By Jimmy Allinder
There can be no disputing the Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen boys’ basketball team has enjoyed tremendous success in the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) and has been downright dominant since 2010.
According to GMC Hoops, entering this season, the Falcons’ win-loss record in the Middlesex County Athletic Conference (MCAC), which was renamed the GMC in 1985-86, was 105-41 — best among 30 member teams. St. Joe’s made 22 trips to the conference tournament title finals, which was also a league best. And though the Falcons’ record is 9-13, they have won six of the last seven championships.
St. Joe’s has also thrived in the Red Division. Since the GMC was formed, the Falcons finished first 15 times, including two co-championships, and won six (including a tie) of the last seven division titles, according to GMC Hoops.
It’s important to note this because graduation and transfers could impact St. Joe’s ability to continue this reign of success. Whereas the Falcons benefited from transfers in recent campaigns, three impact players on last season’s 22-6 club now play for other teams: Alanzo Frink to Roselle Catholic High School, Khalif Battle to Trenton Catholic High School and Xavier Townes to Sayreville War Memorial High School.
Factor in seven graduation losses, including Tyus Battle (Syracuse University), Breein Tyree (University of Mississippi), Branislav Vujadinovic (Assumption College), and St. Joe’s will be met with stiff resistance in pursuit reclaiming the Red Division and conference championships.
Clearly, head coach Dave Turco is faced with a major job reconstructing his lineup.
The seniors on the roster include Michael Granda, Latrell West and Malachi Walker. Daniel Young is the lone junior, and the sophomore contingent consists of Matt Crowley, Ryan Ganito, Matt Cruz, Jack Hogarty, Luke Fresco and Howard McBurnie.
Richard Greaves, K-Shawn Shulters, Tyree Ford, Ethan Hilliman, Zach Martini and Sean Williams highlight a talented group of freshmen that will make an impact as they gain experience.
St. Joe’s opened the season Dec. 16 with a come-from-behind victory, 49-43, against rival East Brunswick High School. It visited Piscataway Township High School Dec. 20 and hosts Monroe Township High School Dec. 22.
The Falcons are seeded seventh in the eight-team Neptune Holiday Jubilee and will meet second-seeded Ewing High School in the opening round Dec. 27. Depending on the outcome, St. Joe’s will meet an opponent to be determined in the next day’s second round. The tournament concludes Dec. 30 when seventh-place, fifth-place, third-place and championship games will be played. All action will be held at Neptune High School.
The new look Bishop George Ahr High School boys’ basketball team made a successful debut Dec. 17 when it opened with a 74-35 victory over South River High School.
The game was the debut for Trojan alumnus Darius Griffin Jr., who played from 2006-10. Griffin earned a degree in health and science from The College of New Jersey and was Bishop Ahr’s assistant coach last year.
Griffin takes over a program that hopes to overcome the loss of six players due to graduation or transfer, three who elected to not play and another due to a season-ending football injury.
Four regulars from last year’s team return: seniors Sean Kudelka and Kieran Hodder and juniors Alex Santiago and Jordan Wells. Griffin expects them to be leaders and provide spark on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.
The addition of transfers Deontae Crawford, Simon Llaguno and Matt Panganiban could make Bishop Ahr a serious contender for the division as well as a strong presence in the postseason.
Seniors Alex Guketlov, Sean Legall-Fleming and Charles Hinton; juniors Greg Cruz, Jack Roarty and Matt Mellos; and sophomore Kobe Walker are also looking to join the rotation.
“We finished third in the division last year, so we feel we have something to prove this year,” Griffin said.
Following a visit to Blue Division opponent Carteret High School Dec. 23, the Trojans will participate in the Hillsborough Holiday Hoops tournament Dec. 27 and 29. In addition to the Trojans and host team Hillsborough High School, Hightstown High School and Hunterdon Central High School are entered with matchups to be determined.
Patti Jaworski, who coached at Edison High School, was not in that position at Piscataway Township High School, as noted in the Dec. 14 Varsity Report. Additionally, Lauren Barlow, not Jenna Harsh, was a guard from last year’s team who needs to be replaced, and Sara Decker, not Sara Jackson, started last season.