Cisek pleasantly surprised by the play of his BCC men

Staff Writer

By tim morris

VERONICA YANKOWSKI  Freehold’s Debra Vento performs the high jump at the Monmouth County Indoor Track and Field Championships at Red Bank Regional High School on Friday.VERONICA YANKOWSKI Freehold’s Debra Vento performs the high jump at the Monmouth County Indoor Track and Field Championships at Red Bank Regional High School on Friday.

Paul Cisek isn’t a coach who is easily satisfied. However, a 10-3 start by his Brookdale Community College men’s basketball has done just that.

"We’ve definitely had peaks and valleys," he said. "We’ve had some serious injuries and disciplined some players, who broke team rules. With all that I couldn’t imagine, we’d be (10-6). I’m very happy where we’re at. I’ve been pleasantly surprised."

This is the youngest team that Cisek has had at Brookdale with 11 freshmen.

"We’re still a young team that is growing," he pointed out. "Our freshmen have been getting better fast."

Brookdale has been in the midst of its Division II schedule and, on Jan. 10, scored a big win at Morris, 63-58.

"We played real well defensively," Cisek noted. "We’re a man-to-man team. But we played a little 2-3 zone at the end, and we played it well. Corey Lewis came up with some big rebounds for us down the stretch, and our offense was balanced."

Freshman Chris Brown led the Jersey Blues’ attack with 17 points, including a three-pointer.

Brown, a Howell High School graduate, was making his first appearance after missing six games with a sprained ankle. He stepped in and played as if he hadn’t missed a beat.

Lewis, a freshman from Monmouth Regional, who has also missed time with a sprained ankle, had 13 rebounds.

"Corey was hit above the eye and took five stitches, but he went back in there and grabbed some big rebounds for us," said Cisek. "Chris Brown is maybe 75 percent right now,"

Ryan Singley, the Point Pleasant Borough grad, who is one of three sophomores on the team, had 10 points.

Peter Richardson of Red Bank, a Hun School grad, had nine points off the bench, and long-range shooter Brian Wong of Rumson-Fair Haven, connected on all three of his three-pointers in the second half as Brookdale held off a second-half Morris rally. Both Wong and Richardson are freshmen.

The balanced scoring helped offset an off night by leading scorer Harold Bautista, the Emerson grad. He’s averaged 17 points a game, tops on the team, but he was held to just six in Morris. The return of Brown really helped to offset his reduced output.

Point guard Matt DeloSantos, one of three sophomores on the team, continues to fill the roll of running the offense, distributing the ball and getting everyone into the action.

Bob Varno, the Mater Dei grad, who figured to be one of Brookdale’s top newcomers, has been sidelined by a sprained ankle and isn’t expected to return until this week.

Injuries have kept the Jersey Blues from putting their starting lineup on the floor at the same time very often.

"I’ve never seen us have so many serious ankles injuries as this year," Cisek noted. "What has been important for us is that the other guys have stepped up. Overall, everyone has been filling their role and doing well. We’ve been kind of surviving with all the injuries."

Brookdale appears to be getting health at the right time.

During a recent game against Merecer, Brown again showed his ability to score by netting 13 of his 19 points in the first half. However, the Blues lost to Mercer, 73-71.

With Brown back and Varno expected to return, Brookdale should have its full complement of players for the first time since early December. That should enable Brookdale to build on the success it has had without its starters.

"I’m shocked at this point by how well we’ve played," Cisek explained. "We haven’t had everyone at full strength. It’s still a building process, and we have 16 games remaining in the regular season."

In recent years, Brookdale has featured explosive offensive teams, but this winter, it has been the defense that has carried the Jersey Blues.

"Our defense has been a big factor," Cisek said. "There hasn’t been any single player. We’ve been playing team man-to-man defense well. We still have to work on our rebounding more, but Corey’s return is big."