J.P. Stevens Standout Displays Trademark Athleticism to Earn MVP Honors
Naysean Burch of J.P. Stevens rocks the rim with this dunk towards the end of the first half in the 2019 GMCBCA Senior Boys All-Star Game played at Middlesex County College on Wednesday night. Burch earned Game MVP honors as the Visiting Team won, 127-122.
EDISON, NJ—At the beginning of the 2018-19 GMC boys basketball season, J.P. Stevens had an historic start. The Hawks, ranked 8th in the GMC Hoops Pre-Season Top 10, won 7 straight games to begin the season including victories over St. Joseph’s and Bishop Ahr.
Joes wound up being the GMCT Champion and Ahr was ranked number one in NJ.com’s poll prior to the start of the 2019 GMCT. It would be Stevens best start to a boys basketball season since 2007-08, and senior Naysean Burch played a key role in the team’s early season success. He also played an important part in the Hawks picking themselves up off the floor late in the season including a come from behind effort that just fell short against Union in the opening round of the 2019 NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2 Group 4 playoffs.
However, Burch perhaps saved his best for last as he took the floor for the final time in high school competition in the 2019 GMCBCA Senior Boys All-Star Game at Middlesex County College on Wednesday night in Edison. Burch stood out taller than the rest in a showcase of athleticism that included numerous dunks by the Stevens standout to earn Game MVP honors and lead the Visiting Team All-Stars (White T-Shirts) to a 127-122 win in a game that featured the GMC’s most talented seniors such as Chad Baker (Colonia), Antonio Chandler (Piscataway), Jahlil Nix (Carteret), Tyree Barba-Bey (Piscataway), and Josh Daniels (Monroe).
Trailing 71-55 at the half after the Home Team All-Stars (Black T-Shirts) broke away from a 22-20 first half lead with a 49-35 surge to end the opening period, the Visiting Team All-Stars (White T-Shirts) took off in the second half with a 26-10 surge to begin the final 20 minutes capped a steal and score by South River’s newest member of the 2,000 point club, Derrick Whitaker to tie the game at 81-81 with 13:25 remaining in the game.
The Visiting Team then scored 24 of the next 35 points including a two handed jam and a putback by Burch to take a 105-92 lead with 7:45 to go in the contest. Over the first 12:15 of the second half, the Visiting Team Senior All-Stars had outscored the Home Team Senior All-Stars by a margin of 50-21 to take a double digit lead. Burch led the way in the comeback, but also got help from Chandler, Nix, Thomas Johnson (Edison), Jaijuan Macklin (Sayreville), Kean University bound Jaelen Hymes of Woodbridge, Matt Vento of Spotswood, and Jared Meyer of Old Bridge.
Even Monroe’s Matt Kides and North Brunswick’s Delano Whitfield contributed with a couple of threes for the Visiting Team during the key surge. The Home Team did its best to manage the onslaught with threes from Gold Division standouts, Noah Wenzel of Dunellen and Hiram Cibrian of Calvary Christian as well as a three point play from Amboy Tech’s Yire Belliard. The Home Team responded with a 24-13 rally that included scores from Barba-Bey, an alleyoop dunk off the backboard from Barba-Bey to Baker, two free throws from Daniels, and a layup and a one handed slam by Marquise Billingsley of Bishop Ahr to close the gap to 118-116 with 2:34 remaining in the game.
The Home Team Senior All-Stars were unable to get any closer though as Chandler netted a three to spark the Visiting Team to the victory with a 9-2 finish over the next 1:35 or so for a 127-118 lead with about a minute to play. Highlighting the run were an alleyoop dunk by Chandler off a feed from Meyer with about 1:45 remaining, and then a ferocious one handed slam by Burch followed by a one handed dunk off a steal by Nix for the nine point lead. The Home Team All-Stars then closed out the scoring with a follow by Billingsley and a layup by Barba-Bey in the closing seconds.
