On Sunday, February 21, 2016, Super Sunday in the Greater Middlesex Conference takes place with the GMCT Elite Eight playing at New Brunswick High School. There will be four games this year with the first game starting at 12:00 PM, followed by the second contest at 2:00 PM, then the third quarterfinal will be at 4:00 PM, and the nightcap will be at 6:00 PM.
For information on ticket prices as well as info and scheduling for the semifinals and championship rounds, see details in the blog. For all the links to other tourney info such as history, brackets, and content from this year's action, check out the 2016 GMCT Quick Links in the blog. If you would like to skip all the preliminaries, click here to scroll down and take a look at the updated brackets and outlooks on all four games.
The first two rounds of the 2016 GMCT were very interesting with several upsets. Thirtieth seeded New Brunswick, which didn't win a game during the regular season, scored an upset in both the GMCT Play-In round and the GMCT Preliminary Round. South Plainfield, the 25th seed did the same thing, and even gave 8th seeded Spotswood a scare in the GMCT Round of 16. Edison, the 21st seed also advanced to the GMCT Round of 16 as the White Division fielded all eight schools from its league in the Sweet 16. The Round of 16 went chalk as all of the top eight seeds won.
This year's GMCT Elite Eight consists of top seeded St. Joseph's, 2nd seeded South Brunswick, 3rd seeded Colonia, 4th seeded Sayreville, 5th seeded Woodbridge, 6th seeded East Brunswick, 7th seeded Old Bridge, and 8th seeded Spotswood. There were no party crashers this year in the GMCT Quarterfinals after Sayreville reached the Elite Eight as a 14th seed last year, and South Amboy reached the Elite Eight in 2014. St. Joe's has been the top seed in the GMCT for each of the past five seasons. The Falcons, which lost in last year's championship after winning it four years in a row, is looking to return to the winner's circle this year while defending champion, Colonia is in good position to try a repeat as the 3rd seed.
St. Joseph's is yet to lose to anyone in Middlesex County. The Falcons went undefeated again in the GMC Red with a 12-0 record, and won its first crossover game of the season by defeating Bishop Ahr in the GMCT Round of 16 (72-17). Joes has played a tough non-conference schedule again this year with the likes of Ramapo, Columbia, Paterson Kennedy, Gill St. Bernard's, Westfield, Paul VI of Virginia, Lone Peak of Utah, Montverde Academy of Florida, and Immaculate Conception of Montclair. The Falcons starting lineup consists of the likes of the very talented 1,000 point scorer tandem of Tyus Battle and Breein Tryee as well as Branislav Vujadinovic, Alanzo Frink, and either Xavier Townes, Letrell West, or freshman Khalif Battle in the fifth spot. Meanwhile, St. Joseph's is making its 10th straight quarterfinals appearance. The Falcons are looking to win their 6th GMCT Championship in the past 7 years, and 9th overall.
South Brunswick, the second seed, had plenty of players returning from last year although one of its top scorers from last year, Jack Engel, graduated, and is now playing college hoops at Stevens Tech in Hoboken. However, Eric Savage, who has scored over 830 points in his career to date, is back along with junior guard and 500 point scorer Mike Ugarte, senior point guard, Jaier Garrett, Isaiah Franklin, Sean Nally, Danesh Thirukmaran, Ryan Moran, and Chris James. The Vikings are looking to reach the semifinals for the first time since 2007, and have reached the quarterfinals for the 4th time in the last six years. SBHS has only reached the GMCT Championship once in 1993 when it lost to St. Joseph's in overtime (57-54).
Sayreville, led by juniors Ryan O'Leary, a 900 point scorer, and Jahsim Floyd, is making its fourth straight appearance in the GMCT Elite Eight and its fifth in the past seven years. East Brunswick, is making its seventh straight Super Sunday appearance and 9th in the past 11 seasons and is led by the senior trio of 1,000 point scorer, Matt Ross, Addis Ralph, and Mike Vick. Colonia, which had been a perennial visitor to the GMCT's Elite Eight from 1999 to 2009, is making its third straight quarterfinals appearance after not reaching the round for five seasons. The Patriots are led by 1,200 point scorer, Chase Barneys and Kolby Chapmann.
Woodbridge is making its fourth straight GMCT Elite Eight appearance under the direction of head coach, Matt Gigliello. The lineup is made up of juniors including near 700 point scorer Quassim Glover, Keshaun Henry, sharpshooter Quran Robinson, Harry Rutkowski, and Hura Blaine. Old Bridge is making its 2nd trip to the GMCT in the last four years. This is the 7th time since 2002 that the Knights are playing on Super Sunday. OBHS is led by seniors Connor Romano, a 930 point scorer, and Stephen Strom, a 620 point scorer. Spotswood rounds out the eight team field remaining in the GMCT. The Chargers boast the best overall record of any of the remaining teams in the GMCT at 20-4. Spotswood is led by two 1,000 point scorers in Marlon Hart and Eric Dadika. The Chargers are making their 4th GMCT Elite Eight appearance in the last 7 years.
