Area hoops teams compete in postseason tournaments



 Metuchen High School’s Arthur Flaherty weaves through Middlesex defenders to put up a shot during the Feb. 14 Greater Middlesex Conference play-in game in Metuchen. The Bulldogs advanced with a 58-49 triumph.  SCOTT FRIEDMAN Metuchen High School’s Arthur Flaherty weaves through Middlesex defenders to put up a shot during the Feb. 14 Greater Middlesex Conference play-in game in Metuchen. The Bulldogs advanced with a 58-49 triumph. SCOTT FRIEDMAN The Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) boys and girls basketball tournaments are underway, and a number of area teams, headed by five-time defending boys champion St. Joseph High School, Metuchen, are serious contenders for this year’s titles.

St. Joe’s (16-3) is the top seed and will begin the quest for another championship on Feb. 19 when it hosts the winner of the game between South Plainfield High School (No. 16) and Piscataway Vocational Technical High School (No. 17) from Feb. 17.

The Falcons face challenges by a number of teams, including Colonia High School (No. 2), which hosts the winner of the game between J.P. Stevens High School (No. 15) and Bishop George Ahr High School (No. 18) on Feb. 19. Metuchen High School (No. 24), earned a trip to meet Woodbridge High School (No. 9) on Feb. 17 after defeating Middlesex High School (No. 25), 57-49, in a play-in contest. Edison High School (No. 21) defeated Wardlaw- Hartridge High School (No. 28), 61-42, in another play-in game on Feb. 14 to advance to a third meeting with Monroe Township High School (No. 12) on Feb. 17.

Edison coach Charlie Mohr said his team has played well lately despite its 6-14 record.

“It’s pretty simple with us,” Mohr said. “When we bring our ‘A’ game, we’re a tough team to beat. It’s when we play our ‘B’ game that we get in trouble.”

The Eagles fired on all cylinders in their first meeting at Monroe when they edged the Falcons, 52-51. Edison lost, 66-52, the second time the teams met. Al Newcombe, Juston Payne, Brandon Radd, Ishmael Treadwell, Justin Turner and John Zanfordino continue to lead the Eagles in scoring, all averaging about seven points per game.

“We’re going to have to play like we did in our last game [against Wardlaw-Hartridge]”, Mohr said. “Ishmael scored 12 points and had 12 rebounds, and [we received] another 10 rebounds from John. When we get that kind of production, good things happen.”

A winning effort against Bishop Ahr is what J.P. Stevens head coach Bobby Jones said will bring the Hawks (10-11) closer to achieving the last of three goals the team set before the season.

“We wanted to win 10 to 13 games,” Jones said. “And make the state tournament. The final goal is to win at least one game in the GMCs.”

Jones said their depth has been one of the primary reasons for the Hawks’ success, although the bulk of the scoring has come from Alex Corrigan (14 points per game), Nick Dooley (10.1) and Mike Lionikis (9.3). Francis Ballou isn’t among the scoring leaders but has been a strong overall contributor. In the girls tournament, Bishop Ahr (No. 6 seed) waits until the first round on Feb. 18 to host the winner of the game between J.P. Stevens (No. 11) and New Brunswick High School (No. 22). Evidence that the Trojans (14-5) should be taken seriously is the fact that they have victories over top-seed Piscataway Township High School, 48-44, and Monroe (No. 2), 44-43. Bishop Ahr has won 13 of its last 14 regular-season games and is looking to make another run at winning the championship that eluded the Trojans a year ago when they lost to Piscataway, 50- 45, in the title tilt.

The other area teams hoping to make positive impressions in the tournament are Metuchen High School (No. 23), which advanced to a preliminary game at Middlesex (No. 10) on Feb. 16 by defeating Carteret High School (No. 26), 38-28, two days earlier. Edison (No. 13) hosted Old Bridge High School (No. 20), and J.P. Stevens (No. 11) hosted New Brunswick (No. 22) in a pair of preliminary games on Feb. 16. If the Eagles were victorious, they would advance to a first-round game at South Brunswick High School (No. 4) on Feb. 18.

The quarterfinals for both tournaments will be staged at New Brunswick High School, with four girls games on Feb. 21 and four boys games the next day. The semifinals are at South Brunswick, with the girls playing on Feb. 23 and the boys competing the following evening. The finals will again be at Rutgers University on Feb. 26, with the girls game starting at 6 p.m., followed by the boys championship game.

The NJSIAA boys state tournament will begin on March 2 when Stevens (No. 13) visits Perth Amboy High School (fourth) in North Jersey II Group IV. The next day, Bishop Ahr (No. 15) is at Camden Catholic High School (No. 2) and St. Joe’s (No. 4) hosts Bishop Eustace Preparatory School (No. 13) in Non-Public A South, and Metuchen (No. 13) visits Shore Regional High School (No. 4) in Central Jersey Group I.

In the girls state tournament, J.P. Stevens (No. 9) visits North Hunterdon High School (No. 8) and Edison (No. 16) plays Franklin High School (No. 1) in North Jersey II Group IV on March 2. The following day, Bishop Ahr (No. 8) hosts Holy Cross High School (No. 9) in a Non-Public A South game, and Metuchen (No. 7) hosts Shore Regional (No. 10) in Central Jersey Group I.