On Friday night, GMC Hoops will make a return trip to the RAC for the first time in two years to see both the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament Girls and Boys Championships.
The Girls final will take place at 6:00 PM between 3rd seeded South Brunswick and top seeded Sayreville while the Boys final will take place at 8:00 PM between third seeded Sayreville and top seeded St. Joseph’s.
This year marks the first time since 2011 that a GMC school had both a Girls and Boys team playing for GMCT Basketball Championships. The last team to do that was Piscataway, which defeated Cardinal McCarrick in the 2011 GMCT Girls Final and lost to St. Joseph’s in the 2011 GMCT Boys Final.
The last school to win both GMCT Boys and Girls titles in the same year as Cardinal McCarrick in 2008, which defeated Piscataway in overtime in the Girls Championship thanks to the three point shooting of Jen Shareyka and downed St. Joseph’s in the Boys Championship led by Julio Rosario and Mike Burwell.
Sayreville is playing in its fourth ever MCT/GMCT Championship Game, which they only won once in 2000. Ironically both coaches in tonight’s boys final participated in that game as well. St. Joseph’s head coach, Dave Turco was the head coach at Carteret while Sayreville head coach, John Wojcik was a player at Sayreville.
St. Joseph’s on the other hand is playing in its 23rd Championship Game all time, and 10th straight under current head coach, Dave Turco, who would tie legendary, Perth Amboy head coach, Bill Buglovsky for the most MCT/GMCT Championships by a coach with 8 with a victory tonight. Buglovsky, however, was an unblemished 8-0 in finals while Turco enters tonight at 7-4.
This year’s St. Joseph’s team has been perhaps the most remarkable of the Turco era. Despite losing the likes of Bree Tyree (University of Mississippi) and Tyus Battle (Syracuse University) to graduation, and Alanzo Frink (Roselle Catholic), Khalif Battle (Trenton Catholic), and Xavier Townes (Sayreville) as well as several JV and freshmen players, the Falcons managed to surpass win totals of the past two seasons with less talent by going 24-1.
The key to the Falcons success has been through its remaining senior leadership of Letrell West, Malachi Walker, and Mike Granda. West has been putting up tourney MVP like numbers and will likely earn the honor with a Joes victory. Walker came up with huge blocks in the win over Woodbridge in the final, and has been a great defender and rebounder all year. Granda has been steady at the point, and has had a knack for knocking down big threes like he did in the first quarter against Piscataway, and nearly perfect at the foul line all year.
St. Joe’s also has to thank its youth corps made up of freshmen Tyree Taganeca-Ford, Richard Greaves, and reserve forward Zach Martini, who have come up with big plays time and time against. Sophomore Matt Crowley also contributed during the course of the year. Sayreville was the GMC Hoops Pre-Season Number One that stumbled out of the gate with a double overtime loss to North Brunswick on opening night, and was upset by J.F. Kennedy on January 19th, but still managed to beat a solid Woodbridge team twice to earn a share of the GMC White crown.
Ryan O’Leary, who now ranks 2nd all time on the Sayreville Bombers scoring list, leads the way, but Jahsim Floyd has picked up his game with a double-double of 14 points and 15 rebounds against Carteret in the Quarterfinals and then 26 points including two monster dunks, and a plethora of blocks in the win over 2nd seeded South Brunswick in the GMCT Semifinals.
Xavier Townes has raised his game significantly since his outstanding performance in the win at Woodbridge on February 3rd, and is quite familiar with his former team that he and his older brother Marques played for. Townes is averaging just under 13 points per game so far in this year’s GMCT.
Not to be left out is football standout Jayson DeMild, and soccer standout, Ope Olaloko. Both have come up huge in the tourney thus far. DeMild scored 15 in the win over Carteret in the GMCT Elite Eight while Olaloko came up with a huge steal for a dunk to tie the game in overtime at 65-65 against South Brunswick on Wednesday night. He has also filled in nicely at times for Floyd. Elijah Clark, who had a dunk in the first half against South Brunswick brings athleticism and perimeter scoring. Henny Mautes also provides rebounding, shooting and good defense. Mike Gray and Derek Asatarita have also contributed.
Both teams have played Woodbridge with Sayreville defeating the Barrons both times on January 12th (68-57) and on February 3rd (75-72). The second game was an epic battle that the Bombers pulled out thanks to a clutch three pointer by Elijah Clark with 38 seconds remaining. St. Joseph’s had a low scoring struggle against the Barrons in the semifinals. Woodbridge, behind the play of Harry Rutkowski, pulled within one at 41-40 before Joes pulled away by scoring the last 7 points, and getting a huge block by Walker.
Keys will be how Sayreville defends against West, and if Floyd comes to play again on both sides of the floor. He has been a blocking machine in the last two rounds. If he does that again tonight, the Bombers will be tough to beat. The Bombers also can let Joes get out in front by too much too quickly like P-Way did the other night. O’Leary, who has only scored 22 total points so far in this year’s GMCT, has to get back to his old self tonight, and turn in a big game on the big stage.
St. Joseph’s will need the likes of freshmen Greaves, Taganeca-Ford, and Martini to step up and make plays like they have in the previous two rounds. Both Olaloko for Sayreville and Taganeca-Ford did not disappoint as my X-factors, and expect them to be ready to make a difference in this game. Finally, the coaching. This has been by far, Dave Turco’s best coaching job ever at Joes, and he is the master at preparation. John Wojcik has worked hard to bring Sayreville basketball back to prominence within the past five years, and he is looking to make a name for himself in the record books tonight.
Prediction: Sayreville wins, 63-60. Bombers were my pre-season number one, and I’m sticking with them here. St. Joseph’s has had a tremendous season, but the Bombers came up huge down the stretch in overtime against South Brunswick with Townes on the bench. They found a way to win in hostile territory, and have more momentum. They also have more length, depth, and athleticism.