So far in this tournament, the Red and White Divisions have dominated. Seven teams are either from the GMC Red or the GMC White. The Red Division has four teams in the Elite Eight with St. Joseph's, South Brunswick, East Brunswick, Old Bridge. The Red Division has Colonia, Sayreville, and Woodbridge. Spotswood is the lone representative for the GMC Blue while all the Gold Division teams have been eliminated. Division records in crossover games in this tournament so far, the White is 9-3, the Red is 4-2, the Blue is 1-4, and the Gold is 1-7. As a result, the Red Division is still in first place, but the White Division has gained ground in the latest GMC Hoops Conference Cup Standings.
St. Joseph's, the defending champion, has gotten this far in the tournament 17 times in the last 20 seasons. The Falcons have reached the Elite Eight in 10 of the 11 years Dave Turco has coached at the school. East Brunswick is making its seven consecutive appearance in the quarterfinals, and 9th trip to Super Sunday in the last 11 years. Two of the four matchups feature teams that have not played each other this season. However, East Brunswick did play and lost to Colonia in the GMCT Semifinals last year. In the two games involving teams that have played each other before this season, South Brunswick defeated Old Bridge in both regular season meetings while Woodbridge and Sayreville split. Through last year, the GMC Red won 16 GMCT crowns while the White Division has won 9, and the Blue Division has won 5. No gold division team has ever gotten farther than the quarterfinals.
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:
Now, let's take a look at the 2016 GMCT Boys Elite Eight Match-Ups:
#6 East Brunswick (15-7) vs. #3 Colonia (15-5)
Where: New Brunswick High School
When: Sunday at 12:00 PM
With respect to those common opponents, let's keep in mind that Colonia's two wins over Woodbridge were within the first 10 days of the season, and Woodbridge won 13 straight after that including a 49-47 victory at EB on January 9th. Also, Colonia's recent loss to Monroe was within the past two weeks of this season. East Brunswick has won 6 of 7 since losing to St. Joseph's on February 2nd at EBHS (67-50). Among the wins were victories over 7th seeded Old Bridge (59-53), 2nd seeded South Brunswick (81-68), 8th seeded Spotswood (77-59), and 11th seeded Monroe.
During this recent stretch, Matt Ross has been playing like a man possessed. He has been averaging 21 points per game including 32 in the win over South Brunswick (Ross averaged 31.5 points per game in the two contests against the Vikings this year), and 38 against Monroe. Addis Ralph has averaged 13.3 points per game during the same stretch including 30 in the victory over Spotswood. Mike Vick has averaged just under 10 points per game over the last 7 contests including the last four games where he has scored in double figures.
East Brunswick has a solid group of seniors when you add the likes of fellow starters Mike Brizuela and Justin Sewnarine. The Bears also have key contributors off the bench with juniors Ezra Levitt and Dante Ralph and sophomores Joe Sampson and Jesse Perel. When these players get involved in the offense, East Brunswick benefits greatly and scores a lot of points. The bench as well as the two other senior starters were key in both wins over Old Bridge and the recent win over South Brunswick. They were absent in losses to St. Joseph's and Woodbridge.
Colonia is led by two explosive players on the offensive side of the ball in 1,200 point scorer, Chase Barneys and Kolby Chapman. Both can score in bunches. Both were keys in Colonia's wins over J.P. Stevens on January 27th in North Edison (54-49 in OT) and the win over Lakewood (50-46) in the Tom Richel Memorial Hoopfest at Roselle Catholic on Feburary 6th. In the win over Stevens, Barneys was the hero with 22 points including 6 of the team's 8 points in overtime while Chapmann got the other two en route to a 15 point effort. Chapmann scored 25 while Barneys added 19 in the win over Lakewood.
Outside of Barneys and Chapmann, Colonia has a lot of youth and relative inexperience in its lineup. Sophomores Christian Chapmann and Frank Lehman were key contributors to last year's freshmen team that reached the Final Four at the 2015 Perth Amboy/GMC Freshmen Tournament, and finished third. Mike Lacko and Karl Willimar provide the Patriots with an inside presence, and Lacko has performed well in two of the three games GMC Hoops covered against Ridge at the Eric LeGrand Classic and versus Stevens. Mike Wilson and Cyril Yalarti also contribute. In all three games that GMC Hoops covered, Barneys and Chapmann accounted for the bulk of the Patriots scoring.
