By Warren Rappleyea
South Brunswick High School’s boys and girls basketball teams both made their way to the semifinals of their respective NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV tournaments.
In the semifinals March 5, South Brunswick’s girls ran into top-seeded Monroe Township High School, which came away with a 60-39 win, despite 22 points from the Lady Vikings’ Natalia Louhisdon and 10 points from Amber Brown. The Falcons also prevailed when the two teams met in the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Tournament semifinals.
Coach Jeff Johnson’s sixth-seeded team was coming off an exciting, 57-53 quarterfinals success against Sayreville War Memorial High School (19-8). The third-seeded Bombers took a 24-18 lead into the intermission, but the Lady Vikings (19-9) came back to tie things up at the end of three quarters.
Brown scored 21 of her 25 points in the second half as her team pulled away, making 11 of 13 free throws in the half. South Brunswick did have to hold off a late Bombers rally to claim the win.
“They’re a very aggressive team and we saw that in the regular season,” Johnson said. “Even though we fell behind, the girls kept their focus and didn’t get rattled. That enabled us to come back.”
The Lady Vikings had opened the sectional with a 62-47 win over 11th-seeded Edison High School (10-14), with Brown netting 25 points, while Louhisdon and Gillian Chambres scored 16 and 13 points, respectively.
The Vikings’ boys team fell, 67-47, to second-seeded Colts Neck High School (21-4) March 5 to end the season with a 22-5 mark. As he has done most of the season, senior guard Eric Savage led third-seeded South Brunswick with 22 points, and Michael Ugarte also reached double figures with 11 points.
The loss came on the heels of an exciting, 63-61 overtime victory over East Brunswick High School (18-9) in the quarterfinals March 3. South Brunswick was down, 29-20, at halftime but battled back to tie things up at the end of regulation as Savage, who netted 22 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, scored on a layup.
With the overtime dwindling down and the two teams having scored five points apiece, South Brunswick had the ball and got it to Savage. He tried to create space for himself but ended up taking an off-balance shot. His aim was true enough, however, and the ball banked into the hoop to beat the buzzer for the win. Point guard Jaier Garrett scored 16 points and Ugarte added 15 points for the Vikings.
It was the fourth meeting between the two teams this season. Each won a game in the regular season, but South Brunswick knocked the Bears out of the GMC Tournament, 50-45, in the semifinals.
The Vikings opened the state sectional with a victory against 14th-seeded Hillsborough High School (8-17) March 1. Earlier in the year, Old Bridge High School coach Jim Macomber called the South Brunswick defense the best in the GMC, and it held Hillsborough to just 25 points. Savage scored 24 points, and Ugarte picked up nine more as the Vikings scored 65 points on the night.