In the continuing wrap-up of the recently ended 2007-08 season, GMC Hoops is honoring Cardinal McCarrick’s Mike Burwell, who turned in an incredible season in terms of just the shear numbers. Burwell, who began his career at Highland Park, and helped bring the Owls its first state tournament berth since the school won the Central Jersey Group I Championship back in the 2001-02 season, led the Eagles to its first GMCT crown since 2003, and the second one in school history. Transferring to McCarrick prior to the start of his junior year, ended up with 1,720 points for his career with nearly 800 of those points coming this year alone.
Burwell was amongst the top scorers in the state, and actually led all scorers in New Jersey with a 27.1 points per game average according to the web site, MaxPreps.com although not all coaches in the Garden State do not utilized the online high school sports site. Although he struggled to shoot from the floor in the nine games witnessed by GMC Hoops, he still managed to register a double-double over those games including a scoring average of 25 points per game. More importantly though, he helped the Eagles reach two consecutive Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament Championship games including the 2007 GMCT Final, which they lost to Piscataway.
Over the two years that Burwell was at Cardy Mac, the Eagles had compiled a record of 43-12 including a 19-7 mark in 2006-07, and a 24-5 record in 2007-08. The school won at least a share of two Blue Division Championships, made two GMCT Final Four berths, and 2004-05 team with 17 consecutive wins after enduring a 2-3 start to the season that included a difficult loss to arch rival Bishop Ahr in South Amboy on December 22nd. Burwell, who has garnered a great deal of interest from Division I schools including: Michigan, Colorado, Bradley, San Diego, Fordham, St. Bonaventure, Old Dominion, and South Florida, still has high aspirations even if he doesn’t meet his primary objective of playing someday in the NBA.
Burwell played varsity all four years he was in high school. His first two years at Highland Park, and his last two at McCarrick. After standing out as a freshman at HPHS during the 2004-05 season, Burwell began to create waves during the summer of 2005 when he helped lead the Owls to the Championship of the Middlesex County College Summer League. En route to the title, Highland Park knocked off a Carteret team (37-36) that had defeated Piscataway in the Quarterfinals. After beating the Ramblers, the Owls then defeated Blue Division rival, Spotswood (38-37) for the crown, and Burwell received MVP honors. Then, during the 2005-06 season, the then sophomore came into his own with a memorable performance in a losing cause to Metuchen at MHS on January 9th. In that game, Burwell scored 31 points, and nearly led the Owls to a remarkable comeback after trailing by twenty or so points in the first half. In the end though, the Bulldogs led by Marqus Blakely, DeJuan Miller, and company, were simply too much in a 70-64 win.
Much had been made about Burwell’s scoring this season, and you can’t dispute that with numerous 30 plus point games including several 40 point games. However, Burwell really made strides in the area of rebounding, where he averaged over 10 rebounds per game in the nine contests tracked by the web site. One of those games was a 17 rebound effort in the GMCT Semifinals versus Colonia. The 6′6″ senior forward even drew charges like the one he got against Bishop Eustace of Pennsauken in the Non-Public B Quarterfinals in South Amboy on February 29th. Thanks for all the memories, Mike, and best of luck in your future endeavors.
Good evening everyone. I’ve continued to keep the blog going with posts from time to time. As a matter of fact, this is my fourth blog entry for today. I have also been working on the GMC Hoops Awards, and I’m making progress. However, I’m not going to set any sort of date fro when these awards will be posted. I don’t want to end up letting people down. Hopefully, I will have them up much sooner than the start of next season in December. Anyway, one of many ways you could figure that I’ve seen too many high school basketball games this season is how I do on my NCAA Brackets.
This year, I submitted all ten of my possible entries on ESPN as well as one each on CBS Sportsline, FOX Sports, and BracketBoy.net. Now, I could sit back and say that I got some bad advice from Bracket Boy, but I know that if I had spent some time during the season watching some NCAA games, I would probably be in better shape right now. More importantly though, I love that big Orange Bubblehead of his. His columns in the Star-Ledger are very funny, and I always enjoy reading them this time of year. However, I bet many of you are probably in the same position that I’m in with my brackets. As a matter of fact there are probably many across the entire country that are feeling the same way I’m feeling right now.
