Defense, team play fuels BCC’s winning streak

BY TIM MORRIS Staff Writer

Staff Writer

With a six-game winning streak, the Brookdale Community College men’s basketball team had turned things around.

From 1-3, the Jersey Blues have improved to 7-3 and are looking at the 2005-06 season in a new light.

The winning streak, however, took on a meaning on Jan. 10 when Brookdale beat last year’s defending Region XIX champion, Passaic, 81-74, in Lincroft.

“That was a big match-up for us,” said head coach Paul Cisek.

Passaic, which finished fourth in the country at the national tournament last year, was the first big test of the season and the victory legitimized the winning streak. The way Brookdale won may have been more important than anything else.

The Blues controlled Passaic for most of the game, but a 12-0 run late in the games put the visitors up, 74-72. The Blues did not wilt. With 1:05 left in the game, Kevin Fallon (Roselle Catholic) hit the biggest shot of the season, a three-pointer that put Brookdale back on top, 75-74. The Blues never looked back and extended the margin to seven points at the end.

Jed Marquez (Jackson) had the hot hand for the Blues scoring 27 points, including three three-pointers. Point guard Correy Haskins (Red Bank) had 15, including trio of treys. Center Derrick Truesdale (Passaic) had a big double- double, scoring 14 points and pulling down 13 boards, as Brookdale improved to 8-3.

“Everyone is playing pretty good,” said Cisek. “They’re hustling and doing the things we need to do to win.

“We’re playing well as a team,” he added. “We’re getting four guys scoring in double-figures, and it’s not always the same guys.”

Brookdale’s 1-3 start was not a complete surprise to Cisek, nor is the current winning streak.

“First thing, we were young,” he said. “Young players want to show what they can do. Then, they get away from the individual attention and accept the team concept.

“We’re playing defense better and rebounding better as the players have gotten to know each other,” he added.

For Cisek everything starts on the defensive end for Brookdale, where the Blues play an in-your-face, man-to-man brand.

“We’re scoring off our defense more,” he said. “That’s a big factor [in the win streak]. We’re playing more aggressive and we’re making teams work for it.”

Free throw shooting is often overlooked, but not by Cisek. He pointed out that his Blues are shooting 80 percent as a team this year and that has been a big factor behind the winning streak. Free throw shooting sealed the win over Passaic in the final minute.

Just as it took time for the players to get to know each other, it took time for Cisek and his coach staff that includes Charlie Hawthorne and Rory Levine, to understand the roles the players are best suited for.

When point guard Jeff Wedick (Mater Dei) suffered a broken arm very early in the season, Cisek was in sudden need of a floor leader. Haskins stepped up took on the role.

“Correy accepted that he has to be the leader,” said Cisek. “There are not many players that I’ve coached with his enthusiasm who is supportive of the players around him.”

Theo Fujita (Middletown North) has been a more than solid back up at the point for Haskins.

Marquez, who was red hot against Passaic, starts as the No. 2 guard in the backcourt with Haskins.

Up front, Fallon and Omar Garret (Tampa, Fla.) are the forwards, and Truesdale, the center. They are the starting five.

Cisek, though, uses his deep bench. Fujita and Paul Butler (Passaic) are key players in the backcourt and Sean Carter (Freehold Borough) can play either forward or center.

Devin Gilliard (Woodbridge), Jamie McBride (Franklin) and Joel Modestil (Woodbridge) also provide important minutes.

Cisek is equally pleased with the way his offense is playing and its versatility.

“We are passing the ball well and getting good spacing,” he said. “This year we have more variety. We can score inside or outside.”

Passaic attacked Brookdale with a zone only to have Fallon step out and hit threes along with Haskins. In the rematch in Passaic (Feb. 14), Passaic may want to try a different defensive approach.

Bergen, ranked in the top 5 in the nation, is Brookdale’s next major test. The Blues travel to Bergen Saturday for a 3 p.m. tipoff. The Blues are on the road the rest of this week, opening a three-game home stand on Jan. 26 when Essex makes a call (7 p.m.) Union comes to Lincroft on Jan. 31 (8 p.m.) and Middlesex follows on Feb. 2 (7 p.m.)