By Jimmy Allinder
Considering Metuchen High School needed to replace eight letter winners from last season’s 15-11 team, this should have been a rebuilding year.
That hasn’t been the case. The Bulldogs were in the thick of the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Blue Division race until South River High School clinched the title last week. Another feather in its hat was Metuchen handing the Rams their only two division defeats.
Second-year Bulldogs coach Max Wexler knew he was getting a special player when freshman Brynn Farrell joined the roster; however, he couldn’t have anticipated how impactful she has been. Farrell has a state-leading 28.6 points per game (ppg), including a season-high 47 points against Highland Park High School Feb. 6. She also leads the team with 12.7 rebounds per game (rpg).
Other statistics point to her dominance. Farrell’s 600 points are more than twice what the rest of the starters have scored (274), and she has converted five times as many free throws (204).
“Brynn’s addition to the team has been huge,” Wexler said. “We felt early on she would be our go-to scorer.”
Although the other starters’ averages pale in comparison to Farrell’s production — lone senior Valentina Czochanski (3.8 ppg), junior Kerri Farrell (five ppg), sophomore Rachel Wyetzner (3.5 ppg) and freshman Sam Antin (3.1 ppg) — they have melded well together for such a young group.
“Last year’s team had more talent in different positions, but they weren’t as cohesive as this year’s group,” Wexler said. “Every girl has a heart of gold, hustles and gives 100 percent every night.”
Metuchen is optimistic about its future, but the Bulldogs still hope to complete the season with an exclamation point or two.
“A reasonable accomplishment in the GMC Tournament would be making it to the quarterfinals,” Wexler said. “Also, we earned the second seed (Bound Brook High School is the top seed) in the [NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group I] state tournament, and I believe we have a legitimate shot at winning the title.”
Metuchen was seeded 16th in the GMC Tournament and hosted 17th-seeded Spotswood High School in a preliminary-round game Feb. 13. If victorious, the Bulldogs’ first-round opponent will be top-seeded Sayreville War Memorial High School Feb. 15.
Metuchen’s opponent in the state tournament is 15th-seeded South Hunterdon Regional High School Feb. 28 in the first round of Central Jersey, Group I.
Another area team that rode on the wings of youth is Edison High School. The Eagles (13-8 overall, 8-6 Red Division) start a freshman, Madison Ruddy (11.4 ppg); three sophomores, leading scorer Samira Sargent (15.6 ppg), Daniella Marmol (7.6 ppg) and Kenisha Chester (3.8 ppg); and one senior, Bianca Newsom (6.2 ppg).
“It’s been awesome to watch this group grow after last year (10-14 overall),” coach Frank Eckert said. “We lost games by 20 [or more points] but toward the end of the season, we started to discover the importance of playing together.”
Eckert said his bench is loaded with sophomores — another reason the future is bright.
With the GMC Tournament underway, Edison earned the 10th seed and hosted the winner of Mother Seton Regional High School (26th seed) and New Brunswick High School (23rd seed) in the preliminary round Feb. 13. If the Eagles prevailed, they move on to the first round to face seventh-seeded South River Feb. 15.
Edison was the sixth seed in North Jersey, Section II, Group IV and hosted 11th-seeded Union High School in the first round Feb. 27.
“If we can advance past the first round in each tournament, that would be an accomplishment,” Eckert said. “As always, we’ll play one game at a time.”
Girls’ basketball seedings
In other GMC Tournament action involving area teams, Bishop George Ahr High School was seeded second and hosts the winner of 15th-seeded South Plainfield High School and 18th-seeded Colonia High School Feb. 15. John P. Stevens High School, seeded 14th, hosted the winner of 19th-seeded Middlesex High School and Wardlaw-Hartridge High School in the preliminary round Feb. 13. If they won, the Hawks face third-seeded South Brunswick High School Feb. 15 in the first round.
The four quarterfinal games will be at New Brunswick Feb. 18, the semifinals are at South Brunswick Feb. 21 and the finals will be played at Rutgers University Feb. 24 in the first game of a championship doubleheader, with the boys playing the second game.
When the state tournament begins, 16th-seeded J.P. Stevens visits top-seeded Bayonne High School Feb. 27 in North Jersey, Section II, Group IV, and Bishop Ahr, seeded sixth in Non-Public A South, hosts The Pingry School (11th seed) Feb. 28.
Boys’ basketball seedings
In the GMC Tournament, Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen was tabbed the top seed and hosts the winner of 16th-seeded Edison vs. 17th-seeded Colonia in the first round Feb. 16. Bishop Ahr is the seventh seed and also hosts a first-round game Feb. 16 against the winner of 10th-seeded John F. Kennedy Memorial High School and the survivor of 23rd-seeded Metuchen and 26th-seeded Highland Park. J.P. Stevens, which is seeded 14th, hosted 19th-seeded New Brunswick in a preliminary-round game Feb. 14. If victorious, the Hawks visit Sayreville, the third seed, in the first round Feb. 16.
The first-round winners move on to the quarterfinals at New Brunswick Feb. 19. The semifinals are Feb. 22 at South Brunswick, and the championship game is at Rutgers Feb. 24.
In the state tournament, St. Joe’s is seeded second in Non-Public South A and hosts the winner of 10th-seeded Bishop Ahr and seventh-seeded Christian Brothers Academy Feb. 28. In Central Jersey, Group I, Metuchen is seeded ninth and hosts eighth-seeded Academy Charter School Feb. 28. J.P. Stevens and Edison did not qualify.