Coaches Vs. Coronavirus Challenge Planned For 2021

Teams from GMC and Skyland Conferences to Square Off in Four Games Next January

Dunellen’s Drew Johnson, shown here following through on a three point attempt against Timothy Christian’s Abdul Momoh in a GMC Gold Division contest on February 3rd, will be one of the top players featured in the Coaches vs. Coronavirus Challenge at Bound Brook High School on January 9, 2021.

BOUND BROOK, NJ—The Coronavirus Pandemic has caused much harm and created much fear to people in communities all over the country, but New Jersey has been one of the hardest hit states in the country with a total of 145,089 cases and 10.249 deaths as of Saturday afternoon according to the New York Times. Communities in Middlesex, Hunterdon, and Somerset County have been affected.

As of Saturday, Middlesex County ranks 6th in the Garden State in terms of number of cases (14,514), and fifth in the number of deaths (872). Somerset County has had a total of 4,212 cases with 363 deaths. Hunterdon County has had 795 cases with 49 deaths. Schools from all three counties are coming together to raise money to help fight the novel virus. Led by Bound Brook boys basketball coach, Anthony Melesurgo, four teams from the Skyland Conference covering Somerset and Hunterdon County as well as some of Warren County will take on teams from the Greater Middlesex Conference in the inaugural Coaches vs. Coronavirus Showcase at Bound Brook High School on January 9, 2021.

The four games will be played at 1:00, 3:00, 5:00, and 7:00 PM, and will feature South Hunterdon, Franklin, Pingry, and Bound Brook from the Skyland Conference and South Plainfield, Timothy Christian, Dunellen, and Middlesex from the GMC. All proceeds from the event will go towards Coronavirus Research. Below is the schedule for the showcase:

Coaches vs. Coronavirus Challenge—January 9, 2021—Bound Brook High School

  • South Hunterdon vs. South Plainfield, 1:00 PM
  • Franklin vs. Timothy Christian, 3:00 PM
  • Pingry vs. Dunellen, 5:00 PM
  • Bound Brook vs. Middlesex, 7:00 PM

All eight teams in this showcase enjoyed successful seasons in 2019-20. Each team had a record that was at least .500 or better, qualified for the state playoffs, and some even made solid runs in their state tournaments. Below is a brief look at each team:

South Hunterdon—The Eagles went 17-9 this past season including a 6-2 mark in the Skyland Conference’s Mountain Division to place second behind Pingry. South Hunterdon also went 10-4 in Conference, won first round games in both the Hunterdon, Sussex, and Warren Tournament and the Central Jersey Group 1 Tourney. In the 2018-19 season, South Hunterdon finished 14-11 overall including a 6-2 record in divisional play, and lost opening round games in county and state tournaments. The Eagles have qualified for state tourney play in each of the last three seasons.

South Plainfield—The Tigers finished 14-13 overall, and 6-6 in GMC Blue Division play as well as posting an 11-7 mark in conference. South Plainfield qualified for the state tournament for the first time in three years, and improved from a 7-17 season a year ago, and a 5-20 mark in 2018-19. The Tigers won their 2020 GMCT Preliminary Round game to J.P. Stevens before losing to 2nd seeded and eventual tourney champion, St. Thomas Aquinas. Coached by 3rd year head coach, John Greco, South Plainfield lost in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group 2 Tourney to Bordentown, but have the likes of Moshood Adebule, Josh Liberato, and Destiny Nwankwo all returning next season.

Franklin—The Warriors finished 14-14 overall, and 5-5 in the rough and tumble Delaware Division of the Skyland Conference. Franklin won all three of its games en route to the 2019 Route 206 Holiday Tournament Championship over the Christmas Break. Franklin Township, coached by Tony Mento, former boys hoops coach at Rutgers Prep, reached the 2nd Round of the 2020 Somerset County Tournament, and the Quarterfinals of the 2020 North Jersey Section 2 Group 4 State Tournament before losing to eventual finalist Watchung Hills after defeating GMCT Semifinalist, Edison in the first round. Last year, the Warriors reached the SCT and NJSIAA N2 Group 4 Quarterfinals, and finished 15-11 overall including a 5-5 mark in the Skyland’s Delaware Division.

Timothy Christian—After starting the season under first year head coach, Dennis McNulty, at 0-3, and following a 5-19 finish in 2018-19, the Tigers won 15 of their last 22 games to end the season at 15-10 including a 12-4 record in the GMC Gold to place 3rd in divisional play. TCS also won its 2020 GMCT Play-In Round Game before losing to Piscataway (71-63) in the Preliminary Round. The Tigers then lost to Holy Spirit of Absecon in the opening round. Timothy Christian will be losing the likes of big man Abdul Momoh, Nate Aviles, Liam Page, and Jason Aller to graduation, but have the likes of Ronnie Burwan Jr., and Gian Wagner returning next year.

