Middlesex–Spotswood Match-Up Lives Up To Its Billing As A Classic

Good afternoon everyone. Sorry again for not updating the site late last night, and earlier this morning, but I had a tough time sleeping on Wednesday night, and was tired on Thursday night and Friday morning.

Anyway, what a game last night at Spotswood! During the off-season, I had bumped into Middlesex head coach Brian Feath at a Blue Jay football game against Highland Park, and then saw Spotswood head coach, Steve Mate at Rebounds a short time later, and mentioned to both how intriguing a matchup Middlesex and Spotswood would be this year. Both teams were coming off solid off-seasons with the Blue Jays doing well in the Elizabeth Summer League, Linden Team Camp, and Kean Ironman Challenge while the Chargers performed admirably at the TBSA Summer League, and Rebounds Fall League.

Both squads had a good deal returning from successful seasons last year. Middlesex, the top seed last season in Central Jersey Group I, has several starters returning on this year’s roster including: Mark Stockton, Mike Perone, Mike Colacci, and Ryan Farley. Meanwhile, Spotswood, which finished the season strong in 2007-08 including an upset win over Old Bridge in the preliminary round of the 2008 GMCT, has players such as Cody Pace, Ross Gerhart, Pat Dwyer, Tyler Osofsky, and the Pareti twins all returning.

Each team has a solid perimeter game while Middlesex has the edge inside as indicated by the 34-23 advantage on the boards including a 16-12 showng on the offensive glass in Thursday night’s matchup. Both teams aren’t afraid to take on, and do well against tough teams in competition. Over the summer, Middlesex defeated St. Joseph’s at the Elizabeth Summer League, and forced Scotch Plains to overtime before losing at the Kean Ironman Challenge. Likewise, Spotswood defeated Perth Amboy, a Group IV school, in the Quarterfinals of the TBSA Summer League while knocking off the likes of Asbury Park, Marlboro (Group IV), Ocean Township (Group III), and West Windsor-Plainsboro South (Group IV) at Rebounds in the fall. The Chargers also lost to South Brunswick (GMC Red and Group IV) in overtime in the fall league.

The game itself saw 11 lead changes and 5 ties with neither team having a lead bigger than 12 points. Down the stretch, the lead changed hands five times including a buzzer beating finish while the game was tied twice. Both teams handled the ball well although the Blue Jays had some difficulty in the first three periods (16 turnovers) before doing a stellar job in the final stanza. Each team had a player with a solid game as Cody Pace knocked in 10 of 15 shots overall from the field for 24 points while Mark Stockton recorded a double-double of 19 points and 15 rebounds. While Spotswood controlled the game mostly, Middlesex showed heart and determination despite not playing its A game.

There were a number of clutch plays including two three point plays by Pace at the end of the first half for the 23-20 lead at the intermission, a four point play by Mike Colacci, who was fouled on a three pointer with 4:47 to go, and almost another three point play by Pace (missed bonus free throw) at the 3:41 mark of the fourth. Pace also had a couple key three pointers as did Colacci. Each team had a major spurt, or run in the game with Spotswood going on a 10-0 spurt over a 2:20 span of the third while Middlesex had an 8-0 run to close the same frame. Each team had a great deal of fan support although it was a Spotswood home game. Both schools had cheering sections with some in the Middlesex section wearing costumes in the traditional blue and white colors. Most importantly though, both sections were loud especially Middlesex’s. It was quite an atmosphere, and I was glad to be a part of it.