It feels as if it were just yesterday that I was walking in to East Brunswick’s gym, ready to begin my second season of broadcasting for GMC Hoops. And just like that, here we are at the end of the regular season. How is that even possible? Once again, I have to say what a thrill it has been to be around such a great community of people. The coaches, players, and fans that we have in the Greater Middlesex Conference are what truly makes our league unique, and what makes my job that much more fun. One of the reasons that I have stayed in touch with the high school game well after my graduation is because of the community that we have, and it has truly been my pleasure to become a part of it and to do what I can to enhance it. Now for the good stuff!
WHERE DID I GO WRONG?
The real question regarding my preseason predictions should really be where didn’t I go wrong? Let’s briefly recap my preseason Top 10.
2. East Brunswick
3. St. Joseph
4. North Brunswick
8. Bishop Ahr
9. J.P. Stevens
Yikes. Middlesex and North Brunswick have been the two most disappointing teams in the GMC this season, with the Raider Birds getting swept by New Brunswick and the Jays fading down the stretch. I underestimated Bishop Ahr’s ability to overcome the loss of Deonte Crawford, as well as Carteret’s youth surrounding POY candidate Isaiah Daniels-Porter. I also did not anticipate the White Division being as down as it is this season. Which brings me to East Brunswick. In my preseason preview, I stated that ranking them at 2 was my one ranking I worried about the most due to their inconsistency and the inconsistency of their leading scorer Joe Sampson, who I slated for a breakout year. To this point, Sampson is averaging fewer points per game than last year, and the Bears dropped two games to Perth Amboy and were held to 30 points by Monroe the other night. I also made the mistake of doubting St. Joes, who, despite the mass exodus from the team during the offseason, continues to churn out wins and yet another Red Division title. I also whiffed on Old Bridge, Sayreville, and Perth Amboy, who all beat expectations this year. This is where I leave my disclaimer that I am only one person who is very much prone to error.
I GETS BUCKETS
Here are the top 20 combined scorers from the Red, White, and Blue divisions, as well as the top 10 scorers from the Arena Football League, AKA the Gold Division. Stats are for all reported games through 2/7.
Joshua Cabezudo (PA) 21.8
Ahyan Brown-Miller (NewB) 20.2
Alex Santiago (BA) 19.8
Isaiah Daniels-Porter (CAR) 19.5
Derrick Whitaker (SR) 18.1
Curtis Nesbit (WB) 17.9
Matt Vento (SPT) 16.8
Julius Belton (OB) 16.3
Abdullah Nieskens (SPT) 16.2
Joseph Nigro (SR) 15.6
Mike Oliva (OB) 15.5
Devin Strickland (SB) 14.6
Jordan Davidson (PIS) 14.6
Jake Robel (MID) 14.5
Keshawn Grant (PIS) 14.2
Tyree Ford (STJ) 14.1
Tyrese Conover (JPS) 14
Quadry Adams (BA) 13.8
Mattias Arrindell (PIS) 13.6
Antonio Chandler (PIS) 13.5
Pierce Kokosinski (TC) 20.6
Tyje Kelton (DUN) 20.4
Robert Saydee (TC) 19.5
Connor Murcier (HP) 18.8
Kyle Gasiewski (SA) 18.5
Carlos Morla (PAT)17.6
Shalon Wallace (WH) 17.1
Sergio Rodriguez (PWT) 15.4
Branden Barnes (PWT) 14.9
Ryan Petela (WH) 14.6
CRAZIEST MOMENT OF THE YEAR: End of Middlesex vs Metuchen ?on December 18?
The upset minded Bulldogs had outplayed the Jays throughout the contest, but Middlesex staged a dramatic late comeback. They found themselves down by 2 with 10 seconds remaining with Metuchen inbounding. The rest, as they say, is history.