Although my brackets have been busted, I must say that the action over the past several days have been quite riveting. Especially on Friday with the two big upsets in Tampa by Western Kentucky (over Drake in OT) and San Diego (over UConn), and then on Sunday with several great games including Butler-Tennessee, Memphis-Mississippi State, and Davidson-Georgetown. Top seeds North Carolina and Kansas look overpowering to this point. The Tar Heels in particular. It’s one thing to blow out Mount St. Mary of the NEC in the opening round, but to manhandle an Arkansas team that knocked off Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and then upended Indiana in the opening round is quite impressive. Then, there’s Louisville with the likes of Rahway’s Earl Clark, and Fanwood’s Derrick Caracter, who played at St. Patrick’s and Scotch Plains. The Cardinals were very impressive in dismissing Oklahoma in the second round. Memphis had their struggles against Mississippi State, and the Tigers free throw shooting will be their achilles heel if the home cooking of Houston doesn’t help Texas enough.
Davidson looks like this year’s George Mason although Kansas will be a tough obstacle to overcome if the Wildcats get that far. Stephen Curry, the son of former Charlotte Hornets sharpshooter, Dell Curry, has been phenomenal with 55 points combined in the second halves of the first two games of the NCAA tourney. So far, Curry has averaged 32.5 points per game in the tournament in victories over prominent basketball powers Gonzaga and Georgetown. Davidson entered the tournament like you would want your team to enter post-season play, on a hot streak with 22 consecutive victories. Another less likely Cinderella is Western Kentucky, which defeated San Diego to earn a Sweet 16 berth. The Hilltoppers, which last won an NCAA tournament game back in 1995 when South River native, Deon Jackson played at the school, have an up-tempo style that gives them a shot.
As far Final Four predictions…well, forget it!
It’s hard to believe at the beginning of the season that the Eagles of Cardinal McCarrick were 2-3. However, after the team won 17 straight games, and won its second ever GMCT crown, the team ended up with a 24-5 record, which edges the marks set by the 2003 Eagles (23-6) and the 2005 Eagles (23-5), which both won the GMC Hoops Trophy in addition to winning Blue Division and sectional crowns while the 2003 team won the school’s first ever GMCT. This year’s major winning streak actually equaled the mark set by the 2005 team, which also won 17 straight after starting that season at 3-3. The next loss that team would suffer would be against Andrew Bynum, Sean Baptiste, and the resurgent St. Joseph’s Falcons in the 2005 GMCT.
Now, if you are talking about titles and team accomplishments, the 2003 edition of the Cardinal McCarrick Eagles were the best ever. That year, Cardy Mac, which moved up to the Blue for the first time, won the division title, the GMCT, the Non-Public B South Championship, and the GMC Hoops Trophy. Meanwhile, the 2005 edition won the GMC Blue, Non-Public B South, and the GMC Hoops Trophy. This year’s Eagles only won the Blue Division (actually tied with Bishop Ahr) and won this year’s GMCT. However, Cardy Mac in 2007-08 won the most games in school history. This year’s Eagles had the high octane offense of its 2005 brethren while it also had the defense of its 2003 counterparts. In other words, it had the best of both worlds. Mike Burwell had the size of Mika Wilson, and the shooting ability of Kevin Olivieri. Julio Rosario is perhaps the most clutch player in the GMCT over the past two seasons, and Dominic Appiah provided the inside presence that the Eagles so desperately needed to make themselves a legitimate title contender at both the county and state levels.
The 2007-08 Eagles also found a way to win against teams that appeared on paper to be better than them. Like the 2002-03 edition, which defeated a very talented New Brunswick team twice during the regular season en route to the 2003 GMC Blue title, this year’s Eagles found a way to knock off top ranked Piscataway on a super human effort by Burwell, who scored 42 points including 34 in the second half and overtime despite playing with an injured shooting hand. Unfortunately, St. Rose of Belmar denied them their chance of perhaps making this debate. Had the Eagles won the Non-Public B South sectional title, they would have more than likely won this year’s GMC Hoops Trophy. Both honors would have equaled the accomplishments set by that 2003 McCarrick squad.
