Taking It to the Rack–January 29, 2017

Bishop Ahr and Kennedy Turning Seasons Around

Prior to the start of the season, GMC Hoops projected Bishop Ahr to be a Top Ten team, and win a very competitive Blue Division. Less than two weeks into the season, the Trojans were written off after five losses in their first six games.

Meanwhile, the rest of the GMC Blue was beating each other up and Carteret was staying above the fray as it raced out to a 15-2 overall mark and a 9-0 record in division. The Trojans began turning things around with a modest two point win over South Plainfield on January 4th.

The BGA continued to pick things up with a wild win over Metuchen two nights later, which cost them two players due to a fight in the contest. Despite the shortcomings, the Trojans came away with a hard fought three point win over Eats Brunswick several nights later, and away they went.

Fast forward to Friday night, and Bishop Ahr pulled away from Carteret with a 23-7 surge to end the game for a 70-54 victory for its ninth victory in its last 11 games to improve to 10-7 overall on the season, and 7-2 in the Blue Division. Ahr is only a game and a half back in the division standings including one in the loss column.

The only two losses during this stretch for the Trojans came at the hands of Old Bridge (55-37) on January 7th, and Princeton Day School (68-55) on January 17th. Alex Santiago had been shouldering much of the burden for the Trojans, especially early on and when they were shorthanded after the Metuchen game.

So far this season, Santiago is averaging 14.7 points per game including two 23 point performances against Carteret. Deontae Crawford has been consistent for the Trojans with a 15.5 points per game average and has scored in double figures in every game this season. Crawford has also collected a double-double in each of his last three games.

The play of Sean Kudelka has improved over the last couple weeks. After going through his first 7 games with only one game scoring in double figures (13 points versus Sayreville on December 17th), Kudelka has picked things up with four double figure games in his last 7 including a 23 point, 11 rebound performance against Spotswood.

Kieran Hodder has also picked things up. Over his last 7 games, Hodder, who is averaging 10.1 points per game this season, has scored in double figures five times. His best game during the stretch was a 16 point performance in a 55-42 victory over Middlesex on January 11th. Crawford, Kudelka, and Hodder have significantly picked up in their rebounding production as well.

One of the wins Ahr has had during its 11 game stretch was a 60-34 victory over J.F. Kennedy. Coming into that game, the Mustangs had been hot with four straight wins. After the defeat to the Trojans on January 21st, Kennedy dusted itself off and won two more games over North Brunswick (67-66) and Colonia (53-47). So, JFK has won 6 of 7 since starting the season even worse than Ahr at 1-7.

The Mustangs, which moved up to the White Division from the GMC Blue this season after finishing second to Spotswood a year ago, and going 9-15 overall. Kennedy also had its third head coach in the past five season with Bas DeVoogd taking the helm this year. J.F. Kennedy lost on opening night to New Brunswick, and lost all three of its games in the Haley-LeGrand Holiday Jubilee.

The low point may have been when the Mustangs traveled to Woodbridge on January 5th. After jumping out to a 7-0 lead, and led 22-20 after one quarter, the Mustangs were outscored 63-20 the rest of the way as the Barrons won going away, 83-42. Kennedy then followed that up with a 56-40 loss to Old Bridge at home, but it has been hot ever since.

One of the keys has been the play of sophomore forward, Benji Pierre. A standout player on the JV level a year ago as a freshman, Pierre has elevated his game this season by averaging 12.3 points per game, and has scored in double figures in 10 of JFK’s games this season including 21 in the recent upset over Sayreville on January 19th. After a bit of a slow start, Pete Obertan has picked things up.

Now averaging 10.4 points per game, Obertan has scored in double figures in 10 of his last 13 games. Speedy point guard, Tamaj Coleman has also picked things up offensively. After not scoring in double figures in any of his first eight games including two games where he didn’t score at all, Coleman has scored in double digits in four of his last seven contests including 18 versus Colonia on January 26th.

Senior guard, Carlton Sears has scored in 13 of Kennedy’s 15 games, and came up clutch in two of the Mustangs recent wins with 10 points in the victory over New Providence in the Eric LeGrand Classic at Kean University on January 15th, and 8 points in the upset over Sayreville on January 19th. Kobie Wells is averaging 7 points per game over his last five including 9 points against both New Brunswick and Sayreville, and 12 versus North Brunswick on January 24th.

While Ahr had lofty pre-season expectations, Kennedy was underestimated at the beginning of the year. It seemed for a while that those below the radar projections would pan out, but this veteran group has adjusted to play in the GMC White, and looks to make some noise as we move into February. Bishop Ahr is also looking to make some noise and live up to the pre-season hype.