TRENTON, NJ–It was the second ever visit for GMC Hoops to Sovereign Bank Arena, and while it was still fun with a great view of the semifinal action from the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions, there was still a good deal of disappointment in the experience. The time had at the Ritacco Center for the Quarterfinal round was far better.
The Sovereign Bank Arena experience is much more like the Rutgers Athletic Center, or Rutgers Stadium Experience with a $6.00 charge for parking, and a $3.50 price for a bottled water! At Ritacco, there was no charge for parking, and $3.00 for a bottle of Gatorade. Then, there was the added insult of not being able to bring in the video camera to film the game. A similar thing happened to me at the RAC last year for the 2008 Prime Time Shootout.
However, I still fared better than some others, who attended the game. One proud parent of Lenape expressed his disgust after paying $40.00 for getting his tickets online. His price included several fees for processing his order. I only paid $8.00 for my seat after paying for it at the ticket window, and the one bright spot was that it was a very good view of the action. Not exactly at center court, but for $5.00 less, it was still very nice. Speaking of the ticket window, there was another source of consternation. The wait to get the tickets was unbearable. I had gotten there right at 5:30 PM give or take a few minutes. I didn’t get to sit down at my seat until the intermission of the first game with Science Park leading 21-20 over Immaculata.
I have waited online for tickets at Rutgers for the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament Championship, and the State Finals, but my wait was no where near as long. At least Rutgers takes care of you quickly so you don’t spend much time in line. My last trip to Sovereign Bank Arena for the 2005 Prime Time Shootout was when I was able to get a pass from the folks at the Prime Time so I wasn’t subjected to any of the pricing that I was exposed to. All of this coupled with a real downer of a game between St. Pat’s and Lenape, I came away from it all somewhat disappointed.
TRENTON, NJ–Last Friday, GMC Hoops concluded its ninth season of coverage with a trip to Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton to take in the semifinal round of the 2009 Tournament of Champions. It was the second trip ever to SBA, and the first since 2005 when the site took in that year’s Prime Time Shootout including a game that featured St. Joseph’s of Metuchen, led by Andrew Bynum, knocking off Rochester East.
Despite getting to the venue on time at 5:30 PM, the site had to wait through a long line to buy tickets for the event. There were a lot of Immaculata fans there to see the Spartans match up against Science Park in the opener of the doubleheader. Consequently, GMC Hoops wasn’t able to begin taking in the action until the third quarter. Science Park, the Group II State Champion, and Quarterfinal round winner over crosstown and divisional rival, University, led at the half by the score of 21-20. The Spartans roared out of the gate to start the second half with an 18-7 showing including a 12-2 spurt to take a 38-28 lead.
Immaculata, the Non-Public A Champion, and second seed in the tournament, looked to be on its way to its first ever T of C Championship Game appearance as they got two threes from Matt Dudzinski (10 points), a three from Theo Riddick (21 points), and several long range shots from Gamal Mohammed (13 points) to take its double digit lead. However, behind the leadership and scoring of Rameel Johnson (25 points) and Kenneth Ortiz (16 points), and the timely contributions and inside presence of 6′7″ sophomore center, Ramon Johnson, the Chargers from the Colonial Hills Conference, rallied to the tune of a 21-4 surge for a 49-42 lead, and the Spartans never recovered in a 59-49 defeat.
Neither team had a lead bigger than 10 points in the second half while there were five lead changes and two ties in the final 16 minutes of action. Ortiz, who had a mammoth effort in the Quarterfinals against Group I State Champion, University with 33 points, entered the finals of the T of C against St. Patrick’s with 24.5 points per game average in the first two rounds. Rameel Johnson, who seemed frustrated with Immaculata’s 2-3 zone in the third quarter, still wound up averaging 23 points per game over the first two rounds of the ultimate in state tourneys.
Despite the determined spirit of the Lenape fans, the nightcap game lacked much drama as top seeded St. Patrick’s jumped out to a 6-0 lead, and led 18-7 at the end of the first quarter. Lenape, the Group IV State Champion, closed to within 19-11 before the Celtics, the Non-Public B State Champion, scored 13 of the next 20 points for a 32-17 lead. Lenape, a member of the Olympic Conference, got a three point play in the final minute, and a layup as time was running out in the first half from Kendall Peters (9 points including 7 in the second quarter).
The third quarter saw the top ranked Celtics take over with an 18-4 onslaught over the first 5:56 for a 50-24 lead. Junior transfer Kyrie Irving (20 points), sophomore center Michael Gilchrist (13 points), and senior Dexter Strickland (12 points) caused trouble all game with Irving getting 15 of his points in the second half including 11 in the third quarter alone. Lenape fought valiantly, but was outgunned, and never recovered in a 66-40 loss. Mike Celestin, the hero of the Indians last second victory over Neptune with his second game winning shot in the last five games, chipped in for the losers with 7 points.
