St. Joseph’s Trying to Win 9th GMCT Crown in 10 Years; P-Way Going for 1st Title in 10 Years
EDISON, NJ–Following the 2019 GMCT Girls Championship between 2nd seeded Edison and top seeded Bishop Ahr at 6:00 PM, old GMC Red rivals will meet for the fourth time ever in GMCT Boys Championship history as 5th seeded Piscataway takes on 3rd seeded St. Joseph’s in the 2019 GMCT Boys Championship at Middlesex County College at 8:00 PM.
This game between the Chiefs and Falcons will be the third time that they have played each other this year with each team winning a regular season match-up on their home court. Before tonight, these two proud basketball programs have played each other three previous times in the GMCT Boys Championship Game, Piscataway, which joined the conference for the 1988-89 academic year, has defeated Joes twice in 1991 (33-29) and in 2009 (63-58). The Falcons won the last meeting in 2011 to repeat as GMCT Boys champs after winning their first conference title since 1999 over Monroe in 2010.
Both teams battled through a rugged GMC Red Division schedule to finish 2nd and 3rd respectively behind Old Bridge. In addition, the two schools have played a very tough non-conference schedule with the Chiefs taking on the likes of Linden, Elizabeth, West Orange, Barringer, and Trenton while the Falcons have battled the likes of Seton Hall Prep, St. Anthony’s of Long Island, Kellenberg of Long Island, St. Benedict’s Prep, St. Peter’s Prep, Hudson Catholic, and Snyder of Jersey City.
Each team had a good deal of talent returning for the 2018-19 season. Even though Piscataway (16-9) graduated the likes of Jordan Davidson (U of Science in Philadelphia), Mattias Arrindell (Ramapo), and Keshawn Grant (College of St. Elizabeth), and had the athletic and talented junior, Derrick Grant transfer to Bishop Ahr, the program remained in good shape since the JV program had won the East Brunswick/GMC JV Tournament in each of the past two seasons, and the Freshmen program won the Perth Amboy/GMC Freshmen tourney two years ago.
St. Joseph’s (17-8) had reached the JV Championship two seasons ago before losing to Piscataway, and also lost in the Freshmen final to the Chiefs. One of the key players on the Falcons freshmen team two years ago was big man Andrew Olden while Kristian Hernandez, a standout football player for the Chiefs this past fall, was the GMC Hoops selection for MVP of the Perth Amboy/GMC Freshmen Tournament Team two years ago, and on the All East Brunswick/GMC JV Tournament Team last year.
Darius Griffin has turned around a Chiefs program that had been winning in the single digits four to five years ago to the point where it has made three straight GMCT Elite Eight appearances and its first GMCT Final Four and Championship Game appearance since 2011. Mike Thompson has continued to keep St. Joseph’s as a contender in the GMC Red and the GMCT despite the tumult prior to his arrival a year ago. Thompson has also managed to right the ship of a Falcons team that was 5-6 at mid-season by guiding them to 11 wins in their last 13 including victories over St. Peter’s Prep, Old Bridge, and Colonia.
The keys to this game will be tempo and defense. The team who is able to stop the other more effectively, and impose their style and will on this contest will in. Piscataway came out guns blazing against 9th seeded New Brunswick in the nightcap semifinal on Thursday night. The Chiefs did pretty much the same thing in an 83-68 win over the Falcons in their first meeting at P-Way back in December. Meanwhile, St. Joe’s did a tremendous job stopping Colonia from running and gunning in the earlier semifinal. Most of the scoring plays were only by the duo of Chad Baker and Luke Valeriano, and more importantly, the two mostly were forced to score from the perimeter. If the Falcons do a similar job tonight against Piscataway, they will win their 4th straight title and 9th in the past 10 years.
Another subtle, but still very crucial element will be rest. With both teams playing the second of a back to back, fatigue could develop into a factor in the second half. St. Joseph’s would appear to have the advantage from an initial glance because they played the earlier semifinal game versus Colonia at 6:00 PM. However, the Chiefs had a much easier time disposing of New Brunswick than the Falcons did of the second seeded Patriots. In addition, Coach Griffin made a smart decision of resting his top players big giving his reserves considerable playing time in the second half after Piscataway had established a 20 point lead.
GMC Hoops Pick: St. Joseph’s 61—Piscataway 58