Shows Character By Overcoming
By Greg Machos
January 16, 2008
COLONIA, NJ—In a rare Wednesday game, two of the elite teams in the Greater Middlesex Conference got together in a contest that would go a long way to determine the seeds at the seeding meeting for the 2008 GMCT scheduled to take place at East Brunswick High School on February 9th. Both Cardinal McCarrick and Colonia have developed quite a rivalry in recent years since the Eagles soundly defeated the Patriots, 65-48 in the Quarterfinals of the 2003 GMCT en route to the school's first and only conference championship. Since 2003, the two teams have clashed six times including twice in 2004-05 with the Patriots winning four times. As a matter of fact, the only other time Cardy Mac defeated CHS other than in the 2003 GMCT Elite Eight was at Colonia in December 2005. In a twist of irony, the visitors from South Amboy would repeat the feat, but it required plenty of character and determination. With a first half that saw the Eagles connect on only 4 of 23 shots, and trailed at one point, 23-8 with just 1:51 remaining, coupled with the fact that standout player Mike Burwell picked up his fourth personal foul at the 5:37 mark of the third quarter, things didn't look too good for McCarrick. However, head coach, Joe Lewis didn't panic since he not only had Julio Rosario step up, but also a player new to the rivalry.
Enter junior forward/center, Dominic Appiah, one of the many victims of the cost cutting moves by the Archdiocese of Metuchen that forced St. Peter's to close, and prevent the likes of him, Travis Evans, Justin Morgan, Adrian Johnston, and Brandell Whitehead from having what would have been a special season that brought back some of the lost magic and winning tradition that the school had given to Middlesex County and the GMC for decades, came up huge in a game that showcased how important he is to Lewis and the Eagles. Appiah was only 4 of 11 from the floor overall, and made 1 of 6 at the line for 9 points, but his assault on the offensive glass was duly noted, especially in the second half as he ended up with 9 offensive boards, and 10 overall to lead fifth ranked Cardinal McCarrick to a come from behind, 46-44 victory over fourth ranked Colonia. Perhaps the most critical play of all that Appiah made was not on the boards, but when he sealed his man to allow senior point guard, Will Snider drive to the hoop from the right side for a layup that made the score 38-37 with 3:12 remaining. Besides his foul woes, Burwell didn't have a pleasant day shooting wise. The 6'6" senior guard/forward, ended up going just 5 of 15 from the floor, but made 2 of 4 from long range, and netted 5 of 7 at the line for a game high 17 points along with 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, and an assist. More importantly though, Burwell came up clutch down the stretch with two field goals, and two free throws as well as an assist in the final 2:25 to help the Eagles get the pivotal crossover win.
Rosario chipped in with 10 points on three field goals, and 4 of 7 from the charity stripe to complement 2 rebounds, 2 steals, and an assist. Eight of Rosario's points came in the second half as the junior attacked the basket for a layups, and two pairs of free throws along with a jumper from the right wing off a kickout by Appiah at the 6:28 mark of the final frame that gave the Eagles a six point, 34-28 lead. Meanwhile, for Colonia, juniors J.J. D'Amico and Jordan Edmonds, and senior point guard, Brandon Hall did most of the heavy lifting for the Pats in a losing cause. Edmonds clicked on 4 of 9 shots from the floor, and made both his free throws for 10 points along with 3 rebounds, and a steal. D'Amico shared team high honors by also clicking on four field goals including three pointer, and made his only free throw attempt while collecting 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and an assist. Meanwhile, Hall added 9 points on three field goals including a three pointer, and 2 of 3 at the free throw line in addition to 10 assists, 6 rebounds, 5 steals, and a block. To see the full detailed individual stats, check out this contest's stat page in the GMC Hoops Game Stats page. Comparing the two teams statistically, the other big problem the Eagles had were turnovers. The South Amboy based school committed 26 for the game including 10 in the opening quarter when Colonia stormed out to a 13-5 lead. However, Colonia would eventually get bitten by miscues as well with 23 for the game.
