Bulldogs boys basketball shifts focus to tournaments

By JIMMY ALLINDER Correspondent

 Metuchen High School’s Kelly Beck (20) and John F. Kennedy Memorial High School’s Sophia Tahzib battle for a rebound during the Feb. 8 game played in Iselin. The host Mustangs defeated Metuchen, 66-52.  SCOTT FRIEDMAN Metuchen High School’s Kelly Beck (20) and John F. Kennedy Memorial High School’s Sophia Tahzib battle for a rebound during the Feb. 8 game played in Iselin. The host Mustangs defeated Metuchen, 66-52. SCOTT FRIEDMAN METUCHEN

The Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Blue Division is made up of predominantly small schools. But that doesn’t mean the competition, no matter the sport, is any less intense.

This has been particularly true with boys basketball this season, during which war has been waged on a regular basis for the division title.

Jon Korellis, head coach of Metuchen High School (9-7), acknowledged his team has been involved in battles each time it steps on to the court.

“This has been the toughest season in my three years at Metuchen, by far,” Korellis said. “At the end of January, there were six teams that could end up being in the top three in our division. And at one point, four were ranked among the GMC’s top 10.”

While there will be changes moving forward, the likelihood is the Blue Division will make a noticeable imprint on the conference tournament bracket when coaches convene on Feb. 14 at Spotswood High School.

“We have been extremely competitive every game,” Korellis said about his team’s performance. “We only have three doubledigit losses, and during January, we won six [out] of seven games in a two-week span.”

Korellis believes his team can rise to the occasion against any opponent on a given night.

“Competitive and perseverant is how I would describe our team,” he said. “When we’re prepared, we can compete with anyone in the GMC, in addition to the teams we’ll face in [NJSIAA] Central Jersey Group I. We’ve grown into a confident group.”

Junior Artie Flaherty Jr. is averaging 12.6 points, eight rebounds and two steals. Sophomore Evan Collier averages 12.8 points, and senior Hunter Clarke has scored nine points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

Thomas Chalker has been the glue of this team, Korellis said. The junior is currently third in the state in assists with 8.3 a game.

“Thomas is a major reason why I feel teams cannot press us,” he said. “Once the ball is in his hands, it is difficult to slow him down. We have developed into an up-tempo team because of Thomas, which has helped us remain under control in the half court, but allow us to run the full court.”

At this juncture, Carteret High School (10- 6 overall, 9-1 division) holds a one-game lead over Spotswood High School (12-4 overall, 9- 2 division). However, the Chargers improved their chances of winning the crown by edging the Ramblers, 55-53, on Feb. 8. The teams had an earlier meeting postponed due to weather, but they will make the game up.

Metuchen is currently in seventh place, and Korellis knows the focus at this point is no longer about competing for a division title, but gaining a respectable seed in the state tournament and playing well in the GMC Tournament.

Because inclement weather has made it difficult for teams to reach the mandatory 16 games for seeding purposes, the NJSIAA has allowed the first 15 games to count on the schedule, with the deadline moved from Feb. 8 to Feb. 11.


Metuchen wrestling is still looking to develop its program. The Bulldogs (5-8) have battled through numerous injuries, and many wrestlers have never competed in a varsity match until this year. Still, head coach Nick Zaneto said there have been bright spots.

“At the GMC Tournament, we had Kevin Coleman, a junior, take fourth place at 126 pounds, and I expect he will contend for a district title in a few weeks,” he said. “Mike Rehorn (170 pounds) is a senior who made it to day two of the tournament for the first time in his career. And Joe Maloney, a sophomore, one of those who never wrestled before this season, took seventh at 220 pounds.

“Unlike some of the other teams in the conference, we have no middle school program, so high school is when a number of wrestlers get their first experience in team competition,” Zaneto said. “The kids have made great strides, however, and I’m confident they’ll continue to grow into next season.”

GMC swimming

In addition to her first-place finish in the 100-yard freestyle event (53.98) at the GMC swimming championships on Feb. 1, Metuchen’s Julie Stankiewicz also tied for first in the 50 freestyle with Bishop George Ahr High School’s Jessica Schmidt with a time of 24.96.


The Edison High School wrestling team continues its drive to become one of the better programs in the GMC. The Eagles are currently 13-5 and defeated Old Bridge High School for the first time in school history last month.

“I like to think we are a lot closer to achieving some of our goals and becoming a quality opponent,” head coach Tom White said. “I feel we have exceeded expectations in some areas, especially at the conference tournament.”

Edison was actually ahead in the standings after the first night of action in the GMC Tournament. Eleven wrestlers won medals, and two — Rob Cleary at 106 pounds and Billy Povalac at 138 — captured championships. The Eagles ended up third behind defending champion South Plainfield High School and another rising team, Monroe Township High School. The Falcons clinched their first White Division title by edging the Eagles in a dual meet last week. However, the loss has not dampened White’s excitement about the program’s direction.

“It was a great accomplishment to finish ahead of East Brunswick [High School] in the GMCs,” White said. “[The Bears] beat us in a dual match.”

Another major step was qualifying for the NJSIAA North Jersey II Group IV Team Tournament. The Eagles are seeded fifth and met fourth-seed Watchung Hills Regional High School in the first round on Feb. 10.


The J.P. Stevens High School boys indoor track and field team achieved a program first by capturing the North Jersey II Group IV meet on Feb. 8 in Toms River. On the heels of sprinters Mark Cooke and Jaashir Morris, as well as distance runner Panth Patel, the Hawks, coached by Dave Martinez, scored 56 of their 58 points, with the other pair coming as a result of the 1,600-meter relay team placing fifth.

Morris won the 400 in 50.18, with Cooke placing second in 50.46. Cooke captured the 55 hurdles in 7.79, with Morris finishing second in 7.82. Cooke also placed third in the 55 dash in 6.73.

Patel managed a second-place finish in the 1,600 in 4:30.39 and was third in the 3,200 with a time of 9:46.17.