South Brunswick stuns top-seeded Middletown South in boys’ basketball state sectional semifinals

South Brunswick High School boys' basketball player Justin Carbone leads the fast break during the team's game against Middletown High School South in the semifinals of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 Tournament on March 7. South Brunswick defeated Middletown South 66-55, to advance to the sectional final. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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South Brunswick High School boys' basketball player Justin Carbone leads the fast break during the team's game against Middletown High School South in the semifinals of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 Tournament on March 7. South Brunswick defeated Middletown South 66-55, to advance to the sectional final. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

There were a lot of upsets on March 7 in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association boys’ and girls’ basketball state sectional tournaments.

And there was none bigger than the South Brunswick High School boys’ basketball team that surprised top-seeded Middletown High School South in the semifinals of the Central Jersey, Group 4 Tournament.

South Brunswick, the fourth seed, broke away from a tie in the fourth period and scored a 66-55 upset victory over Middletown South in Middletown.

South Brunswick will head to the Central Jersey, Group 4 state sectional final and face Marlboro High School on March 10.

Tied at 47-47 going into the fourth quarter, a three-pointer by junior Andrew Tesser led to the Vikings outscoring the Eagles, 19-8, the rest of the way for a spot in the state sectional final.

“They said that they didn’t want to go home to start that fourth quarter, so I told them they have to keep flying around and that good things were going to happen,” said South Brunswick coach Joe Hoehman. “We just stuck to what we’ve been doing all year. Our guys have worked so hard for this. I’m very proud of the effort our guys put in.”

Senior Devin Strickland led the way for the Vikings, when he scored a game-high 20 points.

Strickland came up huge for South Brunswick when it mattered the most, knocking in six points in the fourth quarter, including dishing a nice pass on the fast break in the final minute to Justin Carbone for a layup that put the final stamp on the semifinal victory for the Vikings.

Carbone finished with 14 points in the contest. The senior is averaging 21.9 points in the last 10 games for South Brunswick.

Sophomore Yathmin Vemula knocked in 13 points in the victory. In the final seconds of the first half, Vemula stepped back and hit a Kobe Bryant like jumper to give South Brunswick a 35-33 lead going into the half.

Vemula hit his second three-pointer of the contest in the first two minutes of the third quarter to extend the South Brunswick lead out to 40-33.

Middletown South stormed back on a 12-2 surge to take a 45-42 lead with 2:42 to go in the third quarter, before Tesser silenced the Middletown South student section with his first three-pointer of the night to tie the game at 45-45.

Senior Akhil Edekar added in two three-pointers as well in the victory for the Vikings, who now stand at 24-5 on the season.

For Middletown South, senior Bobby Pirie led the way with a team-high 19 points.

Pirie’s third shot made from behind the arc cut the South Brunswick lead to two with just under three minutes left to play.

The senior followed his own miss for a put back with 2:25 left to play that trimmed the Middletown South to 58-54.

That would be as close as Middletown South would get to South Brunswick, as the Vikings finished the game out on an 8-1 surge to claim the upset.

Senior James Anderson recorded 11 points in the season-ending loss for Middletown South, while teammate Mike Dabas scored 10 points in the contest.

Middletown South finished the season with a mark of 26-3.

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