OH DOCTOR!!!!!!! Middlesex just beat Metuchen in the wildest fashion! The Jays were down 2 with 10 seconds left and MET had the ball. Just watch what happens next….. pic.twitter.com/4VdhV89l9W
— James Corrigan (@RealCorrigan) December 19, 2017
— James Corrigan (@RealCorrigan) December 19, 2017
DUNK OF THE YEAR: Conor Bevilacqua vs Sayreville on January 23
This was one of the wildest moments on a basketball court I have ever seen in person. To say that I had no idea this was coming is a major understatement. Just watch and marvel.
— Frank Fasulo (@Squidman708) January 25, 2018
UPSET OF THE YEAR: Spotswood over Bishop Ahr on January 24
Other potential candidates for this one are Monroe over East Brunswick, Edison over Sayreville, South Plainfield over Edison, East Brunswick over Old Bridge, and Dunellen over Timothy Christian. However, this was an easy call, as all the other results pale in comparison to the Chargers knocking off their bitter rivals 62-58. The Trojans were ranked #3 at the time, but rivalry games have a funny way of changing things.
DAVE TURCO COACH OF THE YEAR: Jim Macomber, Old Bridge
There were three main candidates for this award, all of whom deserve their due.
You only had to watch about five minutes of a J.P. Stevens Hawks game this year to know just how large of an impact first year head coach Chris Garcia had on his team. Under his tutelage, the Hawks gave up an average of 46 points per game in Red Division games, easily the best defensive record in the division. The grit and toughness on display from his team the whole season was an extension of his personality, and at only 28 years of age, his stock will only go up from here.
After years of excellent work flying under the radar, Charlie Mohr is finally getting his due. The head man for the Edison Eagles posted his first winning season within his division since 2001, and is on track for the school’s first overall winning season in that same timeframe. He has always made the most with what he had during many lean years, and his recognition as an excellent tactician is long overdue.
However, the nod for this award goes to Macomber, who lost his best player four games into the season and still managed to guide his team to what will certainly be their highest ever GMCT seed. He deserves much of the credit for the Knights’ immediate turnaround upon his arrival for the 2013 season, and it has culminated this year into what is probably his most complete team. His performance in their recent win at Bishop Ahr, in a game which most coaches in his position probably lose, seals the deal.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR SHORTLIST
In the past, this award has been very easy to give out, with St. Joseph superstars usually dominating the season and winning it easily. Not so much this year. This award is so close, that I am not comfortable giving out even a regular season version of it at the moment. There are, however, four main performers that can lay claim to it. Julius Belton of Old Bridge, Isaiah Daniels-Porter of Carteret, Tyree Ford of St. Joes, and Alex Santiago of Bishop Ahr have all done what it takes in the regular season to be recognized as the best in the game. The postseason is where they must prove their mettle.
GMC TOURNAMENT MOCK SEEDING
We have now come to the main event. Every year, the seeding of the GMC Tournament is contentious, with just one mistake affecting the fortunes of countless other teams. The importance of the members of the seeding committee to be up to speed with the goings on in the county is crucial, and this must involve context. In short, there is no singular method for seeding these teams. Head to head may matter in one circumstance, and overall resume may matter in another. I am hoping that this 1-30 mock seeding can shed a little light on what these right answers are.
The way it works is this: The four division champions will be up for selection first. After the champion of one division is selected, the second place team from that division would then be on the board and become eligible for selection. No team can be seeded behind a team that they finished ahead of. In case of ties within a division, both teams would be on the board at the same time, but head to head results are the general rule of thumb tiebreak. The four division winners must also be seeded in the top eight, including the Gold Division. For context, here are the final standings for this season.
St. Joseph 13-1
Old Bridge 10-4
Perth Amboy 7-7
East Brunswick 6-8
J.P. Stevens 4-10
South Brunswick 0-14
North Brunswick 5-7
New Brunswick 4-8
J.F. Kennedy 0-12
Bishop Ahr 10-2
South River 5-7
South Plainfield 1-11
Timothy Christian 12-1
Piscataway Tech 11-3
Perth Amboy Tech 10-4
Highland Park 5-8
Wardlaw Hartridge 3-11
East Brunswick Tech 2-12
South Amboy 2-12
In order to really make this a mock seeding, we must start from the top. Let’s start with the obvious.
