By Jimmy Allinder
The NJSIAA boys’ and girls’ basketball tournaments kicked off with first-round games Feb. 27 and 28, hosted by higher-seeded teams.
Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen (25-1) — fresh off its seventh Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Tournament championship in eight years — was seeded second in Non-Public A South. That earned the Falcons a bye to the second round March 2, when they hosted the winner of seventh-seeded Union Catholic High School (16-10) and Bishop George Ahr High School (14-11).
GMC Red Division champions for the fifth consecutive year, St. Joe’s hopes to build on its success during the state tournament. Letrell West is the leading scorer with 21.3 points per game; shot-blocking specialist Malachi Walker leads the state with 121; and Mikey Granda has been a scrappy and steady point guard. The seniors have also displayed effective leadership.
The rest of the rotation includes freshmen Richard Graves, Tyree Taganeca-Ford and Zach Martini.
St. Augustine Preparatory School (22-2) is the defending Non-Public A champion and knocked off St. Joe’s, 69-67, in the A South championship game last year. St. Augustine is the top seed this year, making it possible the teams could meet again if they reach the finals.
In other games, ninth-seeded Metuchen High School (11-14) visited eighth-seeded Academy Charter School (17-6) Feb. 28 in Central Jersey, Group I.
In the girls’ tournament, 15th-seeded South Hunterdon Regional High School (7-16) visited second-seeded Metuchen (14-10) Feb. 28 in Central Jersey Group I. If the Bulldogs won, they advanced to the second round March 2 and host the winner of seventh-seeded South Amboy High School (13-7) against 10th-seeded Woodbridge Academy (14-10).
Sixth-seeded Edison High School (16-10) hosted 11th-seeded Union High School (11-14) Feb. 27 in the first round of the Central Jersey, Group IV tournament. If victorious, the Eagles face the winner of third-seeded Westfield High School (17-5) and 14th-seeded Columbia High School (10-13) March 1. John P. Stevens High School (9-13) is the 16th seed in the same bracket and faced top-seeded Bayonne High School (17-6) Feb. 27.
In Non-Public A South, sixth-seeded Bishop Ahr (19-6) hosted 11th-seeded Pingry School Feb. 28 in the first round. If the Trojans won, they visit third-seeded Saint John Vianney High School (22-3) March 2 in the second round.
Bishop Ahr comes off a 53-52 loss to South Brunswick High School in the GMC Tournament semifinals, and Trojans coach Brittany Griffin understands her team is competing in arguably the toughest section in the state.
“That’s not going to change our preparation,” she said. “We’ll practice with the same intensity and not look back [at the South Brunswick loss].”
If Bishop Ahr defeated Pingry, Griffin knows playing St. John Vianney will be a major challenge, but she views the game as an opportunity to see how well the Trojans’ hard work this season has paid off.
“Regardless of the outcome, we’re proud of what we accomplished,” Griffin said. “We’re going to miss our two senior starters (Elle Cimilluca and Brianna Jackson), but we have freshmen who have gotten better because they learned from them.”
Three Bishop Ahr wrestlers advanced to the NJSIAA state championships March 3-5.
David Lonieski (120 pounds), Dylan O’Connor (126) and Andrew Brazicki (195) are the only area competitors to make the coveted trip to Atlantic City.
Lonieski, a sophomore, earned a place in the finals although he dropped a 5-4 decision in the third-place bout to Norberto Torres of Perth Amboy High School. O’Connor, a senior, placed third after a 5-3 decision over Alec Bobchin of Princeton High School.
Despite a fifth seed, Brazicki battled his way through his bracket to finish third, punctuated by a 5-3 decision over Kaylon Bradley of Monroe Township High School.
Each wrestler awaited the seeding meeting Feb. 27 to find out who among the 32 competitors left in each weight class they would face.
All-GMC boys’ bowling
The GMC All-Conference and All-Division teams were recently announced.
Cameron LePlant from J.P. Stevens (Red Division) and Joseph Chrobak from St. Joe’s (White Division) were named to the GMC’s All-Conference and All-Division teams. Edison’s Jason Smith and St. Joe’s Giovanni Santiago were named All-White Division, and Bishop Ahr’s Andrew Funk, Kyle Heyman and Erik Gonzalez were named All-Blue Division.
Edison’s multi-sport athlete Bianca Newsom recently signed a Letter of Intent to play softball at Wesley College in Dover, Delaware. Newsom has averaged 6.7 points as the starting guard for the Eagles’ basketball team.
The senior also pitched and played shortstop for the softball team since she was a freshman and has a career batting average of .408.