TOMS RIVER, NJ–Last Wednesday, March 18th, GMC Hoops took its second ever trip to the Ritacco Center to see the two quarterfinal round games of the 2009 NJSIAA Tournament of Champions. The last time the site traveled down the Garden State Parkway to Exit 82 was back in December 2007 to see the opening round of the WOBM Classic between Old Bridge and the host school, Toms River North. However, the site did not visit the Poland Springs Arena portion of the center since the game between the Knights and the Mariners was played in Toms River North’s gym.
The site managed to get out there just in time to catch and take video footage of both games between the Group III State Champion, Neptune and the Group IV Champion, Lenape as well as the finale between two rival schools from Newark, and the Colonial Division of the Colonial Hills Conference, Science Park, the Group II State Champion, and University, the Group I State Champion. Both games were quite competitive although they contrasted in styles.
The first game between Neptune and Lenape was a defensive struggle. The Scarlet Fliers jumped out to a 9-0 lead, but then let the Indians, which knocked off West Windsor Plainsboro-South in the Group IV Semifinals, and then North Jersey Section 1 Group IV Champion, Paterson Eastside in the State Championship, back into the game. Nevertheless, Neptune, a member of the Shore Conference, and playing not too far from its backyard, still had the lead late, and should have probably won the game. However, the Scarlet Fliers took an ill-advised three pointer, and then missed critical free throws down the stretch that set the stage for beleaguered Lenape guard, Mike Celestin, who struggled for much of the game, to put in a last second layin for the 41-40 victory.
The nightcap was fast and furious with the Phoenix of University of Newark, known more for its girls team, taking it too its crosstown and conference rival that had defeated it twice in regular season play this year. However, behind 33 points from senior guard, Kenneth Ortiz, and a strong 27-17 showing in the fourth quarter for a 71-59 Science Park victory, and a three game season series sweep. Ortiz scored 13 points in the decisive fourth quarter while Rameel Johnson added 21 for the game to help the winning cause. Fifth seeded Lenape advanced to take on top seeded St. Patrick’s while third seeded Science Park got a match-up against second seeded Immaculata on Friday night, March 20th.
GMC Hoops had a great time heading down to Ritacco and getting back into the game that it loves to follow for all of you.
TRENTON, NJ–Although the season came to somewhat of a disappointing end, the 2008-09 Immaculata Spartans still put together another surprising run through the state tournament to reach the semifinal round of the Tournament of Champions for the second consecutive year. Immaculata, which also won the regular season championship of the Delaware East Division of the Skyland Conference, and the Somerset County Tournament Championship over Ridge High School, finished the season with a 26-4 record including 15 straight victories.
Among those victories were wins over perennial powerhouse programs such as Don Bosco Prep of Ramsey, St. Joseph’s of Montvale, Seton Hall Prep, and CBA of Lincroft. Immaculata, which had a similar run into the Tournament of Champions Semifinals before losing to eventual champion St. Anthony’s of Jersey City, had lost two in a row including a defeat at the hands of St. Joseph’s of Metuchen in the 2009 Prime Time Shootout thanks to a solid performance by Nikko Vastola. Thanks to their fine run, the Spartans were rewarded a bye, and a second seed in this year’s T of C.
Immaculata had shutdown a CBA team that had taken a 27-10 lead in the first half, and eventual 58-48 victory against St. Joe’s of Metuchen in the semifnals of the Non-Public A South State Tournament at the Bird Cage back on March 7th. In addition to those quality wins in the states, Immaculata also defeated Scotch Plains, a team that had a fine run in the state tourney itself with a finals appearance in the North Jersey Section 2 Group III, where it was dethroned by Newark Shabazz, Irvington from the Watchung Conference, Ridge (twice), Notre Dame of Lawrenceville, Pennsauken, and Penn Charter.
BOUND BROOK, NJ–Recently, GMC Hoops received an e-mail from Bound Brook High School varsity basketball head coach, Anthony Melesurgo regarding the upcoming 2009 Bound Brook Summer League. Once again, the league is looking to expand and grow from last year, when there was a total of 12 teams from just 6 the year before. For more information, check out the Bound Brook Basketball web site.
NEPTUNE, NJ–Believe it or not, the off-season schedule is going to begin in two and a half weeks. Starting Monday, April 13th, the 2009 Hoop Group Boys Spring League, which used to be known as the Rebounds Spring League will begin play. There will be a guaranteed 8 games for each team in the league, and games will be played every Monday night. Cost for the league is $600.00 per team. For more information, contact Joe Stein at 732-897-3196, or Joe@HoopGroup.com. You can also obtain a registration form online.
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ–While it is true that the overall season schedule completed by GMC Hoops was far less than it has been in past years, and what was expected, the site still managed to log in quite a few miles traveling to various places for showcase events and tournaments. Below are all the locales that the web site traveled to in 2008-09.