In the contest, the Patriots shot only 17 of 50 overall for 34 percent including 2 of 10 from beyond the arc while netting 8 of 9 at the foul line for 88.9 percent. On the other side of the ledger, McCarrick clicked on only 16 of 50 shots for 32 percent including 2 of 5 from three point range. However, the Eagles were 12 of 27 in the second half for 44.4 percent while the Pats were 8 of 24 for 33.3 percent over the final two quarters. At the charity stripe, Cardy Mac was a mere 12 of 28 for 42.9 percent. In other statistical areas, rebounds overall were even at 31-31, but the visitors from South Amboy had the edge on the offensive boards (16-12) thanks to a 10-5 advantage in the final two periods of play. Colonia held edges in assists (11-7), steals (11-10), and charges (4-1) while Cardinal McCarrick had a slight edge in blocked shots (4-3). Both teams had double digit scoring in three of the four quarters played, and outscored the other in two of the periods, but the Eagles 34-21 effort in the second half proved to be the difference. In the opening period, Burwell accounted for all five of the Eagle points by going just 2 of 7 from the field including a trey. After Burwell's trifecta came in the opening two minutes of the period for a 3-0 lead, the Eagles were stifled the rest of the way with only one field goal over the final 6:03 while the Pats took control of the game with a 13-2 tear for an eight point early lead.
Colonia wouldn't get its first points of the game until about the four minute mark as Hall swiped a steal and handed out an assist on a layup by junior guard, Mike Karabin for a 3-2 McCarrick lead. Then, the game was halted for a while at the 4:07 mark as one of the officials had to leave the floor. After some delay, the official returned, and was alright. He would continue his duties for the rest of the game without any further incident. Due to the long delay, both teams went back on the floor to warmup for a while, and then play finally resumed. Returning to action, Colonia continued its run as Hall handed out another assist on a bounce pass to his right to D'Amico underneath for a layup as the junior guard was fouled. D'Amico then made the bonus free throw for the conventional three point play, and a 5-3 lead with 3:29 to go in the first. Twelve seconds later, Hall stepped up the defense again with a stop as he went after a loose ball, got possession of it, and called for time with 3:17 left in the opening period. Following the timeout, McCarrick junior forward, Branten Widgeon got the turnover back with a steal at the 3:09 mark, but promptly gave it back by traveling moments later. Neither team would score for a little over a minute before junior CHS forward, Mike Nweme scored on a putback of his own miss for a 7-3 lead at the 1:57 mark. Colonia then scored six of the final eight points including a Hall jumper off the dribble, a D'Amico layup, and then an acrobatic putback of a D'Amico miss by Edmonds with one second left for the 13-5 lead entering the second.
For much of the second quarter, it was more of the same as Colonia's defense continued to dictate and dominate the contest. Nweme opened the scoring with a layup off an assist by D'Amico, and then Edmonds followed that with an offensive rebound and putback attempt that drew a foul, and resulted in two free throws for a 17-5 lead with 6:09 left in the first half. Adding to the early McCarrick woes was the fact the Snider stepped up to the line, and misfired on both free throws at the 5:53 mark. The Pats would then get another score for a 19-5 led before Widgeon found a Rosario cutting across the key for a layup that represented the Eagles first points of the second quarter, and only their third field goal of the entire first half with exactly four minutes left before the intermission. CHS would get another score for a 21-7 lead before Widgeon attacked the offensive glass for a rebound and a putback attempt off a miss by Appiah that drew a foul, and generated one of two at the line for a 21-8 lead with 1:52 left in the half. On the missed second free throw, Jeff Mentzel grabbed the rebound for the Patriots, and was fouled. Mentzel then sank both free throws for Colonia's biggest lead of the game at 23-8 with 1:51 remaining in the half. At this point, the game began to gradually turn as Cardy Mac scored the final four points of the second period including two free throws by Burwell with 43.06 seconds left after he had been assessed his second personal on a charge drawn by Karabin at the 1:27 mark, and then a steal and assist by Rosario on a Eliazar Landeo layup that closed the gap to 23-12 in favor of McCarrick at the half.