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ–For the second straight year, four teams from the Greater Middlesex Conference reached the Final Four of their respective sections in the various NJSIAA state tournaments held in March. Piscataway won the North Jersey Section 2 Group IV sectional title while Colonia reached the North Jersey Section 2 Group III sectional title game. Both Cardinal McCarrick and Middlesex reached the semifinals of their brackets. Now that did fall short of what was accomplished by the conference last season when South Brunswick won Central Jersey Group IV and Colonia won North Jersey Section 2 Group III, but the GMC still did quite well.
How did the conference manage to do this? Well, one key ingredient to the GMC’s continued success in state tourney play was the fact that the 29 teams in the league played much better against non-conference competition in 2007-08. After only attaining a record of 89-92 against foes from outside the GMC in 2006-07, they went 97-77 for a winning percentage of .577. Breaking things down by conference, the GMC was most successful against Independent teams with a 25-9 mark for a .735 percentage. However, the conference also performed quite competitively against the Colonial Valley Conference (7-6), Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic Association (5-3), Patriot Conference (8-4), Mountain Valley Conference (8-8), and the Watchung Conference (4-4). However, the teams in the GMC still struggled against the Skyland Conference (14-15) and the Shore Conference (13-16). In addition, the conference had a 6-0 mark against the CVC at one point before finishing 7-6.
Here are some of the notable non-conference wins by teams from the GMC in 2007-08:
- Piscataway over Linden
- Piscataway over Union
- Piscataway over Watchung Hills
- Piscataway over Immaculata
- Piscataway over Union
- Colonia over Rahway
- Colonia over Union Hill
- Colonia over Freehold Boro
- Colonia over Moore Catholic
- Cardinal McCarrick over Snyder
- Cardinal McCarrick over Hillside
- Middlesex over New Providence
- South Brunswick over Wayne Valley
- St. Joseph’s over Ridge
- St. Joseph’s over Moore Catholic
- St. Joseph’s over Hoboken
- St. Joseph’s over New Providence
- Metuchen over Secaucus
- East Brunswick over Asbury Park
- J.P. Stevens over Scotch Plains
- J.P. Stevens over Academy Charter
- Monroe over Point Pleasant Boro
The conference still has a long way to go, but the strides made in 2007-08 are important stepping stones for the 2008-09 season, and years further down the road.
For the fourth straight year, the Patriots of Colonia High School won at least a share of the GMC White Division crown. This year, it was an outright championship as Colonia emerged the winner in what turned out to be quite a horse race. It was also the tenth division championship the Pats have won since the Greater Middlesex Conference was formed back in the 1985-86 season. In addition, Colonia reached its 14th GMCT Final Four in the 22 year history of the tourney including its 8th berth in the last ten seasons. On top of all that, CHS made its fourth sectional finals berth in the past ten years as well as their eighth sectional Final Four berth since 1998.
Although Colonia did not win the GMCT, nor did it repeat as the North Jersey Section 2 Group III Champions, it still did accomplish a lot more than was expected of them after losing one of its starters early in the season. Nnamdi Usuwa left the team due to disciplinary reasons back, and the team struggled at mid-season with close losses at Woodbridge (69-66 on January 3rd), and at home to Sayreville (55-52 on January 8th), and Cardinal McCarrick (46-44 on January 16th). The low point then occurred two nights after the McCarrick loss when the Patriots traveled to Carteret, and were handed a 58-46 loss to the Ramblers, which were on a hot streak and appeared headed to its first division championship since joining the GMC White in the 2002-03 season. However, the Patriots showed what a top flight program it was. Unlike many programs, which would have mailed it in for the rest of the season, Colonia showed the heart of a champion by winning 10 of its last 13 games.
