By Jeff Appelblatt
The boys basketball team from Woodbridge High School sizzled through January (10-0) before winning its first few games of February. But on the backend of playing back-to-back days Feb. 9, the Barrons lost to Sayreville War Memorial High School, 48-43.
The loss fit into a pattern for Woodbridge (16-4): fail to score 48 points and lose.
“We’ve been a good, consistent defensive team. We’ve been very consistent holding our opponents in the low 40s,” head coach Matt Gigliello said. “Most of the season, we’ve done well with our scoring.”
One glitch on both ends of the court in a game late in the season doesn’t mean much to the Barrons. They’ve got their heads up going into the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Tournament ranked No. 5.
“We don’t stress the seeding,” the coach said before knowing if his team’s first-round matchup Feb. 18 in Woodbridge would be against No. 12-seed Piscataway Township High School or No. 21-seed Edison High School. “We need to play our game no matter who we play. Whoever we play, we’ll be ready to play them. It’s the playoffs — both teams will be fighting for their lives.”
As much as the Barrons will be riding Quran Robinson (12 points per game), Quaasim Glover (10 points per game), Keshaun Henry (9.7 points per game) and Harry Rutkowski (8.5 points per game), Woodbridge has gained confidence in a number of other players over the last few weeks, largely including sophomores Curtis Nesbit and Kemari Persol, who have combined for more than 18 points per game over the last six.
“It helps us tremendously having other scorers,” Gigliello said. “They’re just sophomores, [but] they’re starting to grow up. They’re fitting into their role. They’re providing nice points off the bench.”
The coach expects his team to do whatever it takes to win in the opening round of the GMC Tournament Feb. 18, and then again in the next round Feb. 21 if victorious vs. Sayreville, John F. Kennedy (JFK) Memorial High School or South River High School.
The battle between No. 3-seed Woodbridge and No. 2-seed Middletown High School North in the GMC Wrestling Tournament came down to the final moments. Unfortunately for Woodbridge, it was a finish that didn’t go its way, giving Middletown North a 31-30 victory.
“It came down to a referee not calling a pin,” coach Michael Carbone said almost a week after the loss. “That non-pin call is still haunting me.”
The match Carbone was thinking of was the 152-pound bout between Woodbridge’s Marquan Payne and Middletown North’s Nicholas Cofone. Payne got the win, a major decision, 11-3, but a pin would have resulted in more team points for the Barrons.
“With 15 seconds left, [Payne] got the pin. We saw the pin. One of the refs saw the pin. The match should have ended,” Woodbridge’s coach said. “The points from a pin would have gotten us to 32. It was a bad loss. I thought we wrestled better than they did.”
Two days after the loss, Woodbridge put together two easy victories, 60-4 and 57-9 over New Brunswick High School and Princeton High School. And Carbone knows his team could only look forward with more playoff battles coming up.
But at this point, it’s more about the individuals than the team.
“I’d like to get 10 guys to the regions,” the coach said. “We could do that if the guys do what they’re capable of.”
Woodbridge (15-3-2) knew for a while it would be the No. 2-seed in the GMC Tournament and that it will host Colonia High School or Old Bridge High School in the semifinals Feb. 18.
Surprisingly, coach Joe Rotella hoped that his club would face Old Bridge (11-7-1) rather than Colonia (4-14-2). Most often, teams would rather play against the “easier” opponent. But not Rotella.
“We played Old Bridge three times this season,” the coach said. “We beat them each time, [2-1, 3-0 and 2-1].”
The Barrons, meanwhile, played Colonia twice. They won each, 4-1 and 7-1.
Either way, Woodbridge will go into that contest a favorite. And no matter who it goes against, Rotella is confident in his team.
“I like the way my team looks,” he said, thinking most of his top offensive weapons, Kyle Mortensen, Hunter Spearnock and Nick Kuchie.
He’s confident as long as his team is facing a public school team, that is.
“Another coach and I joked that we’re playing for a public school championship,” Rotella said, thinking of top-seeded Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen, a private school that has dominated the GMC.
“We know what we want,” Woodbridge’s coach said. “We want to be in the championship game [Feb. 20]. Like the regular season, we’re taking it one game at a time.”
It hasn’t been the greatest hockey season for the co-op team of student-athletes from Colonia and JFK Memorial. Four losses in a row to begin the season was quickly followed by another four-game skid after the team managed a 1-1 tie. But the Patriots put together back-to-back victories before losing six of their next seven. The team managed four wins in 20 games played.
But the plethora of losses this season could be forgotten if the squad pulls out a win or two in the playoffs. Surprising opponents and advancing in the playoffs has the power to do that.
Colonia’s first win of the season was against Morris Hills High School, 2-0, behind a pair of goals from the team’s leading scorer, Drew Galea. Morris Hills (10-8-3) likely didn’t think losing was possible to then 0-8-1 Colonia.
But it’s often said in life that anything is possible. So it wasn’t unthinkable for the Patriots to step on the ice against Old Bridge (11-7-1) Feb. 16 in the first round of the GMC Tournament with winning on their mind.
And if the team from Colonia and JFK Memorial was able to upset the Knights, it would have another chance to work together to face the other rival from Woodbridge at the Woodbridge Community Center Feb. 18.
Colonia High School
Relying heavily on seniors Chase Barneys and Kolby Chapman, Colonia’s boys basketball team entered into the GMC Tournament as the No. 3 seed, preparing to face North Brunswick Township High School or New Brunswick in the first round Feb. 18.
Colonia didn’t play against North Brunswick (5-15) at all this season, but the team did roll over New Brunswick (1-18) twice, 59-37 and 58-29. In the wins, the senior duo from Colonia combined for 40 and 28 points, respectively. On average this season, Barneys and Chapman combined for 35 points per outing, led by Barneys’ 19.5 points per game.
Either team the Patriots wind up facing, they have a better record (14-4), but they know they can’t guarantee a win.
Whichever team wins will live on to play in the quarterfinals Feb. 21 at noon against East Brunswick High School, Monroe Township High School or East Brunswick Vocational and Technical School. The team with the best record gets home-court advantage.