Trojans Turn Third Quarter Deficit into Victory with 32-15 Surge
NORTH EDISON, NJ—Over the past several seasons, the only program in the GMC that has managed. to go punch for punch with St. Thomas Aquinas has been Colonia. Thursday night’s game would be no different. Only a second half surge separates Aquinas from Colonia this time. The Trojans overcame a third quarter deficit with a 32-15 surge to win 68-54.
Entering the crucial contest, Aquinas and Colonia had played each other four previous times since February 2020. Although the Trojans had won 3 of the 4 games, the average margin was just 11.3 points per victory. The Patriots also won the other game, 80-64 to win the 2021 Karl Anthony Towns-Jay Williams Pod Championship.
Defense Keys Second Half Aquinas Surge
Trailing 39-36 with 4:22 remaining in the third quarter, top ranked St. Thomas Aquinas turned up the defense. The result was an 11-4 spurt to end the third, and a 16-6 tear over the first 5:48 of the fourth to take a 63-49 lead. Colonia would score five unanswered on a three by Billy Anderson and a bucket from Saivon Pressley to close within single digits, but it couldn’t get closer.
Instead, the Trojans finished the game with 5 of the last 6 points to close out the win and seal the GMC White crown. Once again it was Adam Silas leading the way for Aquinas. The senior guard led four different Trojans in double figures with a game high 18 points. Silas made 6 total field goals including two threes while adding four foul shots. He also collected 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 steals.
Chipping in were juniors Terrell Pitts and Kamal Lee. Both scored 12 points while Pitts also collected 6 rebounds, 3 assists, a block and a steal. Lee added 5 assists, 5 steals, and 4 rebounds. In addition, Lee’s defense and three point shooting helped the Trojans establish a 27-14 first half lead. However, Colonia turned the tables with a 14-1 spurt that tied the game at 28-28.
Thanks to a late steal and layup by Lee, Aquinas scored the last four points for a 32-28 halftime edge. Colonia then scored 11 of the first 15 points of the second half to take a three point edge. Over a span of nearly 10 minutes, the Patriots had transformed the game with a 25-9 rally. Anderson, Pressley, and Matt Scherb sank threes during the run while Jaeden Jones capped the turnaround with a layup.
Team Effort Also Sparks Aquinas Surge
Jalen Pichardo, who just became eligible two weeks ago, played a huge role in Aquinas’ second half surge. He finished with 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 steals including a score off a Pitts feed with 5:12 remaining for a 53-45 lead. Jaden Kelly scored 6 points including a three in the second quarter while adding a rebound, assist, and a block.
Rounding out the scoring for Aquinas was Samar Abdullah (2 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, and a steal), Sherief Guinyard (2 points and a rebound), and Chris Santner (2 points and a rebound). Pressley led Colonia in defeat with a team high 17 points while collecting 5 steals, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and a block. Anderson chipped in with 10 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks.
Noah Taylor (6 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals), Jaeden Jones (6 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block), and Justin Gordon (6 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists) each contributed with 6 points. Mike Howell (4 points, 2 rebounds, and an assist), Matt Scherb (3 points and a rebound), and Demond Nelson (2 points, 2 steals, an assist, and a block) rounded out the Patriot scoring.
According to stats compiled at NJ.com, Aquinas held a 38-32 edge in points inside the arc and a 15-4 edge in points from the line. Meanwhile, Colonia only had a slight 18-15 edge in points scored from long distance. The Trojans also enjoyed a 29-18 rebounding advantage, a 20-17 edge in assists, and a 13-11 edge in steals. Colonia only held a 5-2 advantage in blocks.
Each team had eight different players score. However, Aquinas had five players with 6 points or more including four in double figures. Colonia also had five with 6 points or more, but only two in double digits. Both teams scored in double digits in each period. In the end though, the fourth quarter was the difference as the Trojans won the frame 21-11.
Second Half Surge Overcomes Colonia’s Resilience
After covering Woodbridge’s victory over North Brunswick, GMC Hoops joined the action late in the first quarter. Pichardo took a feed from Abdullah on the left wing and scored between two Colonia defenders for a 17-12 lead. The Trojans opened the second with 7 unanswered highlighted by a Lee trey for a 24-12 lead at the 6:03 mark. Aquinas scored 14 of 16 points to turn a one point lead into a double digit advantage.
Colonia remained resilient though and battled back. The Patriots showed plenty of heart and grit in this one. If the Pats can put in a full 32 minutes, they could knock off the Trojans in the GMCT. It is still going to be a tough order though. Now with Pichardo and Santner eligible, St. Thomas Aquinas is deeper than it has ever been this season.
With the victory, Aquinas clinched the GMC White for the second straight year. However, due to COVID, the Greater Middlesex Conference didn’t recognize division winners in 2021. Most likely locking up the GMCT’s top seed, the Trojans improved to 19-0 overall and 13-0 in division play. Colonia slipped to 13-3 overall and 10-2 in division.