- Philadelphia University–2008-09 GMC Hoops College Schedule Opening Game
- Monmouth University–2008 Hoop Group Philly Classic
- Union High School–2008 Hoop Group Tip-Off Classic
- Bound Brook High School–2008 Crusader Classic
- Rahway High School–2008 John “Butch” Kowal Tournament
- Roselle Park High School–2008 Roselle Park Tournament
- Rutgers Athletic Center–2009 GMCT Championship
- Jackson Liberty High School–2009 Non-Public B South Championship
- Ritacco Center–2009 Tournament of Champions Quarterfinals
- Sovereign Bank Arena–2009 Tournament of Champions Semifinals
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ–Good evening everyone. Over the last month or so since I began getting back on the trail again, I’ve been compiling a great deal of video highlights. Unfortunately, I had a crash on my new hard drive so I haven’t been able to seriously get to work on them. I have highlights from the following games that I saw:
- St. Joseph’s vs. Cardinal McCarrick–2009 GMCT Semifinals
- Monroe vs. Piscataway–2009 GMCT Semifinals
- Cardinal McCarrick vs. Piscataway–2009 East Brunswick/GMC JV Tournament Semifinals
- Hillsborough vs. Monroe–2009 East Brunswick/GMC JV Tournament Semifinals
- Monroe vs. Bishop Ahr–2009 Perth Amboy/GMC Freshmen Tournament Consolation
- Piscataway vs. St. Joseph’s–2009 Perth Amboy/GMC Freshmen Tournament Championship
- St. Joseph’s vs. Piscataway–2009 GMCT Championship
- Piscataway at Colonia–2009 North Jersey Section 2 Group IV Quarterfinals
- Perth Amboy Tech at East Brunswick Tech–2009 Central Jersey Group I Quarterfinals
- Red Bank Catholic at St. Joseph’s–2009 Non-Public A South Quarterfinals
- Middlesex at Spotswood–2009 Central Jersey Group II Semifinals
- St. Rose at Cardinal McCarrick–2009 Non-Public B South Semifinals
- Cardinal McCarrick vs. Trenton Catholic Academy–2009 Non-Public B South Championship
- Lenape vs. Neptune–2009 Tournament of Champions Quarterfinals
- Newark University vs. Newark Science Park–2009 Tournament of Champions Quarterfinals
Note: –I was unable to get video highlights of the two semifinal games from the Tournament of Champions since I was not allowed to bring my camera inside Sovereign Bank Arena. I also have video highlights from the finale of the first day of action at the 2008 Hoop Group Tip-Off Classic between CBA and Union back in December.
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ–Despite the much shorter schedule this season, GMC Hoops still made it around to enough games to determine this year’s GMC Hoops Trophy winner, and for the second straight year, it was the Piscataway Chiefs. P-Way, which won its second Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament Championship in three seasons, and advanced to its second straight North Jersey Section 2 Group IV Championship Game, compiled an unblemished 4-0 record in games seen by the web site. St. Joseph’s finished second at 3-1 while Cardinal McCarrick finished third at 3-2. While GMC Hoops did not see every GMC team this season, it did see 23 of the 29 teams in the conference at least once.
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ–Despite the fact that GMC Hoops went offline for a month and a half in terms of seeing actual games, and also for two months since last posting, the site still managed to get out to 43 games this year. The site got back on track to see the final week of action in the various GMC Tournaments at all levels, and each of the sectional state tournaments involving GMC Teams. It also made a first by going to the Tournament of Champions this year. Below is an itinerary of what the site has seen over the past several weeks.
- 2009 GMCT Preliminary Round–Edison at J.P. Stevens
- 2009 GMCT Round of 16–Spotswood at Bishop Ahr
- 2009 GMCT Final Four–St. Joseph’s vs. Cardinal McCarrick and Monroe vs. Piscataway
- 2009 East Brunswick/GMC JV Tournament Final Four–Piscataway vs. Cardinal McCarrick and Monroe vs. Hillsborough
- 2009 Perth Amboy/GMC Freshmen Tournament–Consolation–Monroe vs. Bishop Ahr and Championship–St. Joseph’s vs. Piscataway
- 2009 GMCT Championship–St. Joseph’s vs. Piscataway
- 2009 Central Jersey Group IV State Tournament–Steinert at Sayreville
- 2009 North Jersey Section 2 Group IV State Tournament–Piscataway at Colonia
- 2009 Central Jersey Group I State Tournament–Perth Amboy Tech at East Brunswick Tech
- 2009 Non-Public A South State Tournament–Red Bank Catholic at St. Joseph’s
- 2009 Central Jersey Group II State Tournament–Middlesex at Spotswood
- 2009 Non-Public B South State Tournament–St. Rose at Cardinal McCarrick
- 2009 Non-Public B South Championship–Cardinal McCarrick vs. Trenton Catholic
- 2009 Tournament of Champions Quarterfinals–Lenape vs. Neptune and University vs. Science
- 2009 Tournament of Champions Semifinals–Science vs. Immaculata and Lenape vs. St. Patrick’s
Note: All Games involving GMC teams were counted toward the GMC Hoops Trophy Standings.