Pingry—Coached by Jason Murdock, former Bridgewater-Raritan hoops standout and cousin of Providence College and NBA hoops alum, Eric Murdock, The Big Blue won the Mountain Division of the Skyland Conference this past season with an overall mark of 15-9 and an unblemished divisional record of 8-0. Pingry also finished 10-4 in conference play, reached the 2nd round of the 2020 Somerset County Tournament, and qualified for the Non-Public A North State Tourney. The Big Blue finished 15-5 in 2018-19 including another unbeaten 8-0 mark in the Mountain Division of the Skyland, and reached the 2nd round of the 2019 SCT and qualified for the 2019 NJSIAA Non-Public A North Tourney. Murdock, who had coached New Brunswick during the 2006-07 season and led Bridgewater-Raritan West to the 1991 Central Jersey Group 2 Championship Game as a sophomore and the newly merged Bridgewater-Raritan 1993 Central Jersey Group 4 Championship Game, has been the coach at Pingry since the 2007-08 season, and has led the school to four state tourney berths in the past five seasons.

Dunellen—Led by fifth year head coach, and former Middlesex HS hoops standout, Howie Horowitz, the Destroyers went 25-5 this past season, and 45-12 over the past two years after going 4-17 in Horowitz’s first season in 2015-16. Dunellen reached the GMCT Quarterfinals for the first time since 1993, and a sectional final for the first time since 1968. The Destroyers won back to back GMC Gold Division titles on the floor, and even competed in high profile hoops showcases against the likes of Dickinson of Jersey City, North Jersey Section 2 Group 2 champion, Hackettstown, and GMC White school, Sayreville. Dunellen, which was the top seed in N2G1 this past season, made its first trip to the sectional semifinals since 2013. The Destroyers are losing all time leading scorer, Tyje’ Kelton to graduation, but have the likes of Drew Johnson (1,288 points), Jalen Thomas, Nasir White, and Nasir Tippett returning next season.

Bound Brook—The host school, coached by Melesurgo, who just completed his 16th season with the Crusaders, and won his 300th game in the 2020 Central Jersey Group 1 semifinals against Academy of Urban Leadership (67-55). Melesurgo guided Bound Brook to a 25-5 overall record, and finished 2nd in the Skyland Conference’s Raritan Division behind Somerville with a mark of 10-2 along with a conference mark of 14-2. The Crusaders lost to Burlington City in the CJ Group 1 Championship, and lost to the Blue Devils in the 2019 CJ Group 1 Semifinals after reaching the Somerset County Tournament semifinals for the first time since winning it all in 1990. Bound Brook, which was last in the CJ Group 1 Championship in 2017, has reached the sectional semifinals in 6 out of the last 9 seasons including five appearances in the sectional final. The Crusaders will have the likes of sophomore Quadir Harrell, and junior Cam’Ron Summers returning next season.

Middlesex—Led by 6th year head coach, Jared Goldstein, finished 16-13 overall including a 5-7 mark in the GMC Blue in 2019-20. The Blue Jays won their 2020 GMCT Play-in Round contest over Calvary Christian before losing to 14th seeded Old Bridge in the GMCT Preliminary Round (77-70). Middlesex then put together a nice run in the Central Jersey Group 1 State Tournament before falling to Burlington City in the semifinals. The Jays improved a good deal from 2018-19 when they finished 10-16 overall including a 4-8 mark in Blue Division play, and reached the CJ Group 1 Quarterfinals. Middlesex has reached the Quarterfinal round of the Central Jersey Group 1 playoffs in each of the past four years. The Blue Jays are losing 11 players to graduation including Tyrus Chippendale, Kevin Reynolds, Brendan Buckley, and M.J. Krehel, but have All Blue Division selection, Mark Brower along with football and hoops standout sophomore Stephen Young returning next season.

Schools such as Bound Brook, Middlesex, and Dunellen are long time neighborhood rivals. The Crusaders, Blue Jays, and Destroyers have battled each other for many years along the Route 28 corridor going back to the days of their membership in the Mountain Valley Conference. South Plainfield and Franklin were both former members of the Mid-State Conference, which was in existence during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, and is the grandparent of the Mid-State 38 football conference. Middlesex and Dunellen compete in the Shello-Santy Holiday Tournament every year, and Bound Brook also competed in that tourney for a while before reviving the Crusader Classic in 2007.

Schools from the Skyland and Greater Middlesex Conference have competed against each other on the hardcourt for a good cause before. Back in the 2012-13 season, most of the schools in both conferences played against each other in a one day showcase back on January 19, 2013 will all the proceeds going toward the Brayden Carr Foundation. GMC Hoops plans to cover at least some of the games from this event.