Tandem of Pressley and Huey Guide Wardlaw to Prep B Semis for 1st Time Since 2016
NORTH EDISON, NJ—For the first time ever, GMC Hoops covered a contest involving a Greater Middlesex Conference school in an NJSIAA Prep B State Tournament, and the GMC school didn’t disappoint.
Led by the sophomore backcourt tandem of Saivon Pressley (game high 22 points) and Mehkai Huey (18 points), third seeded Wardlaw turned a 41-40 third quarter deficit into a double digit win by finishing the contest on a 24-11 surge to advance to the semifinal round of this tourney for the first time since 2016 with a 64-52 victory over sixth seeded Montclair-Kimberley.
Pressley and Huey, who both led Wardlaw in scoring at the half with 7 points each, combined to score 26 points in the second half, which was as much as the Rams had scored in the entire first half as a team while the Cougars of MKA took a 27-26 advantage into the intermission. The duo ultimately combined for 63 percent of Wardlaw’s scoring in the victory.
Huey scored 10 of his 11 second half points in the pivotal third period when the Rams outscored the Cougars by a margin of 20-15 including 6 of the last 7 points to take a 46-42 lead. Huey scored four of those points in the closing seconds by getting a layup off a drive to his left from the right side of the key to down the left lane with four seconds left followed by a quick steal off the ensuing inbounds for another layup as time expired.
Pressley, who scored 15 of his points over the final two periods including 9 of 10 from the free throw line, took over in the fourth by scoring 10 points on two field goals and a perfect 6 of 6 from the charity stripe. Senior Alvari Mhya chipped in with 8 points while junior center Saleem Ibraheem added 7 points. Junior Brandon McCall contributed with 5 points while freshman guard, Xavier Hinds rounded out the Rams scoring with 4 points.
For Montclair Kimberley, which entered the game at 9-8 overall including a 7-5 mark in the Super Essex Conference’s Independence Division, was led by Brennan Columbia-Walsh, who had a team high 21 points including 16 in the second half while Jack O’Connell chipped in with 16. Isiah Udofa added 6 in a losing cause while Dylan Sachs (4 points), Noah Wolk (3 points), and Payman Mahdi (2 points) rounded out the scoring for MKA.
The Rams had a difficult time shaking the Cougars, which showed plenty of heart, grit, and determination. At times in the first half, MKA seemed to want it more. Nevertheless, Wardlaw pulled away from a 9-8 lead midway through the first period with a 17-10 run over a span of about 9 minutes to take a 26-18 lead on a three from Brandon McCall with about three minutes to play in the first half. Montclair Kimberley would battle back through with the final 9 points of the second including two free throws from Sachs with 43.8 seconds left for a 27-26 lead going into the intermission.
MKA made it a three point lead early in the second half by capping its 11-0 run before Pressley netted a jumper to close the gap to 29-28 at the 6:17 mark of the third. Pressley’s basket sparked what would become a 21-14 rally that broke down into two parts: The first was a 14-8 run over a 4:30 span as Huey capped the run on a three pointer for a 40-37 lead with 1:42 left in the period. Then, after MKA scored five straight points to retake the lead at 42-40, the Rams scored 6 of the last 7 points including four in the closing seconds by Huey for a 46-42 lead.
Wardlaw then expanded the run to 10-1 after Pressley opened the fourth with two free throws and a jumper for a 50-42 lead, which compelled the Cougars to call time with 7:04 remaining. MKA tried to stay within striking distance by outscoring Wardlaw by an 8-7 margin over the next 5:31 for a 57-50 Rams lead, but with free throws from Huey, Pressley, Ibraheem, and Hinds, Wardlaw was able to score 7 of the last 9 points to wrap up the 64-52 victory. With the victory, Wardlaw-Hartridge improved to 16-4 overall on the season including 9 straight since losing to Columbia, 49-40 in the OSC Gives Back Classic in East Orange on January 19th.
The Rams, which are also 13-2 in the GMC Gold along with a crossover win against Spotswood, will play next against Perth Amboy Tech on Wednesday at 5:30 PM in North Edison. Wardlaw advances to the NJSIAA Prep B Semifinals to play 2nd seeded Princeton Day School, which won its opening round game over 7th seeded Newark Academy of Livingston, 86-47 on Saturday. The game is scheduled to be played sometime on or before February 16th. Championship Game is scheduled to be played on February 19th at higher seeded team.