Loss of Barreto hurts Falcons in tournament

By David Gurney, Sports Writer
   Senior point guard Ivan Barreto is not the leading scorer or go-to-guy offensively for the Monroe Township High School boys basketball team.
   But man, is he important.
   The Falcons lost Barreto for all three games in the Brothers of the Sacred Heart Tournament at St. Joseph’s High School in Metuchen after he injured his hip in the first quarter of the opening game against Moore Catholic (N.Y.).
   The result: a less than ideal 1-2 record in the tournament, with a win in the second game against Staten Island Tech, 55-48, but bookend losses in the first and third games against Moore Catholic (N.Y.) and Memorial of West New York, respectively.
   Monroe (5-2) dropped a 56-48 decision to Moore and a heartbreaking 51-48 decision to Memorial in overtime.
   Barreto scored six points in the game against Moore before sitting the rest of the game, with senior Pete Patalano and sophomores Joey Ruopoli and Blake Bascom filling in for Barreto the remainder of the tournament.
   All three had their moments but couldn’t quite fill the void of Barreto, who hopes to return soon.
   ”Losing Ivan was tough, because Ivan is me on the court, he’s a coach out there and a leader,” head coach Bob Turco said. “Moore’s point guard (Vic Schettino) had two points with Ivan on him and ended up with 21 at the end of the game, which tells you what kind of job Ivan did defensively.
   ”Pete, Joey and Blake all give different things. Pete is more offensive, Joey is more of a pure point guard, and Blake is a great defender. All three gave some important minutes and Blake definitely made a case for being a strong part of the rotation.”
   In the loss to Moore Catholic, Monroe held a 26-20 advantage heading into halftime, but with Barreto out Moore took full advantage, outscoring Monroe 36-22 in the second half to pull away. Junior guard Steve Blish led the way with 15 points and five rebounds, while senior forward Justin Mitchell added 12 points and seven rebounds.
   ”We came out ready, we were physical and controlled the tempo,” Turco said. “We had a game plan of doing certain things and it was based on Ivan being physical with their guards. That went out the window when he went down and we struggled in the third quarter.”
   The second game saw Monroe on the opposite end, coming back from a 39-32 fourth quarter deficit to outscore Staten Island Tech 23-9 in the final period.
   Three players scored in double figures, led by Blish’s 19 points (five three-pointers), Mitchell’s 17 points and 12 rebounds, and sophomore Ken Pace’s 10-point, six-rebound effort.
   ”Justin took over for us when we needed him to and our leaders stepped up,” Turco said. “The fourth quarter we just took it to another level and finished the game the way we couldn’t against Moore.”
   Against Memorial, Monroe came back, on the strength of some full-court pressure defense, from a 36-23 deficit to eventually take a 3-38 lead in the fourth after a pair of Pace (15 points) free-throws.
   Memorial hit a basket to bring it to within three and Monroe was at the line for a one-and-one. The front end was missed and Memorial came down for the final shot.
   The Monroe defense did the job, pressuring on top and limiting quality looks. With seconds remaining, the ball landed into the hands of 6-6 center Hussein Elkmasad, who shot an off-balanced jumper from the right sideline and drilled it to send the game into overtime.
   Again the Falcons grabbed a decent lead, jumping out to a 48-43 edge in the overtime period. But Memorial hit three free-throws, a three-pointer and a lay-up to take the lead at 51-48.
   Sophomore Tim Brix (four points) launched a three-pointer to tie the game, but had his shot rim in and out to clinch the win for Memorial.
   ”There were some very bad decisions by us on offense and defense down the stretch, reaching away from basket, turnovers,” Turco said. “We did what we wanted on that last possession, had the ball in the hands of their center on the outside. That shot was a wing-and-a-prayer to get it into overtime, but he hit it.
   ”Five and two is a good start for us. At least these losses don’t hurt what we want to accomplish in the county and division, but it does hurt for the states. But we’re still on pace for what we want to do. We’re heading into a big stretch, and each game we play from here on out is the most important.”
   Former Falcon A.J. Rudowitz led a quartet of players in double figures with a season-high 21 points, as Stonehill College’s men’s basketball team defeated Dominican College, 91-84, this past Sunday.