Included in the strong finish were victories over J.P. Stevens in the GMCT Elite Eight, Union Hill in the North Jersey Section 2 Group III Quarterfinals, and Rahway in the sectional semifinals. Obviously having Brandon Hall at the point guard position helped provided much needed leadership and stability during the difficult times earlier in the season. However, the improvement of juniors such as Mike Nweme played a helpful role as well. More importantly though, the fact that Colonia has been such an established program that has enjoyed tremendous success, and received a great deal of support from former players as well as the community also proved to be a key ingredient. Let’s not forget the work of second year head coach, Chris Chiera, who has learned plenty from his predecessor Ken Pace, and had the experience of the 1992-93 season as a player under the direction of former Metuchen head coach, Jack Krieger, to inspire the players to keep going when times got tough. In that 1992-93 season, Chiera along with teammate, Gene Derkack, and the rest of the Pats started the season at 0-12 before winning seven of their last eight to finish at 7-13.
Over the course of time one will find that there are many good programs in high school basketball, but what separates the great ones like Colonia from the rest is their ability to adapt not only from season to season, but during the course of a given year in order to maintain its high level of success.
With the end of the 2007-08 season, and the pending graduations of four of Piscataway’s five starters, many around the Greater Middlesex Conference may be wondering if the Chiefs will be coming back down to earth next season. The answer to that question is no. Piscataway has a solid group returning including the likes of current juniors Justin Blake, Thomas Bennett, Jeff Adkins, Aaron Hush, and Antoine Beverly along with sophomores Wayne Newsome and Malcolm Griggs.
In addition, the Junior Chiefs of Piscataway’s JV have a number of talented players coming up including Jamar Rose, Scott Kinney, Aaron Riggins, and Julius Nadarajah. The JV was seeded fourth in this season’s East Brunswick/GMC JV Tournament, and reached the Elite Eight before losing to eventual finalist, Bishop Ahr. Looking farther into the future, Piscataway’s freshmen have a number of talented players including Bryan Wong, Isiah Carrington, Thiemo Diallo, Danny Cole, Brandon Williamson, Herbie Donerson, Aaron Alexander, and Evan Wilkinson all coming up from a team that defeated Perth Amboy/GMC Freshmen Tourney top seed and finalist, East Brunswick twice during the regular season.
The late season play of Hush, Bennett, Blake, Adkins, and Newsome was particuarly encouraging. Hush played inspiring basketball the last month of the season from the Oak Hill game through to the state final while Bennett provided a nice change of pace off the bench during the state tourney drive. Blake, Adkins, and Newsome scored pivotal baskets when the Chiefs needed them particularly in their Quarterfinal round victory over Watchung Hills in the North Jersey Section 2 Group IV State Tournament.
Malcolm Griggs has been touted as one of the top players in the country for his age group, and has been patiently waiting for his chance the past two seasons at the JV level as a freshman and sophomore. He comes in along with Newsome as part of the much heralded P-Way freshman class from two seasons ago. Add all of this to the fact that another junior, Tristian Benjamin will be the lone returning starter from this year’s championship squad, and you have a team that will still be one to reckon with in 2008-09.
Two years ago, the state of Piscataway Hoops has fallen to unheard of depths of decline. P-Way basketball had always had a proud heritage going back to the days when it was unseeded and made it to the Championship Game of the 1968 Tournament to the mid-1970s when the school won back to back titles under the direction of Windy McGriff, and had such players as Rob Freeney, Sr., Duncan McGriff, Matt Madlinger, and Keith Powell to the dominant Chiefs of the 1990s under the guidance of Paul Schoeb, and with players such as Nate Grant, Bruce Alston, Corey Lowery, John Celestand, Justin Bailey, and Delvon McMillan. However, that 2005-06 campaign was one that made many scratch their heads, especially considering the fact that Rodney Freeney was one of the standout players on that team, and even became the school’s all time leading scorer as he broke the record held previously by Celestand.
