Saint Thomas Aquinas boys’ basketball rolls to GMC final

Saint Thomas Aquinas High School boys' basketball player Jaquan Harris dribbles the ball at the top of the key during the team's game against Edison High School in the semifinals of the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament on Feb. 26. Harris scored 17 points to help Saint Thomas Aquinas defeat Edison, 72-55.

In the biggest moments of the Saint Thomas Aquinas High School boys’ basketball team’s Greater Middlesex Conference semifinal game against Edison High School, junior Kyree Henry played his best.

Henry scored 14 of his team-high 20 points in the second half to help the Trojans defeat Edison, 72-55, on Feb. 26 at New Brunswick High School to advance to the GMC tournament final and improve to 22-4 this winter.

“I knew I had to step up in this game because it was win or go home.” Henry said. “This game means a lot to me. Playing in a big game like this, I was able to put my name out there. Feels great to get the win.”

For Edison, the loss to Saint Thomas Aquinas, snapped its seven-game winning streak and dropped its record to 18-6 on the season.

Senior Emanuel Davila scored a game-high 21 points and hit three shots from behind the arc.

The Eagles will now shift their focus to the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 Tournament. Edison is the No. 9 seed and will be playing on the road against the No. 8 seed, Franklin Township High School, in the first round of the tournament on Mar. 3.

“The experience of playing Saint Thomas Aquinas will help us in the state tournament,” said Edison coach Charles Mohr. “I am very proud of our kids. We have come a lot further than what most people expected of us and that’s because our guys have stuck together and played together all year.”

Henry helped give the Trojans a 12-7 lead going into the second quarter, leaping up to get the air ball attempt by teammate Jaquan Harris and knocking in the layup before the buzzer for Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Harris had a big second quarter to lead the Trojans to a 38-20 lead going into halftime. The sophomore knocked in two three-pointers and scored 9 points in the quarter. Harris finished with 17 points in the contest and now has knocked down 52 shots from downtown this season, which is a team-high.

“I work day in and day out on my three-point shot,” Harris said. “I was ready to have a bigger role for my team this year and I have been able to have a good season and help the team win.”

Under the lead of Henry, Saint Thomas Aquinas continued to roll in the second half.

Already knocking down seven points in the third quarter, Henry helped extend the Trojans’ lead to 50-32 with 3:07 to go, getting a steal and then throwing a perfect outlet pass up the court to Harris who threw down a one-handed dunk.

Henry stretched the Saint Thomas Aquinas lead to 62-38 to begin the fourth quarter, driving all the way to the hoop for a layup to give him 15 points on the night.

The junior finished his great night in style by banging home his second three pointer of the game.

Saint Thomas Aquinas had three players in double figures, with Tristian Jefferies knocking in 10 points in the victory.

The Trojans are on an 11-game winning streak going into their conference final game against South Brunswick High School, which was played on Feb. 28 at Middlesex County Community College.

A victory in the finals would be Saint Thomas Aquinas’ first conference championship since 1992.

Saint Thomas Aquinas is the No. 7 seed in the NJSIAA South Jersey, Non-Public A Tournament and will host No. 10 seed Christian Brothers Academy in the first round of the tournament on Mar. 4.

Already capturing the GMC Blue Division title for the second year in a row, coach Bob Turco is very happy with how his team has come together this season and believes he has got the best group of kids he’s ever had as a coach.

Turco firmly believes his club can achieve major accomplishments this season and in the future.

“Four major goals for us to start the season was to win the Blue Division, win the county tournament, win the state tournament and finish with the most wins in school history,” Turco said. “This is the best group of kids I have ever had. The chemistry is unbelievable. The guys have bought in and have gotten after it.”

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