Saint Joseph pulls off thrilling victory in GMC hoops final

Eric Sucar
The St. Joseph basketball team huddles together for a group cheer prior to the game against East Brunswick held at East Brunswick High School on January 17.

Confidence is high among the boys’ basketball players at Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen.

That attitude certainly gained a boost when Saint Joseph knocked off Colonia High School, 46-43, in a thrilling Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament championship game that was played at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway on Feb. 22.

The player who provided the heroics was K-Shawn Schulters, who connected on a 3-point shot from 28 feet as time expired.

He was chock full of emotion and confidence just after he sank that shot to end a classic championship matchup.

“Our momentum is high,” the sophomore point guard said. “We just have to ride the momentum and keep playing. If we do that, we can win it all.”

That shot enabled Saint Joseph to successfully defend its GMC Tournament title. The Falcons have now won eight of the last nine GMC Tournament championships.

Schulters led the Falcons with 13 points, while he also recorded two assists, five rebounds, two steals and four blocks.

He explained his dramatic shot that broke a 43-43 tie and thwarted a furious Colonia rally.

“My mindset was, ‘If I make it, we win. If I miss it, we tie,’ ” Schulters said. “So I caught it and just let it fly.”

Sophomore guard Tyree Taganeca-Ford collected 12 points and two assists for the Falcons, while junior forward Howard McBurnie contributed to the victory with 11 points and seven rebounds.

Saint Joseph was cruising along and held a 35-14 lead midway through the third quarter. But Colonia struck back with a 29-6 surge that resulted in a 43-41 lead for the Patriots with 1:55 to play in the fourth quarter.

Schulters responded with two crucial plays. He stole a pass and converted a layup with 1:10 to play to put the game at 43-43. H then launched his winning shot in the final seconds to put an end to the thrilling showdown.

Schulters won the game’s MVP trophy, but he credited the team’s poise throughout the second half.

“We just trusted one another and played hard,” Schulters said. “We played through all the runs that they made. All the fans at the [Rutgers Athletic Center] were amazing, so it does get nerve-racking, but you just fight through all the nerves. We just trusted each other and played as a team.”

The Falcons will now focus on the NJSIAA Non-Public South A tournament, where they will play in the quarterfinals on March 2 against the winner of Bishop Eustace Preparatory School and Donovan Catholic High School.

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