Looking at the first half scoring, Burwell led the way for McCarrick despite only going 2 of 11 from the floor. He had a three pointer, a field goal, and 2 of 3 at the line for 7 points along with 3 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Meanwhile, for Colonia, Hall only had 2 points on 1 of 4 shooting, but handed out five assists, and swiped four steals. D'Amico led the Patriot scoring with 7 points on 3 of 6 field goals, and a free throw while collecting two steals, and an assist. Nweme chipped in with 4 points on 2 of 4 field goals along with 3 rebounds, and a block. Edmonds made only 1 of 5 shots, but netted both his free throw attempts for 4 points as well along with 3 offensive rebounds. Moving on to the halftime statistics, McCarrick was 4 of 23 from the floor as mentioned earlier for a paltry 17.4 percent including 1 of 4 from long range. Moreover, the Eagles were just 3 of 6 at the line. Meanwhile, the Patriots connected on only 9 of 26 shots for 34.6 including misses in their only two three point attempts. Colonia, however, was much better at the line by going a perfect 5 of 5. Both teams combined for 29 turnovers in the opening half with Colonia having a 12-17 edge. That would be an omen of things to come as the two squads ended up combining for 49 miscues in the entire game. In other statistical departments, Colonia enjoyed a slight edge on the offensive glass (16-13) including a 7-6 edge on the offensive boards. The Pats also had advantages in assists (6-3), steals (8-5), and charges (3-1). The Eagles lone edge was in blocked shots (3-1).
Returning to the action in the third quarter, both teams ratcheted up the offense over the final two periods, particularly McCarrick. After combining for just 35 points in the first half, the two squads came together to score 55 in the third and fourth quarters. However, the Eagles would get the lion's share as they outscored Colonia by 13 points. Building on the momentum it built at the end of the first half, Cardinal McCarrick continued to rally in the third with a 16-5 showing in the third that tied the game at 28-28 entering the fourth and final period of play. The South Amboy school got on the board right away with one of two at the line from Appiah after he drew a foul from Mentzel at the 7:45 mark for a 23-13 Colonia lead. Rosario then closed the gap to eight points with a drive through the middle for a layup as he was fouled with 6:43 left in the third. The McCarrick junior missed the bonus free throw, but Appiah was there to get the offensive board for a putback attempt, and was fouled himself at the 6:41 mark. The junior couldn't trim the Patriot lead any further as he missed both his attempts from the charity stripe, and the score remained at 23-15 in favor of CHS. The Eagles moved closer when Burwell made one of two free throws, but the team couldn't get any more as Appiah couldn't cash in on yet another offensive rebound as he missed the follow. Julian Smith did Cardy Mac a favor by turning the ball back over to the Eagles prompting second year Colonia head coach, Chris Chiera to call a 30 second timeout at the 6:37 mark of the third.
Following the stoppage, neither team scored right away until Burwell connected on a trifecta from the left wing with just under six minutes left in the frame for a 23-19 Patriot lead. Twenty seconds later though, after McCarrick had come up with a critical defensive stand, Smith stepped up with a huge defensive play by drawing a charge on Burwell at the 5:37 mark for the Eagle standout's fourth personal foul. With Burwell now on the bench, the visitors from South Amboy were going to have to find another way to get back into the contest in the short term. The answer came in the form of Rosario, whose slashing style provided a much needed alternative. Following a drive by Hall for a score at the five minute mark, Appiah got on the board with a layup that closed the gap again to four at 25-21 with 4:43 to go in the third as Lewis called for a thirty second timeout. Following that stoppage, Rosario gave the Eagles an opportunity to get closer with a steal off junior reserve, Xavier Coleman for a layup attempt that drew a foul, but the younger brother of McCarrick's all time leading scorer, Vince Rosario, who is now playing at Stonehill College, was unable to convert as he missed both free throws at the 4:14 mark. A little more than thirty seconds later though, Rosario redeemed himself by drawing a foul from Hall (2nd personal), and made good on both foul shots for a 25-23 Colonia lead with 3:43 remaining in the third. Widgeon, the younger brother of Kenny Widgeon, who played at St. Joseph's, swiped a steal, and went in for a layup that tied the score at 25-25. However, the Pats retook the lead as D'Amico drilled a three pointer for his only field goal and points of the second half for a 28-25 CHS lead at the 2:31 mark of the third.
