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St. Joseph's-Green Cruises To Eighth Straight, 44-24
By Greg Machos
January 5, 2008
METUCHEN, NJ--A week ago at the 2007 Vaughn Stapleton Classic in Bridgewater, GMC Hoops happened to bump into St. Joseph's-Green Freshmen Coach Lemberakis, who happened to be doing some scouting of the Piscataway Chiefs in action against Seton Hall Prep that night. Lemberakis, a member of the 2002 St. Joseph's Junior Falcons that were coached by current Piscataway head coach, Guy Jensen, and won that year's East Brunswick/GMC JV Tournament, was very enthusiastic about his team. Why not? The team had already won six straight including two wins over the holidays in the 2007 Marist Christmas Tournament. Add to that another victory over Perth Amboy on Thursday, and you had a team entering Saturday mornings contest with Colonia at 7-0, scoring an average of 14 points per game. Last year, it was St. Joseph's-White that won the Championship of the 2007 Perth Amboy/GMC Freshmen Tournament with a victory in the title game over Perth Amboy. This year it could very well be St. Joseph's-Green with a talented group of youngsters that have beaten the likes of South Brunswick, Perth Amboy, The Hun School, Elizabeth, and Marist in its first seven games.
While St. Joseph's-White won its first ever conference championship with its tourney win in 2007, St. Joseph's-Green has never won despite reaching the Elite Eight four times in the past ten years, including Final Four berths in 1998, 1999, and 2001. Last year, St. Joseph's-Green, which was covered by the web site late in the season against Old Bridge, finished up after that game with a win over The Hun School, and then a loss to J.F. Kennedy in the opening round of the Freshmen Tournament to finish up at 8-13. Meanwhile, Colonia has also built quite a reputation for itself at the Freshmen level over the years. However, that usually meant Freshmen succeeding at the Varsity level. Take this year for example. On this year's roster, the Patriots have freshman guard, Dave Cole. Star senior point guard, Brandon Hall was on the varsity roster his freshman year in 2004-05. Hall's predecessor at the point, Zach Rosen, who now plays post-graduate ball at St. Benedict's, and is headed to the University of Pennsylvania. There are also the two top scorers in the history of Colonia Boys Basketball: Justin Chiera and Nick Smith, who is now playing ball at Division II Stonehill. Two seasons ago, Colonia had its best freshmen team since 1991 as the Little Patriots coached then by current varsity head coach, Chris Chiera, reached the Final Four of the 2006 Perth Amboy/GMC Tournament before losing to eventual champion, J.P. Stevens in the semifinals, and North Brunswick in the consolation.
The Little Pats are now coached by Drew Hill, who is now stranger to success either. Hill was a member of the 2002 Carteret Ramblers, winners of the 2002 Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament with ironically a victory in the title game over the then defending champion, Colonia. Teaming up with the likes of Omar Alston, Wilfredo Fuerte, Lamarr Morris, and Rob Carter, Carteret ended the 2001-02 season with 39 consecutive wins in GMC Blue Division play after losing to South Plainfield on opening day of the 1999-2000 season. Carteret's season ended in the Central Jersey Group II final like it had done the year before against New Brunswick, the very same team the Ramblers defeated in the 2002 GMCT Final Four just a couple weeks earlier. The Ramblers, coached by current St. Joseph's head coach, and former Carteret standout, Dave Turco along with his brother Bob, the current head coach at Monroe, had made two finals appearances (2000 and 2002), and reached the Final Four three straight seasons as well as won a CJ Group II title in 2000. Last season, the Little Patriots of Colonia, earned the ninth seed, and a first round bye before losing to eventual finalist Perth Amboy in the Freshmen tourney. What appeared to be a highly anticipated matchup, turned out to be another day in the office for St. Joseph's-Green as they won for the eighth straight time to start the 2007-08 season.