1. St. Joseph 17-3 (13-1)
The Falcons, led by first year head coach Mike Thompson, took home their 8th Red Division title in nine years. They will almost certainly be the 1 seed in the GMCT for the 5th straight year.
2. Piscataway 18-2 (12-2)
The Chiefs knocked off St. Joes ?on December 19?, and have not looked back since. Setbacks in the rematch against the Falcons and to Old Bridge two weeks ago make up their only defeats on the year. They get the nod over our #3 team for beating every other team in an absolutely stacked Red Division.
3. Carteret 16-4 (11-1)
The Ramblin Men not only took home the Blue Division crown, but rolled through a very difficult crossover schedule in the process. They blew out Sayreville, knocked off Colonia, Edison, and rival Perth Amboy, and absolutely dismembered North Brunswick by 37 points! Their 8 point win over Bishop Ahr on January 26 sealed the deal for them to grab the three seed, which would be their highest since winning the title back in 2002. Their head coach that year? None other than Dave Turco.
4. Old Bridge 15-6 (10-4)
OB’s thrilling one point road win over Bishop Ahr should lock up the four seed, which would be the highest in program history. Their win over Piscataway on January 23 not only spoiled a Red Division title for the Chiefs, but it also put the Knights in a position to make a run at what would be their first ever GMC title. It should also be noted that a broken nose suffered in-game by POY candidate Julius Belton contributed greatly to their recent defeat at the hands of East Brunswick.
These top four seeds should be very easy for the committee, with only the 3-4 order possibly having some contention. Now, though, is the tricky part.
5. Bishop Ahr 16-4 (10-2)
6. Sayreville 14-6 (10-2)
These seeds are what worry me the most in Friday’s meeting. The argument for Sayreville is clear. ?On December 16?, the Bombers knocked off Bishop Ahr ?57-54 on a neutral court in South Amboy?. Of course, the Bombers were helped greatly by an in-game broken nose from POY candidate Alex Santiago that limited the 20 ppg scorer to only 9. However, this is where the argument ends for the Bombers. While Bishop Ahr rolled through the Blue, beating Carteret in the process, and also knocked off East Brunswick and played Old Bridge to the wire, the Bombers fell to Carteret by 19, were trampled by Colonia by 21, lost to Edison by 14, and were taken apart by J.P. Stevens 71-43! All this while racking up wins in the weakest White Division in recent memory. Not only do I believe that resume matters here, but also the eye test. Having watched both of these sides this year, Bishop Ahr is clearly the more talented team with better chemistry and quite possibly the county’s best player in Santiago to go along with sophomore wunderkind Quadry Adams. Make no mistake, there are a lot of close calls in this seeding, but this is not one of them. It would be an extreme oversight to put the Trojans anywhere but 5th. As for the Bombers, a strong case can be made for Perth Amboy to be in this slot. Had it been East Brunswick or J.P. Stevens finishing 4th in the Red, the Bombers would be seeded 7th.
7. Colonia 11-8 (9-3)
The Pats are here by virtue of beating Perth Amboy 66-55 on January 6. Unlike the comparison between Bishop Ahr and Sayreville, Colona’s head to head win over Amboy does take precedent here, for the resume’s of the two teams are otherwise similar. Splits with Sayreville, Woodbridge, and Edison garnered Brandon Hall’s side with their three division losses on the year. Other than a season sweep of East Brunswick and Monroe and a split with J.P. Stevens, Perth Amboy’s resume does not have much to show for it. This is why I say context matters a lot in these seedings. One cannot just look at a head to head result and go from there. Everything must be taken into consideration.
8. Timothy Christian 15-6 (12-1)
The Tigers have locked up their second Gold Division title in program history, and receive the 8 seed by virtue of the division winners rule.
Just for reference on how the actual seeding will work, the four teams eligible for selection now are Perth Amboy, Woodbridge, Edison, Spotswood, and Piscataway Tech. Woodbridge and Edison tied in their division, so they both go up at the same time.
9. Perth Amboy 9-12 (7-7)
Despite not getting the nod for the 7 seed, the Panthers still have a bit to work with here, with the aforementioned wins over East Brunswick, Monroe, and J.P. Stevens coupled with a close loss to rival Carteret. Amboy does have a bad loss on the year to North Brunswick, however, so does Woodbridge and Edison. It should be noted here that Carteret defeated the 5, 6, 7, and 9 seeds in this ranking this year.
10. East Brunswick 9-10 (6-8)
Although the Bears were helped by the Belton injury in their win over Old Bridge, it is still nothing to scoff at. EB does hold a common opponent nod over both Woodbridge and Edison with their win over North Brunswick. Playing St. Joes and Bishop Ahr to the wire helps their cause as well.
11. J.P. Stevens 8-11 (4-10)
I went back and forth between Stevens and Woodbridge, and quite honestly, this one could go either way. The reason why I prefer the Hawks here is for a couple reasons. First is for their performance in crossover pay, as blowout wins over Edison and Sayreville, which swept the Barrons, put things in perspective between the Red and White divisions. It is obvious that the White is weak this year, with an argument to be made that any of the top 6 teams in the Red could have won the White this year. The Hawks also get this nod due to their performances in many of their losses to their stiff Red division competition. Here are the point differentials for the Red division teams this year (Note: OT wins and losses count as 0 point differential either way for the sake of fairness)
St. Joes +196
Old Bridge +82
J.P. Stevens -9
East Brunswick -46
Perth Amboy -63
South Brunswick -199
That’s right, Stevens had a point differential 54 points higher than Perth Amboy, which finished three games ahead of them in the standings! An argument could easily be made that the Hawks should have beaten East Brunswick twice, as well as St. Joes on January 2, which the Hawks outplayed before getting nicked at the buzzer. Wins and losses are what matter most of course, which is why Stevens is the sixth Red division team to come up. But nobody can doubt that this is a quality team, which is why they get the nod here.
12. Woodbridge 10-9 (7-5)
Woodbridge and Edison are both tied for third in the White ?at 7-5?, with the two teams splitting their season series, but the nod here goes to the Barrons due to some of the bad losses from Edison that we will get to in a moment. This is a team with some very good players and an excellent coach in Matt Gigliello who is in line for his 6th straight winning season after the program had none from 1990-2012.
13. Edison 12-10 (7-5)
Plenty has been said about Edison’s turnaround this year, as the Eagles are in line for their first winning season since 2001. However, I cannot put them ahead of Woodbridge due to their getting swept by North Brunswick as well as an absolutely inexplicable defeat at the hands of last place South Plainfield, who will not be seen in these rankings for a while. Still, wins over Sayreville, Colonia, Woodbridge, and Monroe make for a fantastic season for Edison, and potentially a sign of things to come.
14. North Brunswick 9-9 (5-7)
The decision to put North Brunswick over Monroe was another tough one. The common opponent stat is pretty even, with the Falcons beating New Brunswick and East Brunswick, both who North Brunswick lost to, and with North Brunswick beating Perth Amboy and Edison, both who Monroe lost to. The nod here goes to the Raider Birds, who bounced back from a disastrous 3-7 start to win 6 of their last 8 including wins over Woodbridge and Perth Amboy and a sweep of Edison. Yes, two losses to New Brunswick hurt a lot, but their recent run of form has helped make up for it.
15. Monroe 6-14 (4-10)
The Falcons took care of Spotswood on the road, and also hold wins over J.P. Stevens and East Brunswick, who they held to just 30 points on Tuesday! Putting a 6-14 team over a 13-8 team is difficult regardless of what division the teams are in, but the head to head result coupled with strength of schedule and a few inexplicable losses by Spotswood give the Purple ones the nod.
16. Spotswood 13-8 (7-5)
The Chargers pulled off the biggest upset of the season on January 24 when they knocked off their bitter rival Bishop Ahr at home. Despite that triumph, getting swept by Metuchen and of course the home loss to Monroe leave them in this position.
