Two Interesting Match-Ups Tonight in GMCT Girls Final Four on Tuesday Night
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—On Tuesday night, GMC Hoops will be traveling to New Brunswick High School to cover the 2019 Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament’s Girls Semifinals. It will be the first time ever that GMC Hoops will be covering the GMCT Girls Final Four, and I’m happy to say we’re finally doing it.
Anyway, both semifinal games have interesting backdrops to them. First, the 6:00 PM semifinal between 3rd seeded J.P. Stevens and 2nd seeded Edison is a rematch from an earlier game played between these two schools in North Edison won by the Lady Eagles on January 12th. The other match-up features a Middlesex team that defeated last year’s GMCT champ, Piscataway twice including a 53-47 win in the GMCT Girls Elite Eight on Saturday evening against top seeded Bishop Ahr.
Both games have interesting subplots in the sense that J.P. Stevens and Edison are fierce crosstown rivals. James Corrigan will tell you that people in Edison have very passionate views on this rivalry. Whenever these two teams meet whether it is in football, boys or girls basketball, baseball, or any other sport, it is a huge community event. So, expect a big crowd for this one at NBHS. Stevens comes in as the Red Division Champion while Edison, which also reached last year’s GMCT Championship, and defeated Piscataway back in January this year, finished 2nd to Bishop Ahr in the White.
In the nightcap, Middlesex girls head coach, Kevin Harper gets the opportunity to face off against his old team, Bishop Ahr, where he coached for many years, and compiled a career record of 468-206 before being dismissed in April 2016. Harper has moved on though, and has brought a Middlesex girls program that was already on the rise to heights never seen before in the community. Harper surpassed the legendary Reggie Carney, who coached at Hoffman (now South Amboy) and East Brunswick, as the winningest girls basketball coach in Middlesex County in December 2017, and has compiled a 45-8 record in his two seasons at Middlesex including a 21-2 mark going into tonight’s semifinal game.
Let’s take a little bit of a closer look at both games:
GMCT Girls Semifinal #1—#3 J.P. Stevens (18-5) vs. #2. Edison (18-5) at 6:00 PM at New Brunswick HS
Edison has been to this stage before a year ago, where the Lady Eagles knocked off then top seeded East Brunswick at Spotswood HS to punch its ticket to the RAC. As briefly mentioned earlier, EHS defeated Stevens in a regular season crossover game, 49-42 in North Edison on January 12th. In that game, the Lady Eagles were led by Lourdes Marasigan with 19 points including two threes while newly crowned all time leading scorer, Samira Sargent (1,484 points) chipped in with 14 points. Megan Duffy led the Lady Hawks in defeat with 13 points while Karly Wittenbauer added 10, and Disha Prabhudesai chipped in with 9.
The Hawks had two hard fought victories over last year’s GMCT Champion, Piscataway to earn the regular season, GMC Red crown. Edison, also defeated P-Way on the Chiefs home court on January 19th (69-60), and have had two of its five losses come at the hands of top seeded Bishop Ahr including a 59-43 loss at BGA on January 10th, and a 59-38 defeat at home on February 2nd. In the quarterfinal win over 7th seeded South River (50-37), Sargent teamed up with center Daniella Marmol, who turned in a solid effort for 12 points each while Latayjah Jenkins chipped in with 10 points including two threes. One of Jenkins threes beat the buzzer to end the third to give the Lady Eagles a 38-27 lead.
Prior to Edison defeating South River, J.P. Stevens took the floor against 11th seeded Old Bridge in the first GMCT Girls Quarterfinal of the day on Saturday. The Lady Knights had knocked off Stevens in their most recent meeting prior to Saturday, which not only got the Knights on a roll going into the tournament, but also force the Lady Hawks to have to beat Piscataway a second time around in order to secure the GMC Red crown. In the win over Old Bridge in the quarterfinals, Stevens broke away from a 25-17 halftime lead with a 18-3 third quarter surge to go on to win, 54-28.
Kayla Gatling turned in a monster performance with a double-double of 19 points and 14 rebounds while Karly Wittenbauer added 10 points and 8 boards. Megan Duffy also chipped in with 9 points and 13 boards. I think the keys for Edison in this game is the play inside of Marmol as well as the outsider shooting of Jenkins, which gives opponents another couple things to worry about other than Sargent, who can also make plays in other ways with her defense and playmaking. Kenisha Chester is also another player that the Lady Hawks must be aware of. Kayla Gatling only had 6 points and 7 rebounds for Stevens in the loss to Edison earlier in the year. If Gatling could to put up about 13 points and 10 boards JPS may have a really good chance of winning.
GMC Hoops Pick: Edison 48—J.P. Stevens 45.
GMCT Girls Semifinal #2—#4 Middlesex (21-2) vs. #1. Bishop Ahr (22-3) at 8:00 PM at New Brunswick HS
In the nightcap, Middlesex, the GMC Blue Division champ, who defeated last year’s champion, Piscataway twice as well as recently beating Union Catholic and Roselle Catholic will face off against a Bishop Ahr team that defeated defending NJSIAA TOC champ, Manasquan as well as lost to the current No. 1 team in New Jersey, Franklin, which was last year’s TOC Girls runner-up and 2017 TOC Girls Champion.
Ahr, which is led by the likes of Emma Boslet and Kelsey Ransom, has only lost to three teams all year, Franklin, Trenton Catholic and Winslow. After losing to Winslow, the Lady Trojans, which had started the year at 4-0, won, 16 in a row before losing to Franklin on February 11th. BGA also has other talented players including Akiyah Baker, Madison Ruddy, Megan Herka, and Morgan Maguire. Gina deLutio and Trinity Upton also contributed in Ahr’s 73-39 win over 9th seeded East Brunswick in the GMCT Quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, Middlesex, which rolled past Dunellen in the 2018 Shello-Santy Holiday Tournament Girls Championship back in December, is led by the likes of Carly Santucci, Olivia Robel, Brianna Montajes, Kristen Yonker, Jessica Forte, Gianna Canavescio, Sarah Pundock, and Madison Robel. Both Olivia and Madison Robel are the younger sister’s of recent MHS graduate and boys hoops standout, Jake Robel, who is now playing NCAA Division 3 men’s basketball for Wilkes University near Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania.
Neither of these teams have played each other during the year. Bishop Ahr is undefeated in GMC play this season including a record of 16-0 in the GMC White while Middlesex was 12-0 in the GMC Blue, and only has one loss in conference play, a 54-33 decision to another semifinalist, J.P. Stevens on January 2nd in North Edison. The Lady Blue Jays also were defeated by Newton of Sussex County (52-33) on February 6th at home. Ahr will be tough to beat in this game, but as we all know, Harper has something to prove to everyone at BGA, and his girls will be looking to shock the world as well.
The keys will be how Middlesex will try to defend Ahr, and stop both Boslet and Ransom. Then, the Lady Jays will also have to deal with Madison Ruddy, a fine three point threat in her own right. Megan Herka clogs up the middle, but also plays a fine team game by looking to make plays for her teammates out of the post and scrapping for loose balls and rebounds. Olivia Robel will be a huge key for Middlesex. Her unselfishness and play making ability will be vital for the Lady Jays to be able to hang around in this one. Hanging around will be the biggest key of all for the Middlesex. They must take this game one play at a time, one minute at a time, and one quarter at a time.
GMC Hoops Pick: Bishop Ahr 56—Middlesex 39