Keys for the game for East Brunswick will be the play of Mike VIck on the offensive side, and how the Bears defend against both Barneys and Kolby Chapmann on the defensive end. Big man Addis Ralph must also stay out of foul trouble. Meanwhile for Colonia, they will need others to step up to provide a more balanced attack, and find a way to slow down the big three while preventing others on EB from having solid games. Vick can not only be a great scorer, but when he does a superb job as playmaker, the Bears benefit greatly with a more balanced attack, and contributions from as many as 10 different players in a game. In the games that GMC Hoops covered Colonia in, the duo of Barneys and Kobly Chapmann accounted for 81 of Colonia's 104 points in the two wins, and only 14 of the 33 points in the loss to Ridge. Colonia needs a third option, someone like Lacko, who scored 8 in the loss to Ridge.
GMC Hoops Pick: East Brunswick wins, 67-60
#7 Old Bridge (17-6) vs. #2 South Brunswick (18-3)
Where: New Brunswick High School
When: Sunday at 2:00 PM
Both teams had to fight for their lives a bit in the Round of 16. Old Bridge more than South Brunswick though. Trailing 38-29 early in the fourth quarter, the Knights appeared dead. J.P. Stevens did a tremendous job defensively by forcing Old Bridge to play a more half court game, guarding the perimeter, and limiting the Knights to one shot on offense. The result was only a three pointer and a two point field goal for the Knights during the middle two periods. The rest of Old Bridge's scoring came at the foul line. The Knights were able to overcome that by stepping up their defensive game, especially from senior Zach Attianese. Strom scored 10 of his game high 22 in the fourth including a three pointer and a three point play while Romano scored five of his 12 to lead the Knights from the brink.
It's tough to beat a team three times in one season. East Brunswick found that out three years ago in that epic 2013 GMCT Championship against St. Joseph's, a team it defeated twice in their two regular season meetings. That is not to say that it can't happen. South Plainfield defeated Colonia four times en route to the 2004 GMCT crown and a berth in the North Jersey Section 2 Group 3 final that same year. However, the familiarity gives Old Bridge a chance. Both teams have the ability to shoot the three. Not only Eric Savage, an 800 plus point scorer for South Brunswick, but also the likes of 500 point plus scorer Mike Ugarte, Danesh Thirukmaran, Sean Nally, and Ryan Moran can hit the three for the Vikings. Moran actually had four treys in the first win back before the holidays.
Old Bridge not only has Romano, a 900 point plus scorer and Storm, a 600 point plus scorer that can hit threes, but it also has the likes of Will Osvald, C.J. Santoro, and even forward Kyle Parris likes to hit the three, especially from the top of the key. Rich Calandrino and Brandon Millings have come off the bench in spots to hit the trey as well. Old Bridge's guards are overall bigger although Savage is the tallest player in the guard rotation for both teams. Savage has been playing well. In the two games versus East Brunswick, he averaged 24 points including 19 in the second half in the come from behind win on January 26th in South Brunswick. Moran is an X-factor for the Vikes. In just about every game that GMC Hoops covered this year, he shot the ball well from beyond the arc.
The keys to the game will be how Old Bridge can contain Savage, who does more than just score. He acts more like a point forward on offense with his handle and playmaking ability, and he can also score in the paint. Romano has great playmaking ability, and can take the ball to the basket as well, but is just a bit smaller than Savage. Strom and Osvald will have to make shots from the perimeter for OB, and the Knights can ill afford to go into stretches where they struggle scoring such as down the stretch in the first meeting between these two teams, and the middle two periods against J.P. Stevens the other day. Attianese's hustle and defense will be needed again to inspire. Look for this one to go down to the wire, and be decided by a late score.
GMC Hoops Pick: Old Bridge wins, 60-58
#5 Woodbridge (18-4) vs. #4 Sayreville (17-6)
Where: New Brunswick High School
When: Sunday at 4:00 PM
The Bombers went through a tough stretch when they lost to the Barrons. Sayreville actually lost two days later at Old Bridge (59-50) in a GMC Crossover, and then lost to Colonia five days later (63-50). Since that time, the Bombers have only lost one game, and that was to Linden in the Metro Classic on February 11th (75-27). Woodbridge actually had won 13 games in a row including the first win over Sayreville and a victory over then 2nd ranked East Brunswick before the Bombers avenged that earlier loss and halted the streak 12 days ago. Sayreville has more size and length with the trio of Jahsim Floyd, Ryan O'Leary, and Elijah Clark, but Woodbridge is athletic and plays solid defense.
