St. Thomas Aquinas To Play Mater Dei at 2019 Friends of South Amboy

Trojans to Face Seraphs in Nightcap Game of South Amboy Opening Weekend Showcase

St. Thomas Aquinas second year head coach, Bob Turco talks in a huddle with his Trojans during a pre-season tri-scrimmage versus Bordentown and Immaculata back in December 2018. Aquinas will be taking on Mater Dei Prep in the nightcap game of the 2019 Friends of South Amboy Benefit Showcase this coming opening weekend.

SOUTH AMBOY, NJ—Recently, GMC Hoops learned from Tom Reilly of the Friends of South Amboy and the Raritan Bay Summer League that St. Thomas Aquinas, formerly Bishop Ahr, will take on Mater Dei Prep of Middletown in the nightcap game of this coming season’s Friends of South Amboy Benefit Showcase opening weekend.

Both teams will feature top talent, and players that play for the NJ Panthers AAU program. Quadry Adams of St. Thomas Aquinas, who just received his 13th D1 offer from Towson University in Maryland and is now the 11th ranked player in New Jersey according to Jay Gomes of NJ Hoops. Trojan Teammate Derrick Grant just received his 2nd offer from Southern New Hampshire University.

Peter Gorman, a South Amboy native, and younger brother of former Cardinal McCarrick hoops player, Charlie Gorman, also plays for the NJ Panthers, and will lead a Mater Dei Prep squad looking to return to prominence after a couple coaching changes in the past two years. Gorman has already received an offer from Curry College in Massachusetts, where recent South River graduate, and hoops standout, Zac Rafano will be going to in the fall.

St. Thomas Aquinas, led by former Monroe and Notre Dame head coach, Bob Turco, who will be entering his second year at the school, has reached the GMCT quarterfinals in each of the past three years, and was ranked at the top of Middlesex County in several media polls late this past season. Aquinas will be looking to go further than that this year, and not only make its first GMCT Final Four appearance since 2011, but also win its third MCT/GMCT Boys Basketball crown all time, and first since 1992.

The Trojans made a big step forward in state playoff competition by defeating Donovan Catholic of Toms River in the opening round of the 2019 Non-Public A South State Tournament. It was the first time since 1981 when Aquinas defeated neighborhood rival, St. Joseph’s in that year’s state playoffs, that the Trojans won a state tourney game. St. Thomas Aquinas also won its first division title since winning the GMC Blue in 2012. In addition to Adams and Grant, the Trojans also have several other talented players.

Zayon Marsh, who transferred in from Roselle Catholic at mid-season in 2018-19 is a solid big, who can not only rebound, block shots, and score down low, but also does a superb job of sharing the basketball. Samar Abdullah, who will be entering his sophomore year at the school has shown some of his potential. Jonathan Wyatt, the younger brother of St. Joseph’s football standout, Nate Wyatt, has also come in from Central Jersey College Prep Charter in Somerset, and brings plenty of talent and ability. Recent addition, Jaquan Harris, who transferred in from the Patrick School, is expected to be a huge difference maker for Aquinas as well.

St. Thomas Aquinas finished 21-7 overall this past season including an unblemished 12-0 in GMC Blue play. It was the best season at the school since it last won the GMCT in 1992 under coach Bill Leahy, and led by the likes of Anthony Rosa, Greg Fowler, and Darren Nicholas among others. The Trojans had reached the GMCT semifinals the year before in 1991, but lost to eventual tourney runner up, St. Joseph’s. Mater Dei was 13-10 this past season including a 10-2 in Shore Conference Class B Central play with the only two division losses coming at the hands of TOC Champion, Ranney.

The Seraphs still managed to win its opening round game over Doane Academy of Burlington County in the 2019 Non-Public B South State Tournament, but then lost to Rutgers Prep in the quarterfinals. In 2017-18, Mater Dei reached the Championship Game of the Shore Conference Tournament under former head coach Ben Gamble before falling to rival Ranney. The Seraphs also lost to the Panthers in the semifinals of the 2018 Non-Public B South State Tourney as well, and finished 23-6 overall.

Under Gamble, Mater Dei compiled a record of 74-12 overall including a 39-3 mark in the Shore Conference’s Class B Central Division. The Seraphs also made three straight Shore Conference Tourney Final appearances and won two titles in 2016 and 2017. The school also reached the Non-Public B South semifinals twice. The last time Mater Dei participated in the Friends of South Amboy Showcase was in 2015 when Gamble, who had coached at McCarrick the year before, was in his first season at MDP. The Seraphs rolled past Perth Amboy Tech, 65-26 in that game.

The two schools also feature athletic directors with GMC roots. Jerry Smith, who recently took over the AD position at Aquinas after Mike Wolfthal stepped down at the end of June, was AD at St. Joseph’s from 2004 to 2017, and helped lead the Falcons to new heights in high school sports not only in the GMC, but in New Jersey as well. Smith also previously coached at J.F. Kennedy, Woodbridge, and Piscataway Tech. Mater Dei Prep’s athletic department is currently led by Rob Eriksen, who had previously worked in the same capacity at Old Bridge High School several years ago.

This past season, the Aquinas and Mater Dei were scheduled to play on January 19th, but the game was cancelled due to inclement weather. The Friends of South Amboy Benefit Showcase has been run at South Amboy Middle-High School every year since 2012. The first year of the showcase raised money in response to Superstorm Sandy, which left a number of South Amboy residents in need of assistance. Since then, the showcase has raised funds for South Amboy residents who have suffered from serious illness. The event is MC’d by WCTC’s own Bert Baron, and has many raffles with prizes to help raise money.

GMC Hoops has been coming to the event each of the past seven years, and has even covered the whole day of games like it did this past year. We plan to be there and cover at least some of the action including this exciting game. Schedule of the whole day’s set of games will be posted soon.