The Little Falcons got off to a fast start with a 15-7 showing in the first quarter, and then padded their advantage with an 11-5 effort in the second for a 26-12 halftime lead. In the third period, St. Joseph's-Green held Colonia scoreless for the first 6:27 of the period while scoring seven unanswered points for a 33-12 lead upon GMC Hoops' arrival at the 1:57 mark of the period. The Little Patriots would go on a 6-0 mini run over a 1:14 span to pull within fifteen at 33-18, but that would be as close as they would get as St. Joe's-Green scored the final two points of the third for a 35-18 lead, and then five of the first six points of the fourth for a 40-19 lead with 3:45 left to eventually win, 44-24 in the second GMC Hoops Freshmen Game of the Week in 2007-08. The Little Falcons were led by both Kevin Mayce, and Slay Sudah, who both scored a game high nine points on the day. Mayce got his nine on four field goals, and 1 of 2 free throws while Slay Sudah collected his share of the game high on three field goals and a three pointer. Matt Hratko chipped in with 8 points on a field goal and two three pointers while Kevin Waitikovich added 6 points on a field goal and a perfect 4 of 4 at the foul line. Brandon Dolan (field goal and 2 of 2 from the foul line) and Austen Mesar (two field goals) contributed with 4 points while Kevin Gilsenan (a field goal) and Rob Skowronski (a field goal) rounded out the scoring with two points each. Ace Sudah and Sam Afflu also played, but didn't score.
Meanwhile, for Colonia, two players accounted for the bulk of the Little Patriot scoring. Paige (a field goal and 5 of 6 free throws for 7 points) and Ramos (two field goals and 4 of 6 free throws for a team high 8 points) accounted for 62.5 percent of the team's offense. Restar added two threes for 6 points while Hill (2 of 2 FTs for 2 points) and Peraino (1 of 2 FTs for a point) rounded out the Colonia scoring. For the game, the Little Patriots accumulated their 24 points with three field goals, two three pointers, and 12 of 18 free throws for 66.7 percent while St. Joseph's-Green tallied their 44 points on 14 field goals, three treys, and 7 of 11 FTs for 63.6 percent. The Little Falcons outscored Colonia in each period, but the bulk of the damage was done in the first half. Sitting down to take in the game with a little less than two minutes to go in the third quarter, St. Joseph's-Green was comfortably on top, 33-12. Hill tried to get the Little Patriots going with a pair of foul shots for his only points of the game to make the score, 33-14 at the 1:33 mark. Two seconds later, the Little Falcons committed a turnover, and Colonia subsequently drew a foul at the 1:28 mark that resulted in one of two at the charity stripe from Peraino for a 33-15 score. After stopping St. Joseph's-Green, Restar connected on one of his two threes on a shot from the right side off an assist by Paige to cap the 6-0 run, and make the score, 33-18 with 1:05 remaining in the third.
Waitikovich put a halt to the Little Pats run by sinking two foul shots with 19 seconds left in the third quarter for a 35-18 lead. Waitikovich then swiped a steal with 8.0 to go, and had a chance to convert the Colonia turnover, but his last second shot from the left corner was off the rim, and the score stood at 35-18 entering the fourth. Things continued to go south for CHS at the start of the fourth as the Little Patriots committed a turnovers at the 7:53 mark, and then, Ace Sudah collected an assist on a three pointer from the top of the key by Hratko at the 7:38 mark for a 38-18 lead. Ramos tried to get something started again with a drive from the right wing that drew a foul, and resulted in one of two at the charity stripe for a 38-19 Little Falcon advantage at he 4:36 mark, but despite the fullcourt man pressure deployed by the visitors that forced a 10 second violation at the 4:25 mark, the Little Patriots couldn't take advantage as they were called for traveling a short time later at the 4:12 mark. Slay Sudah then scored on a layup to equal the Patriots largest lead of the game at 21 (40-19) with 3:45 left. From there, Colonia outscored St. Joseph's-Green by a 5-4 margin for the 44-24 final score in favor of the Little Falcons, which improved to 8-0 on the season.
St. Joseph's-Green (8-0)
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