With the plethora of talented juniors such as Quassim Glover, Keshaun Henry, Harry Rutkowski, Quran Robinson, Hura Blaine, and Curtis Nesbit, the Barrons have many different players that can hurt you. They do a very good job of sharing the basketball, and getting solid contributions from everyone. The key weapon to look out for in this contest is Robinson, who has the ability to shoot the three, and put up big numbers on offense. In both games covered by GMC Hoops this season, Robinson scored in double figures including a 22 point performance in the overtime win over A.L. Johnson in the Eric LeGrand Classic at Kean University on January 17th. Rutkowski is another one to watch for since he does a lot of intangible things on the floor, and has improved his scoring this year.
Besides the trio of Floyd, O'Leary, and Clark, the Bombers have other key members such as point guard, Derek Astarita, Jayson DeMild, and Henny Mautes. Clark has stepped up his game offensively this season, especially during the first meeting between the two schools. He was a bright spot during that week stretch in mid-January, where the Bombers lost three games. Clark is athletic, has length, can shoot the three, and attack the rim. O'Leary struggled during the bad stretch, but has since played well, and is in better health than he was around this time a month ago. O'Leary came up huge down the stretch against J.P. Stevens in a recent win with a big first half followed by a huge three point play to tie the game with under a minute to play.
Woodbridge has not needed big games from Glover. However, on this stage, expect Glover to try to have a big game today. Henry is often overlooked because of his playmaking ability, but he can score. Besides Robinson's 22 points in the win over Johnson, he was second on the team in scoring with 14. Mautes is an X-factor for Sayreville since he has improved his shooting from the perimeter, but also because of his rebounding ability. Look for others Mitch Strandberg to be more of a contributor for the Bombers as well. This game will likely go down to the wire, but Sayreville's length gives them an advantage.
GMC Hoops Pick: Sayreville wins, 51-50
#8 Spotswood (20-4) vs. #1 St. Joseph's (17-5)
Where: New Brunswick High School
When: Sunday at 6:00 PM
Like St. Joseph's, Spotswood, which earned the 8th seed due to a tie in the GMC White between Sayreville and Colonia, has two 1,100 point scorers in Marlon Hart (1,122 points) and Eric Dadika (1,106 points). They also have two other players in J.T. Vento and Andrew Fuzesi, who can score in double figures, but in different ways. Vento uses his athleticism while Fuzesi packs a punch from the perimeter. Shawn O'Connor standout quarterback on this year's Blue Division champion football team, rounds out the starting five while Vinnie Guardiola, Abdul Nieskens, Justin Dekovics, and Dan Newton, contribute from the bench. Guardiola, Dekovics, Newton, and Nieskens can all hit the three.
The top ranked Falcons have high expectations to not only get back to the GMCT final for the 7th straight year, but also bring back the trophy after losing to Colonia in the final a year ago. St. Joseph's is led by the Division I tandem of Tyus Battle (1,407 points) and Bree Tyree (1,121 points). Tyree has come on as of late with 7 games of 20 points or more since January 12th, and 18 points against North Brunswick two weeks ago, and 16 versus Immaculate Conception of Montclair last Sunday at the Primetime Shootout. Battle has scored in double figures in all but one game this season, and that was a week ago in the loss to Immaculate Conception (51-49). In 12 of those games, Battle has scored 20 points or more.
Spotswood will need big games from Hart and Dadika as well as Vento and Fuzesi to be competitive. The Chargers will need to figure out how to defend both Battle and Tyree. There may be a special defense such as a Triangle and Two deployed in this one since Spotswood will need to have other players on Joes to beat them. One of those players could be Branislav Vujadinovic, an exchange student from Serbia, who is in his second year at St. Joseph's, and while he has taken a bit of a back seat in terms of his scoring role with the additions of not only Battle but also Alanzo Frink, he is still a very formidable player that can come up big, especially from the perimeter. His length also presents an additional problem on the defensive end.
Letrell West, Xavier Townes, and Khalif Battle have been utilized in the third guard spot due to their ability to play defense. West has improved his game over the course of the season, and had a solid effort in the non-conference loss at Lone Peak of Utah in the ESPN/GEICO High School Showcase on February 5th. Another key player that could be very helpful in this drive for a championship is senior forward, Bryce Layne, who returned to the lineup recently in a loss to Montverde Academy in the Metro Classic at Kean University on February 11th. His length and athleticism could provide Joes with an additional boost.
This is going to be a tall order for Spotswood. The Chargers will need its big four to score in double figures, and get contributions from its bench, especially from three. They will need to be patient on offense, and try to spread Joes out. The Falcons have had trouble against teams that shoot well from the perimeter. Otherwise, expect St. Joseph's to roll into the semifinals.
GMC Hoops Pick: St. Joseph's wins 67-40
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