South Brunswick boys’ basketball rolling strong down the stretch

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South Brunswick High School boys' basketball player Ty Murchison scored a game-high 17 points to help the Vikings defeat East Brunswick High School, 64-44, on Feb. 6.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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South Brunswick High School boys' basketball player Yathin Vermula runs the fast break during the team's game against Old Bridge on Jan. 23. South Brunswick 14-4 on the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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East Brunswick High School boys' basketball player Justin Black dribbles the ball up the court during the team's game against J.P. Stevens on Jan. 2. East Brunswick lost to South Brunswick, 64-44, on Feb. 6 and dropped to 9-9 on the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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South Brunswick High School boys' basketball player Ty Murchison scored a game-high 17 points to help the Vikings defeat East Brunswick High School, 64-44, on Feb. 6.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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South Brunswick High School boys' basketball player Yathin Vermula runs the fast break during the team's game against Old Bridge on Jan. 23. South Brunswick 14-4 on the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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East Brunswick High School boys' basketball player Justin Black dribbles the ball up the court during the team's game against J.P. Stevens on Jan. 2. East Brunswick lost to South Brunswick, 64-44, on Feb. 6 and dropped to 9-9 on the season.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

Victories continue to come for the South Brunswick High School boys’ basketball team.

South Brunswick has been one of the best teams in the Greater Middlesex Conference during the second of the season.

The Vikings came into their GMC Red Division matchup with East Brunswick High School in East Brunswick on Feb. 6, winner of six of their last seven games, and were one victory away from surpassing their 13-victory mark from last season. 

South Brunswick got its 14th victory of the season, 64-44, when it outscored East Brunswick, 57-29, in the final three quarters of play to pick up its second victory of the season over the Bears and improve to 14-4 this winter.

“We have a lot of confidence and we’re starting to gel as a group,” said South Brunswick coach Joe Hoehman. “Anyone can step on any given night and score a lot of points for us. As long as we play defense for all four quarters, we can be a tough out come tournament time with the potency we have on offense.” 

It’s the second straight loss for East Brunswick, which was on a three-game winning streak before its recent slide that dropped them to 9-9 on the season.

Only losing three contests by double digits this season, East Brunswick coach Mark Motusesky believes his club has shown it can compete with anyone in the conference and has a shot at beating any team come tournament time.

“The kids are all together and will battle back,” Motusesky said. “We think we can beat anyone in the conference, but we have to play well to do so. We knew we can play with the best teams in the conference. We just have to figure out ways to beat them.”

Even with a slow start that saw East Brunswick get out to a 15-9 lead going into the second quarter off a three-pointer by Dylan McCann before the buzzer, South Brunswick didn’t panic and brought up the energy in the second quarter to get back on track in a big way.  

South Brunswick started the quarter on a 6-0 run and took a 20-17 lead with 5:37 to go till the half when Alex Strange came off the bench to swish in a three-pointer from the right wing.

The Vikings’ lead grew to 25-17 with 3:45 left in the half when Andrew Tesser produced a three-pointer from the left wing off the inbounds pass by teammate Justin Carbone.

Tesser banged home another three-pointer for the Vikings moments later, while Ty Murchison delivered the team’s fourth three-pointer of the night to extend the South Brunswick lead to 35-19 going into the locker room.

Murchison was the catalyst to South Brunswick outscoring East Brunswick, 26-4, in the second quarter, scoring nine of his 11 first half points in the period.

The junior went on to finish the contest with a game-high 17 points.

“I was making the right plays and getting everyone involved,” Murchison said. “The energy from our bench really gave us a lot of energy on the court.”

The Vikings saw Carbone go off for 10 points in the third quarter to help them get out to a 54-31 lead going into the final period of play. Carbone recorded 11 points in the victory.

Senior Devin Strickland also collected a game-high 17 points to the South Brunswick victory, giving him 16 straight games of scoring 10 or more points. 

Strickland is averaging a team-high 21.2 points a contest this season. 

The three-headed monster of Strickland, Murchison and Carbone have combined a total of 933 points so far this season, making them the best trio in the conference in the eyes of Murchison.

“It’s been kind of a roller coaster ride, but overall, we’ve been sticking together and following the plans from the coaching staff,” Strickland said. “We need to keep playing hard on the defensive end. We knew we can take it to teams on the offensive end, but our main focus is defense and rebounding.”

South Brunswick is now 8-2 in its last 10 games.

Freshman Jalen Pichardo led the way for East Brunswick. He connected on 10 of his team-high 14 points in the first half. Teammate Devin Kennedy recorded eight points for the Bears.

The team’s bond on and off the court will help them bounce back for the conference tournament, said Pichardo. 

“We’ve been playing well in practice and sticking together in the locker room and that’s been translating on the court,” Pichardo said. “If we just continue to stick together, we’ll be able to bounce back from these two losses.”

Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports