Dunellen, Timothy Christian, Wardlaw, and Amboy Tech Are Not Teams to Take Lightly
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ—The midpoint of the 2019-20 GMC Boys Basketball season is upon us, and a Gold Division team (Dunellen) is not in the usual spot of 10th in the latest GMC Hoops Top Ten.
This may be even a year, where Dunellen, or another GMC Gold team may get a seed better than the usual 8th seed awarded to the division winner at the 2020 GMCT seeding meeting on Valentine’s Day.
If anyone thinks otherwise, they may be surprised once the GMCT gets underway with Play-In round games on February 15th. Dunellen, Timothy Christian, Wardlaw, and Amboy Tech have solid teams that will be able to compete with some if not many of the bigger schools of the GMC this year.
Dunellen has probably given the best proof to date with wins over Dickinson of Jersey City (68-63) on January 4th, and earlier on Monday against Sayreville (72-57) at the MLK Roundball Classic at New Brunswick High School. The Destroyers also lost a one point game to Hackettstown (53-52) on January 12th a little more than 24 hours after the Tigers lost by single digits to a Watchung Hills team that is ranked in the Top 20, and just knocked off West Morris Central.
The Destroyers have two 1,000 point scorers in Tyje’ Kelton and Drew Johnson. Johnson, who is the younger brother of former all time leading scorer at DHS, David Johnson, reached the milestone in a 71-46 win over South Amboy on January 15th in South Amboy. Kelton is heading toward 1,600 points as of today.
Nasir White is another athletic player that presents another option for Dunellen while guards Jalen Thomas and Nasir Tippett have both played very well and Mike Burr and Marquise Jones provide more depth to the lineup. The only other loss suffered by the Destroyers happened to Timothy Christian (66-63) on January 11th in Piscataway.
After starting the season at 0-3 including losses to division foes Wardlaw and Piscataway Tech, Timothy Christian has reeled off 7 straight wins including that huge win over Dunellen. More importantly, the Tigers have done it without their top player, Abdul Momoh in the lineup. Momoh, who transferred in from Piscataway Tech during the off-season has been ineligible due to NJSIAA transfer rules, but will begin playing this week
Colonia transfer, Ronnie Burwan Jr., recently earned the Jersey Sports Zone game ball for Central Jersey for his efforts in the win over Dunellen. Burwan has carried the load for the Tigers, but has been helped by the likes of sophomore sharpshooter Gian Wagner and top returnee from a year ago, Nate Aviles. Liam Page and Jason Aller have also contributed.
Recently, in a 68-56 win at Highland Park, Wagner scored 24 points including five three pointers while Burwan added 23 points, 4 steals, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. Page also contributed with 10 points and 8 rebounds. Burwan is currently averaging 18.9 points, 5.4 rebounds. 4.2 assists, 3.5 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game for TCS.
Wardlaw handed Timothy Christian its first loss of the season on opening day, December 19th in Piscataway. However, the Rams have lost both times to Dunellen including a 51-29 defeat to the Destroyers at The Faber on January 17th. Coming into that game, Wardlaw had been averaging about 70 points per game, and had been on a five game winning streak.
On Sunday, the Rams played in the OSC Give Back Classic held at East Orange Campus against Columbia of the Super Essex Conference. Wardlaw, a Non-Public B school, only trailed the Group 4 school by a 22-20 score at the intermission only to give way to an 18-8 Cougars tear in the third en route to a 49-40 defeat.
Saivon Pressley, a transfer from St. Thomas Aquinas, collected a double-double of 14 points and 11 boards along with 3 assists, 3 steals, and a block. Alvari Mhya, also scored 14 while grabbing 5 rebounds. Pressley is currently averaging 20.4 points, 5.8 steals, 4.7 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game so far this season. Mekhai Huey has chipped in by averaging 11.6 points, 5.4 assists, 4.6 rebounds, and 4.2 steals per contest.
Saleem Ibraheem also has contributed with 8.7 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 1.5 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. Both the Rams and Timothy Christian will be playing each other later this week at Wardlaw, and GMC Hoops will be there to cover the contest. Despite losing Kelvin Maria, who transferred to Perth Amboy across town, Perth Amboy Tech still has the duo of Felix Romero and Chris Gomez to deal with.
The Patriots, which finished 3rd in the regular season, and reached the playoff semifinals at the Rahway Summer League, is only 5-5 at this point in the season, but has competed in losses to Timothy Christian (61-52) and Dunellen (60-48), and battled big schools Scotch Plains-Fanwood (56-43) and J.P. Stevens (52-47) before losing both in the 2019 Anthony J. Cotoia Tourney in South Plainfield over the holidays.
Romero has been a scoring machine for the Pats, and he has been a terror in the open floor. Against South Amboy, Romero put on a scintillating show with a game high 33 points. So far this season, Romero has averaged 21.4 points, 6.0 steals, 5.1 assists, and 4.8 rebounds per game. He has also scored in double figures in 8 of Amboy Tech’s 10 games including seven contests of 20 points or more.
Gomez had a bit of a slow start by scoring 10 points or less in five of his first 6 games before averaging 19.5 points per contest in his last four including a 30 point performance with 6 threes in a 77-29 victory at East Brunswick Tech. Gomez is averaging 13.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and 1.4 assists to date this season.
The Gold Division has not had a team in the GMCT Elite Eight since 2014 when 24th seeded South Amboy, coached by current Piscataway Tech head coach, Lenny Reyes and led by 1,000 point scorers, Steve Herdman (now coaching at Sayreville) and Joe Fruncillo, defeated 9th seeded Monroe in the preliminary round and 8th seeded and 2014 GMC Gold winner, Timothy Christian in the Round of 16 before losing to top seeded St. Joseph’s.
The time before that was in the 2007-08 season when South Amboy, the Gold Division winner that season defeated Monroe in the 8th seed vs. 9th seed contest in the 2008 GMCT Round of 16, and lost to eventual champion, Cardinal McCarrick in the 2008 GMCT Elite Eight. There has never been a GMC Gold team in the GMCT Final Four, and there have been only three Gold teams that have reached the quarterfinal round since 1999.
But, these four teams: Dunellen, Timothy Christian, Wardlaw, and Perth Amboy Tech will be looking to change history. Perhaps neither of these four schools will reach the unreachable star of getting to the GMCT Final Four this year, but if any one of them get to the Elite Eight, that’s still a very good year for the Gold Division, and this may be the year it could happen. For at least this year, the GMC Gold is not like past seasons.