It was late in that season when P-Way traveled to Cardinal McCarrick that second year head coach, Guy Jensen, the fourth head coach in the past eight seasons since Schoeb had left, decided to go with a change. He went with the future by putting the current crop of seniors including James White, Omar Smith, J.D. Griggs, and Bryan Waluk into the starting lineup. Although the team would lose that day to the Eagles, Jensen saw some promise, and a light began to shine at the end of the tunnel in that season of despair. The foundation for championships was built that day. Later that summer, the Chiefs competed at the last HawksBasketball Summer SlamFest, and finished second in the regular season to Hillsborough, and advanced to the Championship Game of the post-season tournament before losing to Plainfield (41-36) after giving the very talented Cards all they could handle in the final. League Director, Bob Gaydos felt that they were going to be heard from that season, and he was right. The off-season work continued into the fall at the Fall-Ball Classic in Plainfield, where the Chiefs finished tied for fourth with a 7-3 record in the regular season, and reached the semifinals of the post-season tournament before losing to Plainfield (64-38). Despite some bumps in the road during the pre-season, P-Way embarked on a campaign during 2006-07 that had even some fans thinking that they were the team to watch out for in that year’s GMCT.
Living up to the expectations of some, and defying those set by others, Piscataway went on to compile a 16-10 record, and win the 2007 GMCT over Cardinal McCarrick in the Championship after the Eagles had knocked off top seeded South Brunswick in thrilling fashion in the semifinals. Although the season would end for P-Way two days later against Watchung Hills in the opening round of the North Jersey Section 2 Group IV State Tournament, Chief basketball was back on the map, and enthusiasm in the town restored. Over the past two seasons, Piscataway compiled a record of 40-15, won its first regular season Red Division title since Celestand’s senior year in 1995, won its first GMCT in twelve years, and won its first sectional crown in thirteen seasons while making its first state finals appearance since 1994. Going from a year with a 4-20 record to a 24-5 mark two seasons later along with dethroning the two time Group IV State Champions in Linden to win its sectional title capped one of the tremendous turnarounds in GMC history. The senior class led by White, Smith, Griggs, and Waluk played a pivotal role in not only winning those titles over the past two seasons, but also re-energizing a program after what had been a difficult campaign two years earlier.
All of Piscataway should be thankful to these four players as well as reserves such as Tyshaun Jackson and Jeff Ihe for being the pioneers in this Piscataway Hoops renaissance.
Good evening. I continue to work on getting stuff into the blog. After all the work I put into the season, it’s been kind of weird to not have any games to go to, or tournaments to talk about. Well, anyway, there are still the memories to look back upon, and analyze. For instance, let’s take a look at the Piscataway Chiefs, and their run in the North Jersey Section 2 Group IV State Tournament. P-Way faltered in the semifinals of the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament against St. Joseph’s, but instead of putting its head in the sand, and calling it a day, the school turned a negative into a huge positive by taking a page from last year’s South Brunswick team.
For those who may have forgotten, the Vikings, which had been the number one team most of the season, and had earned the top seed in the 2007 GMCT, was knocked off by a Cardinal McCarrick team that it had dominated in a game at SBHS a month and a half earlier. Up to that point in the season, the Vikes had been just about invincible. The loss to the Eagles could have been a crippling one that it could have never recovered from. However, South Brunswick used the difficult defeat as motivation for a state tourney run. In a Central Jersey Group IV field that had top seeded Freehold Township with one loss, and a second seeded Rancocas Valley squad that was quite talented as well, South Brunswick relished the role of the underdog, and didn’t mind being written off. In the semifinals, the Vikings traveled to Mount Holly, and proceeded to run Rancocas Valley out of its own gym in a victory. Then, in the Championship Game, SBHS played up tempo again, and shot very well to garner its first sectional crown since 1974.
