 77-74, to Piscataway Township High School, and it wants nothing more than to capture the school’s first conference tournament title. A 56-45, regular-season win over the Chiefs the night prior to the conference tournament selection meeting was likely a major factor in helping the Falcons earn their top seed.
Senior Ashlyn Peterson, who was the second Monroe girl to eclipse 1,000 points for her career in a Feb. 13 victory at Union High School (Allie Bauman was the first in 2005), said her team’s experience playing in last year’s championship game will bring confidence to the Falcons.
“We talked about how important it was to beat Piscataway, not only because it would impact our seed but because it would help us mentally,” Peterson said. “[The game] was a rematch of last year’s title game, so it gave us added confidence going into the tournament.”
Monroe began action in the first round Feb. 17 when it hosted 17th-seed North Brunswick High School. On the same evening, East Brunswick hosted 15th-seed Metuchen High School.
Despite an 18-3 record, South River High School was relegated to the 12th seed but dispatched 21st-seed New Brunswick High School in a preliminary-round game. That propelled the Rams to a first-round game at Piscataway (fifth seed) Feb. 17.
Spotswood High School (8-14) received the 19th seed and was eliminated by 14th-seed South Plainfield High School, 57-28, in the preliminary-round.
GMC Boys Basketball Tournament
Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen (16-5) is clearly the top seed in the boys tournament due to the Falcons’ 12-game unblemished record against GMC opponents and a 26.4-point average margin of victory. However, when it comes to the conference tournament, those results can be erased, as was proven a year ago when Colonia High School upset St. Joe’s, which was also seeded first, in the championship final.
For that reason, sixth-seed East Brunswick (13-7) and eighth-seed Spotswood (19-3) also hope to mount a serious run at the tournament title.
East Brunswick entered the GMCs on a three-game winning streak, including an 81-68 victory over second-seed South Brunswick. The Bears’ first tournament game is Feb. 18, when they host the winner of the preliminary-round game between 11th-seed Monroe (8-13) and 22nd-seed East Brunswick Vocational Technical High School scheduled for Feb. 16.
Spotswood might have earned a higher seed if it had not been knocked off Feb. 8 by 16th-seed Bishop George Ahr High School, 63-55. However, the Chargers rebounded with victories over non-conference foe West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North, 83-61, and Metuchen, 88-35, prior to when the tournament selection committee met, which helped their seed.
Spotswood meets the winner of the preliminary-round game between ninth-seed Perth Amboy Vocational Technical High School and 25th-seed South Plainfield Feb. 18.
South River (20th seed) won a 67-41 decision over 29th-seed Dunellen High School in its play-in game to move on to the preliminary round, where it met 13th-seed John F. Kennedy Memorial High School Feb. 16.