On Thursday, February 25, 2016, the Championship Game of the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament will take place between the top seeded St. Joseph's Falcons and the second seeded South Brunswick. This is the third different opponent in three years for top seeded St. Joseph's in the GMCT Final. However, these two teams have had a past history in this game. St. Joseph's defeated South Brunswick, 57-54 in the 1993 GMCT Championship for its first ever MCT/GMCT crown. South Brunswick is only making its second ever MCT/GMCT Finals appearance, and looking to win its first ever crown. The Falcons, which are making a record ninth straight appearance in the final, are looking to reclaim the GMCT Championship after losing to Colonia in the title game last year.
St. Joe's, which has appeared in a GMCT final in 18 of the past 26 years. Meanwhile, South Brunswick is making its first appearance in the final in 23 years. SBHS has reached the semifinals in 2002, 2005, and 2007, but wasn't able to get any further than that. The Falcons come into the game with an 15-0 mark in conference play while South Brunswick has gone 13-3 in the GMC. These two teams are no strangers to one another. They played each other twice during the GMC Red league schedule during the season with St. Joseph's winning both teams including a 56-42 win on opening night, and a 62-51 victory on January 19th. South Brunswick only has one other loss on its record this year, and that was an 81-68 defeat at East Brunswick on February 11th.
With this year's appearance in the final, Dave Turco now has double digit finals appearances with 11, the most of any coach in the history of the MCT/GMCT. Joe Hoehman, who has been at the helm in South Brunswick for 9 years after serving under Turco at SBHS as the freshman coach before moving up to head the JV squad in 2005-06. South Brunswick lost three key players from last year's team including Jack Engel (now playing at Stevens Tech), Terrance Wong, and Tyjuan Dugger, but everyone else returned including Eric Savage (861 points) and Mike Ugarte (572 points).
Seniors Jaier Garrett and Isaiah Franklin also contribute at SBHS, and the Vikings also have a talented group of juniors that includes Danesh Thirukmaran, Ryan Moran, Tavian Alford, Chris James, Vic Huetz, Shawn Bautista, and Kunal Thakral. St. Joseph's is led by the tandem of 1,000 point plus scorers in Syracuse bound Tyus Battle (1,443 points) and Mississippi bound Bree Tyree (1,149 points) along with fellow senior, and Serbian exchange student, Branislav Vujadinovic, who has scored over 500 points in two seasons for the Falcons (523 points). St. Anthony's transfer, Alanzo Frink, the younger brother of Jerome Frink, who plays college hoops with North Brunswick's Iverson Fleming at LIU-Brooklyn, provides the low post presence while Piscataway Tech transfer, Letrell West and junior Xavier Townes alternate as the defensive stopper to round out the starting five.
There are also the likes of Bryce Layne, Malachi Walker, and Mike Granda, who come off the bench for the Falcons. St. Joseph's has gone 60-2 in the GMC Red since the 2011-12 season. The only two losses were to East Brunswick in the 2012-13 season as the Bears won the division that year, but then lost to the Falcons in the final. St. Joseph's has won 41 straight games in Red Division play since losing to EB on January 17, 2013.
Before we get started though, let's take a look at what has happened in the tournament already by viewing the following:
2016 GMCT Boys Play-In Round bracket at:
2016 GMCT Boys Championship bracket at:
Take a peek at the following 2016 GMCT Outlooks by GMC Hoops
2016 GMCT Mock Seeding-Final Draft
GMCT Play-In Round:
GMCT Preliminary Round:
GMCT First Round or Round of 16:
Now, let's take a look at the 2016 GMCT Championship Match-Up:
Where: Kean University--Harwood
Outlook: For the third time this season, the second ranked and second seeded Vikings will take on the top ranked and top seeded Falcons. However, this time, the stakes are much higher. The winner will be crowned the 2016 Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament Champion. For St. Joe's, it will be a 9th title, and most importantly, redemption after losing to Colonia in the 2015 GMCT Championship. A win for South Brunswick will bring home the gold to the school for the first time ever.
St. Joseph's defeated South Brunswick on opening night in Metuchen, 56-42, and then again in Monmouth Junction on January 19th by the score of 62-51. South Brunswick has only lost one other game this year, and that was to East Brunswick on the day before the GMCT Seeding meeting at EBHS, 81-68. The Falcons have yet to lose to a GMC opponent this season. Joes rolled through the GMC Red schedule to the tune of a 12-0 record, and then played and won their first three GMC crossovers by defeating 16th seeded Bishop Ahr (72-17) in the Round of 16, 8th seeded Spotswood (69-37) in the GMCT Quarterfinals, and 5th seeded Woodbridge (66-33) in the GMCT Semis.
The Vikings have yet to play a GMC Crossover this year, and will likely not now. After going 9-3 in Red Division play, South Brunswick defeated 15th seeded Perth Amboy (63-58) in the Round of 16, 7th seeded Old Bridge (69-36) in the Elite Eight, and 6th seeded East Brunswick in the semifinals (50-45). The Vikes win against EB in the GMCT Final Four on Tuesday night was perhaps the most exciting game of the tournament to date. The game was very reminiscent of the first meeting. A close and low scoring contest that saw East Brunswick take a four point lead in the fourth quarter (45-41), and South Brunswick rallying to victory by scoring the last nine points. Once again, Eric Savage (11 points) and Ryan Moran were the late game heroes, but Mike Ugarte was more of a factor this time with 17 points.
St. Joseph's appear to have its big three of Tyus Battle, Bree Tyree, and Alanzo Frink starting to gel at the right time. Battle scored 21 points in the win over Woodbridge while Tyree added 13 points and Frink chipped in with 10. In the previous round, Frink scored 18 points while Battle and Tyree added 15 in the win over Spotswood. Frink has been turning in consistent double digit scoring, and the three even hooked up on several scoring plays in the win over Woodbridge including one in the fourth where Battle threw an attempted alleyoop pass to Tyree, which the Mississippi bound standout touch passed to Frink for a layup. The Falcons defense also looked much better as it limited the Barrons to just two first quarter field goals and 12 first half points.
Can South Brunswick find a way to be more competitive, and stay within striking distance entering the fourth quarter? The Vikings will need to be patient on offense, and not allow the Falcons to get off to a fast start on defense. SBHS will need to score from the perimeter, and try to get one or more of the big three into foul trouble. Savage and Ugarte will need to turn in solid efforts while others such as point guard, Jaier Garrett, Sean Nally, Isaiah Franklin, Ryan Moran, and Danesh Thirukmaran must contribute, especially from long distance. South Brunswick must not let St. Joe's put together a big run like they have in the third quarter versus East Brunswick at The Mag in each of the last three years.
South Brunswick will be playing at Kean's Harwood Arena for the first time this season while St. Joseph's will be taking the floor at Kean for the third time this season after playing Westfield in the SFIC Invitational on January 9th and Montverde Academy in the Metro Classic on February 11th. So, the Falcons will have a bit of a home court advantage since they're more familiar with playing at KU. It's always difficult to beat a team the third time around, but Joes gets the nod to win its 9th GMCT title, and 6th in the last 7 years.
GMC Hoops Pick: St. Joseph's wins, 61-48.
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