The run didn’t stop there though because two nights later, the Vikings took the long journey down the Garden State Parkway to Atlantic City, and defeated South Jersey Champion, Cherokee to earn its first state title game berth since Buddy Rose led the school to a surprising victory over an East Rutherford team led by Les Cason, and coached by none other than Dick Vitale in the 1968 Group I State Final. Unfortunately, the magical ride would end for the Vikes with a loss to two time Group IV State Champion, Linden in the final before 6,000 fans at the Rutgers Athletic Center. Similarly, Piscataway faced a similar proposition after losing to St. Joseph’s in the 2008 GMCT Final Four at South Brunswick High School. The North Jersey Section 2 Group IV Sectional Tournament field is always littered with mines from great teams such as the ones that lay in the Chiefs way: Watchung Hills, Union, and Linden.
The Chiefs played with something to prove in the tourney, and relished the role of the underdog despite the fact that they were the second seed in the tourney. Piscataway showed against Watchung Hills that it had regained the fire it had at the beginning of the season when it beat Immaculata and Seton Hall Prep in the 2007 Vaughn Stapleton Classic, and then soundly beat J.P. Stevens at JPS on January 3rd. The team hit on its shots from the perimeter and finished better on the inside despite some missed layups in the second half. P-Way had captured some of the offensive magic that had defined their 2007 GMCT run. While three teams from the mighty Watchung Conference stood in the Chiefs way, two of them had two knock each other out while the other had to come to Piscatway, and come away with a victory. Union, which had defeated Cardinal McCarrick several weeks earlier, couldn’t pull out the win against the Chiefs, which had amassed an unbeaten record at home in 2007-08.
In the Championship Game, P-Way took it to a Linden team, which had defeated the likes of Mount Vernon and St. Raymond’s from New York. J.D. Griggs, Tristian Benjamin, Omar Smith, and Aaron Hush bottled up 6′9″ center David Bruce while the Tigers mounted a second half rally in the third quarter, but couldn’t overtake the Chiefs. Once Piscataway rode out the storm, it was able to come away with the victory for its first sectional championship since 1995. The Red Division Champs then had a tougher time disposing of a much smaller, but fierce and fearless squad from Paterson Eastside, the North Jersey Section 1 Group IV Champs. However, in a more disappointing fashion, the Chiefs, which appeared to be on their way to winning its first state title since 1994, fell short of its dreams with a loss to Central Jersey Group IV Champion, Rancocas Valley in the state final.
Both teams overcame very difficult setbacks in the Final Four of the GMCT to make fine runs in the state tournament, and knock off highly touted opponents en route to sectional championships, and berths in the state finals.
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ–It was a banner year for GMC Hoops in terms of activity in 2007-08. After having somewhat of a down year in 2006-07 following the eradication of the ill-fated message board, the web site rebounded this season. For the period running from December 1, 2007 to March 10, 2008, the web site received a grand total of 2,239,017 hits. That averaged out to approximately 22,169 hits per day over the 101 days of the GMC Boys Basketball season.
Peak one day activity on the site was reached as usual on the day the seeds for the 2008 GMCT were given out with over 44,000 hits on February 8th, which is a new site record. In addition, the month of February as a whole received some 821,000 hits, which is also a record. January was a busy month as well with 729,000, which ranks only behind the 2005-06 season in terms of activity for that particular month all time. December, the first month of the hoops season, saw a total of approximately 538,000 hits. Special thanks to all the fans for their continued support.
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ–With the completion of the 2007-08 Boys Basketball Season for GMC Hoops, the site’s webmaster and owner, Greg Machos personally saw some 104 games including Piscataway’s victory over Linden in the North Jersey Section 2 Group IV sectional championship, which happened to be the 100th game of the season. In addition, the GMC Volunteers chipped in to the tune of seeing a total of 49 contests. So, in total the site covered and provided some sort of information on 153 games this past season.
As mentioned several other times during the course of the season, the web site also witnessed seven college games and six high school football games as well as nine scrimmages. Add that all together and GMC Hoops collected quite a few splinters in the rear with 126 games of some sort since November. All time, Greg Machos has seen some 621 high school basketball games since the inception of the web site in the 2000-01 season. Breaking down how many teams Machos saw each team in the GMC this season, 26 of the 29 teams were seen at least two times. Of those 26 teams seen twice, 21 of them were seen at least three times, and 13 teams at least four times.