The game was like most High School All-Star Games with not much defense, fast paced action, and highlight reel plays at both ends. This year’s contest was most notable for the amount of dunks attempted. For example, within the first few minutes of the game, five dunks were made including two by Baker, who scored the first 10 points of the contest for the Home Team Senior All-Stars as he and Travis Cumber made the most of their transition opportunities. Baker had two dunks and two threes to start the game while Nix kept the Visiting Team Senior All-Stars close with a layup and a putback dunk that rocked the MCC gym.
Over the first six or so minutes of the game, both teams combined for 38 points as the Home Team Senior All-Stars jumped out to a 22-16 lead before Johnson, who figured prominently in helping the Visiting Team mount its second half comeback, scored twice over the next 35 to 40 seconds including a putback of a missed dunk to pull his squad within two at 22-20 with 13:25 to play in the first half. The Home Team then scored 10 of the next 17 points before Johnson scored again on a follow to close the gap to 32-29. Then, the Home Team took over for the rest of the first half.
Despite a one handed jam from Hymes, a football and basketball standout at Woodbridge, that made it a 48-37 game at the 4:56 mark of the first half, the Home Team managed to outscored the Visiting Team by a margin of 39-26 over the final half of the opening period to take a 71-55 lead. Burch did manage to provide a spark for the Visiting Team Senior All-Stars going into the half with an emphatic left handed dunk that brought a roar from the crowd and an #Oh Doctor! Tweet from James Corrigan.
Johnson then took over for a bit as he opened the second half. After the Home Team opened the half with a score from South Brunswick’s Ron Qavolli for a 73-55 lead, Johnson scored on a breakaway at about the 18:40 mark, handed out an assist on a pass downcourt to Macklin for another score at the 18:25 mark, scored on a putback off a missed jumper at about the 18:05 mark, and threw down a one handed dunk in transition off a pass from Wardlaw’s Ryan Petela at about the 17:45 mark to close the margin to 73-62.
After a three by the Visiting Team pulled it within single digits at 73-65, Johnson got a rebound off a missed three point attempt, dribbled upcourt and passed ahead to Macklin, who lobbed the ball back to him for a two handed alleyoop layup to make the score 73-67 with about 16:27 to play. Johnson then added a block and a steal on the next defensive series that led to his feed to Macklin for another transition layup that narrowed the deficit to four. Following Wenzel’s trey that gave the Home Team a 76-69 lead, Macklin answered with a putback at the other end that closed the gap to five.
Burch and Chandler had perhaps the most notable dunks of the game. Besides Burch’s left handed slam towards the end of the first half, and his emphatic dunk to help seal the win, the Stevens standout had a two handed jam to help the Visiting Team go up by a baker’s dozen at about the 8 minute mark of the second half, and then just mistimed an alleyoop pass from Chandler for another dunk, but the ball still managed to go in. Chandler would have the dunk of the night as he posterized a defender with a rim rocker that knocked the defender down. The game featured six 1,000 point scorers including one that scored over 2,000 points in his career.
Sergio Rodriguez of Piscataway Tech and Kyle Gasiewski were the 1,000 point scorers that played for the Home Team All-Stars in Black Uniforms while Matt Vento of Spotswoood, Mike Kides of Monroe, Ryan Petela of Wardlaw-Hartridge, and Derrick Whitaker of South River were the 1,000 point scorers that played for the Visiting Team All-Stars. Whitaker was the only one of this group to score over 2,000 points in his career as he became the 2nd player ever to reach that mark in South River High School history.
This was the 26th GMCBCA Senior All-Star Game, and the first time since GMC Hoops began covering the event in 2001 that it was played at Middlesex County College. In past years since GMC Hoops launching in the 2000-01 season, the showcase had been played at South Brunswick High School, Perth Amboy High School, and Woodbridge High School. For the third straight year, all the proceeds from this contest and the Senior Girls All-Star Game went to the Marisa Tufaro Foundation.
The Foundation, which was established less than 20 months by MyCentralJersey.com Sports Writer, Greg Tufaro, raised $2,000 from Wednesday night’s All-Star Games. Tufaro’s daughter Marisa was born with a complex cardiac defect that required six open heart surgeries, and ultimately a heart transplant. Following the heart transplant, Marisa had a postoperative complication that developed into a rare form of Stage IV cancer to which she succumbed to on January 30, 2017 when she was only 13 years old.