Goetz boys hoops team turning heads already

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

JACKSON — Alex Morgans needed just three minutes to leave quite an impression on players, coaches and spectators last week during the annual Colt Stampede Basketball Tournament.

Morgans scored the last six points in the closing minutes to lift the Goetz Middle School boys basketball team to a dramatic 40-39 victory over Forrestdale in the championship game.

"He [Morgans] has great instincts," Goetz coach Steve Bado said. "In the final minutes of the game, he just took over. He is a real energetic player who likes going to the basket in crucial situations. We put the ball in his hands and he delivered in a big way."

Morgans finished with a total of 10 points and was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

"He does so many things well for us," Bado said. "I think the people who voted on the tourney MVP were impressed with his play down the stretch."

Indeed, Morgans’ late-game heroics held off a surge by Forrestdale. In fact, Goetz trailed by three points with three minutes remaining in the game when Morgans took over.

Morgans’ layup cut the lead to one point. Following a Forrestdale miss, Morgans again drove the lane, made the basket and was fouled. His converted free throw gave Goetz a 38-36 lead.

Morgans sank both ends of a one-and-one in the final 16 seconds to seal the win, giving Bado his first tournament title since he took over as coach.

"It’s a great way for this team to start the season," Bado said. "Winning a tournament like this hopefully helps us during the regular season. I think that it helps in building confidence."

Derrick Onyenuenyi led all scorers with 11 points. Nick Lopez chipped in with 10, while teammates Scott Cullen had six and Justin Hodges added two.

The Cougars jumped to a 12-1 lead after one quarter and led 20-16 at the half.

"We started very quickly on them," Bado said. "But we had to gut it out in the second half. We played very well down the stretch."

In the semifinals, Goetz overcame a 10-point first-quarter deficit to defeat St. Leo’s, 35-28. Morgans paced all scores with 12 points. Lopez and Cullen contributed six points apiece while Onyenuenyi had four.

Sean Kilkenny had three, and Hodges and Sean McPaul added two each.

"We have a much more balanced squad this year than we’ve had in years past," Bado said. "Our scoring is going to be spread out this season. In the last couple of years we’ve had one or two guys carry us. Not this year. We have a number of different players who can score."

In a 36-31 victory over St. Catharine’s in the quarterfinals, Goetz rallied from 12 points down to win. Bado likes his team’s poise and mettle when playing from behind.

"They don’t get rattled or down on themselves," Bado said. "They remained calm and chipped away at the lead. Our defense played a huge part in all the wins."

Lopez sparked the winners with 14 points. In addition, Lopez did an outstanding job on the boards and defending the other team’s big man.

"He was a major key," Bado said. "His defense and rebounding played a big part. We stuck him on all the other teams’ big men and he did a great job of not letting them take over the game."

In the regular Ocean County Intermediate School Athletic Conference opener, Goetz topped Central Regional Middle School, 51-39.

"I think the Colts Neck tournament prepared us for this season opener," Bado said. "The kids had a couple of games under their belts and had a chance to play together in a real game situation."

Bado is looking for contributions from Dan Collura, Brendan Stillwell, Tim Johnston, Ryan Fulton and Jake Mason.

"We have some depth on this squad," Bado said. "We’re hoping to make an impact in our division this season. If we play together and avoid the mental mistakes, we should challenge for one of the top spots."