This time of the winter scholastic season signals when a loss could result in the end of the year.
Here are some players who produced crucial performances to keep their teams alive and well.
In boys’ basketball tournament headlines …
Mater Dei Prep was crowned the king of the Shore Conference Tournament for the second straight winter when the Serphs rallied to beat upset-minded Marlboro High School, 54-44, in the title game that was played at OceanFirst Bank Center on the campus of Monmouth University in West Long Branch Feb. 25.
Elijah Mitchell was named the game’s MVP when he scored 12 points and sparked a second-half surge to help Mater Dei successfully defend its championship.
Mater Dei used a 15-32 burst that began in the third quarter and ended in the final quarter and enabled the Serphs to pull ahead, 44-34. Marlboro was thinking of pulling off a second consecutive upset when the Mustangs held a 32-29 lead in the third.
Kyle Carducci finished with 14 points to contribute to Mater Dei’s championship effort.
Marlboro was able to thwart a third-round matchup this year between Mater Dei and Ranney School when the Mustangs sprung the 50-47 upset over Ranney in the tournament’s semifinals Feb. 21. Ryan LaRocca spearheaded Marlboro’s shocker with his 15 points, while Marlboro received 13 points from Daniel Weiss and 10 from Dylan Kaufman, as well as sound leadership from P.J. Ringel, who ended with six assists and six points.
Mater Dei lived up to its end of the bargain to reach the Shore Conference Tournament finals when it posted a 73-68 victory over Toms River High School North in the semifinals Feb. 21. Elijah Barnes was the ringleader for Mater Dei with his 21 points, while teammate Kenny Jones contributed 12 points.
Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen successfully defended its Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Tournament with its 50-44 victory over Sayreville War Memorial High School in the nightcap of the tournament’s girls’/boys’ doubleheader Feb. 24 at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway.
Letrell West was once again the leader of the Falcons. He finished with 17 points, all coming in the second half, to help Saint Joseph rally from a 26-18 deficit at halftime. His brilliant showing earned him the MVP award for the game.
Saint Joseph’s ride to the GMC Tournament finals was sparked by West, who recorded 14 points and seven rebounds, and Richie Greaves, who scored 13 points, in the Falcons’ 48-40 triumph over Woodbridge High School in the semifinals Feb. 22.
Sayreville gained the final when the Bombers pulled out a 69-65 semifinals victory over South Brunswick High School Feb. 22.
Jahsim Floyd calmly sank a free throw with just under five seconds to play that sealed the victory and give the Bombers a 69-65 lead. Floyd ended with 25 points and nine rebounds. Xavier Townes registered 12 points and eight rebounds in Sayreville’s victory. Mike Ugarte pumped in 33 points to keep South Brunswick alive all game.
In girls’ basketball championships …
While the Sayreville boys’ team fell just short of a GMC Tournament championship, the girls’ unit was able to capture the program’s first conference trophy.
The female Bombers defeated South Brunswick, 59-52, in the first game of the championship doubleheader Feb. 24 at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway. And carrying the championship banner was Sayreville’s senior star, Isi Enahoro, who clicked on a game-high 23 points and was named the MVP.
Sayreville gained its berth in the finals when the Bombers took out Piscataway Township High School, 53-27, in the semifinals Feb. 21. Enahoro led the drive for Sayreville with 17 points, while Ryane Brush chipped in with 14 points.
Onostea Ufuah, who ended with 13 points, came through with a key blocked shot to secure South Brunswick’s 47-45 victory over Bishop George Ahr High School in the semifinals Feb. 21. Amber Brown led South Brunswick with 17 points.
Saint John Vianney High School was denied a repeat title in the Shore Conference Tournament when Saint Rose High School scored a 56-31 victory in the finals that was played before the boys’ title game Feb. 25 at Monmouth University.
Saint John Vianney earned revenge when it also gained a ticket to the Shore Conference Tournament finals when the Lancers eliminated Red Bank Catholic High School, 54-48, in the semifinals Feb. 20.
Saint John Vianney, which had lost to Red Bank Catholic, 54-45, Jan. 21, was sparked in the semifinals by Sajada Bonner, who connected for 16 points, and Madison During, who hit for 12 points.
Now on to Atlantic City …
With the eight regions in the state concluding Feb. 25, the action shifts to Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City for the state wrestling tournament March 3-5.
Two local wrestlers earned their second Region 6 championships at Brick Memorial High School Feb. 25. Howell High School’s Eric Keosseian won the 220-pound weight class and Christian Brother Academy’s Richie Koehler captured the 113-pound division.
East Brunswick High School’s Michael Polito picked up his second Region 5 championship when he finished first at 113 pounds at Hunterdon Central Regional High School in Flemington Feb. 25.