On the next Eagle possession, Widgeon drew a foul, went to the line on netted one of two to pull his team to within a basket at 28-26 with 2:07 to go in the third. Sean Williams then got his only field goal and points of the game by scoring a layup as he was fouled at the 32.62 mark. Although the senior, and one of three remaining players from the 2005 McCarrick Freshmen team that finished second in the GMC Blue, and was seeded fifth in that year's Perth Amboy Freshmen Tournament, missed the bonus foul shot, the game was tied again at 28-28. Widgeon would get another theft with 6.84 seconds left in the period, but after an Eagle timeout, the visitors from South Amboy weren't able to score as both teams entered the fourth still knotted at 28-28. In the final quarter, the Eagles opened things up by picking up where they left off in the third with six straight points for a 26-5 surge since trailing 23-8 late in the first half, and take their first lead since 3-0 at the very beginning of the game. Rosario started things off with two free throws just fifteen seconds into the period for a 30-28 lead. Thirty-five seconds later, Snider got a steal that eventually turned into points when Appiah grabbed three offensive rebounds for a putback, and a 32-28 lead at the 7:10 mark. Forty-two seconds afterward, Appiah registered his only assist in the game on a kickout to Rosario on the right wing for a jumper that made the score 34-28 with 6:28 left. Following a Colonia timeout at the 6:16 mark, the Patriots roared back with seven unanswered points over a span of just 1:18 to retake the lead at 35-34 with 5:10 left in the game.
Hall ignited the comeback with a drive and dish to Edmonds for a layup that closed the gap to four at 34-30 with 6:05 to go. Edmonds then scored again on a jumper from the left side to pull his team to within two at 34-32 with 5:29 left. Less than twenty seconds later, Edmonds came up big on the defensive side of the ball with a steal that set up Hall for his three pointer from the top of the key that put the Pats back in front by one much to the delight of the partisan home crowd including the raucous CHS student section, the Colonia Crazies. Appiah came up big again underneath with another offensive rebound and putback for a 36-35 lead, but Edmonds was clutch again with a jumper from the right wing for a 37-36 Patriot edge with 3:26 remaining. The game, which saw a total of nine lead changes and three ties including seven lead swaps and three ties over the final 10:45 of the contest, continued to go back and forth as Snider took advantage of great positioning by Appiah to drive swiftly along the right baseline for a layup, and a 38-37 McCarrick lead with 3:12 left in regulation. After the Eagles came up with a stop on defense, Burwell, which was inserted back into the contest moments earlier, scored on an offensive rebound and follow off a Rosario miss for a 40-37 lead at the 2:25 mark. Burwell scored again later on for a 42-37 lead before Colonia once again showed its remarkable resiliency as Hall passed to Mentzel in the right low block for a score as thed senior center was fouled for a traditional three point play, and a 42-40 Cardy Mac lead with 1:40 to play.
Twenty-two seconds later, the Patriots got the ball back, and had a chance to tie when Hall drew a foul on the floor. The senior, and four year varisty player, stepped to the line, and missed the front end of the one and one, but Nweme came up huge with an offensive rebound and follow that got a kind bounce for a 42-42 tie with 1:18 remaining. However, Cardinal McCarrick put Colonia on the ropes by scoring the next four points including two free throws by Burwell at the 59.31 second mark for a 44-42 lead, and then the Eagle senior forward fed Appiah for a layup, and a 46-42 advantage with just 23 seconds left. Not giving up though, the Pats continued to battle as Hall drew a foul, and made two charity shots of his own for a 46-44 McCarrick lead at the 20.02 second mark. The Patriots, forced to foul, put Widgeon on the line, where he misfired on both foul shots with only 14.22 remaining. After D'Amico rebounded the second missed free throw by Widgeon, CHS called timeout with 12.75 seconds left to set up a final play. After the stoppage, Colonia got the ball to Hall, who took his team on his shoulders by driving to the basket against several Eagle defenders for the game winning shot attempt, but it was off the mark, and Cardy Mac emerged victorious with a hard-fought, character building, 46-44 win.
With the victory, the Eagles won its eighth straight game to improve to 10-3 overall, and 8-1 in conference including a 2-0 mark in crossover games. Meanwhile, Colonia dropped to 10-3 overall, and have gone 3-3 since starting the season at 7-0. The loss was the first suffered by the Patriots in four crossover games this season.
Cardinal McCarrick (10-3)
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