Old Bridge boys appear bound for playoff berth Lady Knights also battling for post-season spot

Staff Writer

By Warren Rappleyea

Old Bridge boys appear bound for playoff berth
Lady Knights
also battling for
post-season spot

The Old Bridge High School boys basketball team is two wins away from qualifying for the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV playoffs.

Coach Rocky Knowles’ team is currently 7-6 and has five games remaining before the cutoff, including yesterday’s contest against East Brunswick.

Teams need to have a .500 record at the end of play Feb. 1 to qualify.

Among Old Bridge’s successes are wins against Perth Amboy, Cardinal McCarrick, and St. Joseph’s.

The Knights have generally played better than their record might indicate, but inconsistent outside shooting has plagued the team.

Old Bridge is a relatively small team, but forwards Robert Allen and Gerard Haran have more than held their own against much bigger opponents.

"We’re an interesting team," Knowles said. "We’re not big, but we play an inside game. It helps that our team is strong and athletic, but we’re just not shooting as well as I’d like. If we were shooting better, I believe we’d have a couple of more wins as that would complement our inside play."

Allen, a 6-0 sophomore, has been a force in the paint. He blocks shots, rebounds, plays solid defense, and is beginning to score more often as evidenced by his 16-point effort against Piscataway.

Haran, a junior, plays a physical game under the hoop. He contends for every rebound that comes his way, plays aggressive defense, and frequently gets put-back points.

"Robert and Gerard have been going up against bigger guys all year, and they’ve done a good job," Knowles said. "Robert is certainly the strongest sophomore that I’ve ever coached, and Gerard is a banger who battles hard for every ball."

Three junior guards — Steve Barrela, who plays the point, Spencer Corbett and Shawn Williams — are each averaging 10 points, and are all capable three-point shooters. Williams has a 24-point game against Woodbridge.

Other key players include junior guards Danny Zaffiero, Brandon Nolen and Dave Deguzman, as well as sophomore back-court men Muctarr Sei and Eric Woronickie.

Seniors Tom Turner and Wes Szafran give the Knights depth in the forecourt.

"We’ve been in just about every game," Knowles said. "Our guys have a lot of heart. They’ve hung though when our shooting has been off. Hopefully, our shooting will pick up. If it does, we can do well in the state tournament."

The Knights are scheduled to visit Perth Amboy on Friday and will play South Brunswick, J.P. Stevens and Edison next week.

The Knights entered the week in the middle of the pack of the Greater Middlesex Conference’s Red Division, which is topped by the surprising South Brunswick Vikings. The have jumped out to an impressive 12-0 start, and were set to play Edison yesterday.

Behind South Brunswick is Piscataway at 8-4 followed by the Knights at 7-6. Both Perth Amboy and Edison are lurking close behind, however, meaning the next couple of games will decide where the Knights finish up in the division.

Interestingly, the Old Bridge boys’ success is very similar to the success the Lady Knights are finding. The Old Bridge girls also entered the week at 7-5, and in the middle of the pack of the GMC Red Division.

The Lady Knights trail only 10-2 East Brunswick, 10-3 Edison and 6-5 Bishop Ahr, and also have a good chance of qualifying for the state playoffs.

They faced the Bears yesterday, but also have games with South Brunswick (tomorrow), J.P. Stevens (Monday) and Bishop Ahr (Wednesday) coming up, giving them a chance to distance themselves from some rivals while improving their playoff chances.