17. South River 13-7 (5-7)
South River and Middlesex both finished tied for 4th in the Blue ?at 5-7? and split their season series, but the nod here goes to the Rams with a common opponent win over Timothy Christian and for having won 7 of their last 8 while the Jays have slumped to the finish line having lost 6 straight.
18. Middlesex 10-10 (5-7)
Probably the most disappointing team in the county this year, the Blue Jays as mentioned before have lost 6 straight to end the regular season.
19. New Brunswick 6-12 (4-8)
For the first time in a while, progress is starting to be shown in Zebra land. Sweeping North Brunswick and staying competitive with all five division teams they lost to should give New Brunswick their highest seed since 2012.
20. South Brunswick 0-17 (0-14)
What do we do with a winless Red division team? After a long run of success, including being named the 2 seed in the past two seasons, the Vikes have come crashing down to Earth this year despite the fine play from Devin Strickland. Still, they have remained somewhat competitive this season despite the losses, and their schedule strength is undoubtedly the toughest in the county. I am not convinced that this is a team that should be ranked behind multiple Gold division teams, so here they are.
21. Piscataway Tech 17-5 (11-3)
Their record is deceiving, but this is still not a good team. Tech only beat J.F. Kennedy by 4 points and got blown out by Middlesex. Still, the Raiders hold a win over Metuchen, and have for the most part beaten up on their Gold division opponents this year.
22. Metuchen 6-14 (3-9)
Despite two inexplicable wins over Spotswood, the Bulldogs still struggled in the Blue, capped off by a defeat at the hands of last place South Plainfield on Monday.
23. South Plainfield 4-17 (1-11)
Their win over Edison seems more impossible by the day, as the Tigers slumped to a last place finish in the Blue. Their comfortable win over Perth Amboy Tech as well as their maiden division victory over Metuchen keeps them from dropping further.
24. Dunellen 13-7 (10-4)
25. Perth Amboy Tech 12-8 (10-4)
Dunellen and Perth Amboy Tech finished tied for 3rd in the Gold and split their season series, but the Destroyers get the nod here due to their win over Timothy Christian and their being more competitive in crossover games.
26. J.F. Kennedy 0-19 (0-12)
Oof. After a surprise appearance in the GMCT quarters last year, the Mustangs lost every player they had and have put up the worst season for a Red/White division team that I have ever seen in my time following the GMC. They lost at home to South Plainfield by 19 and lost to Piscataway Tech in an extremely rare Gold over White result. A trip back to the Blue next season seems likely.
27. ?Highland Park? 6-11 (5-8)
28. Wardlaw Hartridge 3-17 (3-11)
29. East Brunswick Tech 3-20 (2-12)
30. South Amboy 2-19 (2-12)
So there you have it. With the seeding meeting this Friday and the play in round slated for Saturday, Middlesex Madness is here! The GMC Hoops Radio Network will have full coverage of the tournament starting with the first round ?on Thursday February 15th?, continuing with all four games on Super Sunday on the 18th, both semifinals ?on Tuesday the 20th?, and the Final at Rutgers ?on Thursday the 22nd?!
Good luck to all 30 teams! And don’t forget to visit Civile ?Cucina? Italiana on Sundays for family style Sunday at just $25 per person! Visit them at ?154 Main St. in Metuchen? or on the web at civilecucina.com. They are the proud sponsors of the GMC Hoops Radio network. So visit Civile ?Cucina? Italiana, where every night’s a feast! And also don’t forget to check out the law firm of Garces, Grabler, and Lebrocq! Personal injury, workers comp, criminal law, you name it! With 8 branches in the Central Jersey area, including Perth Amboy and New Brunswick, GGL is big enough to garner respect from the opposition, but small enough to be your local neighborhood firm. With nearly 20 lawyers, they have no shortage of experience. Visit garcesgrabler.com for more details. So for all your legal needs, come to Garces, Grabler, and Lebrocq: Big enough to win, but small enough to care!