The injury report has been a constant pain for the Old Bridge High School boys’ basketball team this season.
“Health will be the key for us,” Old Bridge coach Jim Macomber said. “Even [on Jan. 30 against Bishop George Ahr High School], we had Nick Zaleck, a starter, twist his ankle. Hopefully, it’s not a bad one, and he can come back soon for us. Last week against East Brunswick [High School], [junior] Julius Belton broke his nose, and we had another kid get a cut under his eye in the same game. That was the only reason why we lost that game — we had two kids go to hospital.”
However, Old Bridge’s players are not allowing the injury bug to sting them.
“The one thing I love is that our kids never quit,” Macomber said. “We never quit. We were down eight late to Bishop Ahr, and we never gave up. We can compete with anybody when we’re healthy. I believe that. So we need to make sure that we stay healthy going into the tournaments and see what happens.”
The Knights will ride their 69-68, come-from-behind victory over Bishop Ahr in Edison on Jan. 30 as they prepare for the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) and state tournaments.
They added two more victories to their record when they defeated John P. Stevens High School, 46-36, at home on Feb. 1 and Monroe Township High School, 56-51, on the road on Feb. 3. This string of wins lifted Old Bridge to 14-5 on the season.
The Knights were down, 52-50, after the third quarter to Bishop Ahr, but Old Bridge rallied with a 19-16 effort in the final quarter.
Clutch performances by some unlikely Old Bridge heroes, according to Macomber, were crucial to the victory.
“Besides our usual suspects, we had some great performances by a lot of our hustle and glue guys last night,” Macomber said. “Zack Sobieski gives you everything he’s got every time he gets on the floor. Danny Chiofalo is a junior for us in his first year of varsity ball. He had four big points in the fourth when we really needed it. Lucas Grissett made a big three late in the game for us as a freshman.”
Belton, who ended with 15 points, set up big games for junior Mike Oliva, who led Old Bridge with 23 points, and Ryan Delacuesta, who pitched in with 20 points.
“Our guys were shooting the ball really well,” Macomber said. “Mike had six threes, and Ryan had four. We get most of our shots off of Julius’ drives and kicks. He’s so hard to keep in front, so he drives to hole with ease and either kicks it out or makes wide-open layups for himself. They were trying to pressure him all game, and he was able to handle it like he always does.”
Old Bridge was eager to keep piling up victory when hosted Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen on Feb. 6 and South Plainfield High School on Feb. 7.
Bishop Ahr was paced by senior Alex Santiago, who collected 24 points and five assists, and sophomore Quadry Adams, who registered 18 points and six rebounds. Senior Jack Roarty sank 10 points in the loss.
The Trojans followed the close loss to the Knights with two straight victories in Edison. They defeated South Plainfield, 58-49, on Jan. 31 and Metuchen High School, 68-51, on Feb. 2.
Bishop Ahr is 14-4 this season and 9-2 against GMC Blue Division opponents. It is one game behind Carteret High School in the race for first place in the Blue Division.
Bishop Ahr was scheduled to face Middlesex High School on Feb. 5 and Oratory Preparatory School in Summit on Feb. 6.