St. Joseph’s Falcons Return to a Familiar Place at the Top of the GMC
|GMC Hoops Player of the Year, Tyus Battle, puts up a shot against Mike Ugarte and South Brunswick in the 2016 GMCT Championship at Kean University on February 25th. Battle and the top ranked Falcons won the title as well as reached the Non-Public A South Championship to earn the GMC Hoops Team of the Year.|
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ–A year ago, in the 2015 GMCT Championship, St. Joseph’s Bree Tyree, limped to the bench in the middle of the third quarter and pounded his fist. Not only had the nagging ankle injury that plagued him since the loss to Union Catholic in the Metro Classic some two weeks earlier, had jumped back up to bite him, but his Falcons were starting to fall further behind Colonia. Showing tremendous resilience, Tyree not only came back, but showed his fury with a gravity defying one handed dunk that brought the house down at the RAC.
In the end though, Tyree’s dunk wasn’t enough as Colonia ended St. Joseph’s five year reign as GMCT Champion, a mark that surpassed the great Perth Amboy teams of the early to mid 70s. The Falcons would be the favorite again though coming into this season. Not only were Tyree and Branislav Vujadinovic back along with a talented group of juniors such as Xavier Townes, Mikey Granda, and Malachi Walker, but over the summer, St. Joseph’s added some new pieces with the transfers of Tyus Battle, Alanzo Frink, and Letrell West as well as the arrival of incoming freshman, Khalif Battle.
The additions didn’t bring a net gain in terms of overall record, but it did bring a third straight GMC Red title, and a return to the top of the GMC with a win over second seeded and second ranked South Brunswick in the 2016 GMCT Championship at Kean University (56-48). St. Joseph’s finished 22-6 overall including a 12-0 mark in the Red Division, and a 16-0 mark in conference play. The only chink in the Falcons armor this year was its performance against non-conference teams, where they went only 6-6. However, the non-conference schedule was a tough one that included the likes of Gill-St. Bernard’s, Paul VI of Virginia, Lone Peak of Utah, Montverde Academy, and St. Augustine.
On top of winning the GMCT crown, the Falcons reached the Non-Public A South Championship Game for the fourth time in the past five years. In that game, the Falcons struggled for the first three and a half quarters against St. Augustine, but after falling behind 55-42, they rallied with an 18-5 surge to tie the game and force overtime. Unfortunately, Joes would fall in the extra session as the Hermits, which ended up winning the Non-Public A State Championship over Don Bosco Prep, got two free throws with 9.4 seconds left, and held on to win, 69-67. The Falcons led the GMC in scoring with 67.2 points per game, and were fourth in scoring defense with 49.2 points per game. Combined, St. Joseph’s outscored its opponents by a margin of 18 points per contest, which led the conference.
The starting line-up consisted of a heralded group with GMC Hoops Player of the Year, Tyus Battle, GMC Hoops Dunker of the Year in Tyree, Sophomore of the Year in Frink, Defensive Player of the Year in Branislav Vujadinovic, and GMC Hoops All Defensive Team members in Townes and West. Off the bench came, GMC Hoops All Freshmen Team and All Reserve Team member, Khalif Battle. There were also contributors from last year’s team in Mike Granda, Bryce Layne, Bryan Carley, and Deladem Adadevoh. Malachi Walker, Dexter Jackson, and Jose Medina Jr. Came up from a JV squad that finished second in the EB/GMC JV Tourney last year. Tyree, the only remaining starter from the 2014 St. Joseph’s team that won the Tournament of Champions, became the fifth player from that squad to commit to a Division I school when he signed with Mississippi last November.
Tyus Battle, who was recognized as the New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year, became another Falcon to sign with a D1 school when he signed with Syracuse in November as well. Battle and Tyree, join the likes of Quenton DeCosey (Temple), Karl Anthony Towns (Kentucky and now playing in the NBA for the Minnesota Timberwolves), Wade Baldwin (Vanderbilt), Marques Townes (FDU), and Raven Owen (Canisius) to play NCAA Division I basketball in the last four years. Harnessing this talent is head coach Dave Turco, who has won over 400 games (422-119) between stints at Carteret, South Brunswick, and St. Joseph’s. He has a solid staff led by the likes of Jose Rodriguez, Pat Kennedy, Mark Nichols, Bill Kilduff, and Eric Lemberakis.