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Junior Trojans Pull Away Late For Close Victory Over McCarrick, 63-58
By Greg Machos
January 26, 2008
NORTH EDISON, NJ--Many people around the GMC know that the varsity programs of both Bishop Ahr and McCarrick are intense rivals. What most of them don't know is that the rivalry pervades all levels of competition, especially in basketball. Saturday's game between the Junior Eagles of Cardinal McCarrick and the Junior Trojans of BGA was proof of that. After finding out that the two freshmen squads duked it out in a contest that ultimately saw Ahr win by four, GMC Hoops sat down for what would be quite a half and two minutes of JV basketball between two of the premiere programs in not only the GMC Blue, but also the entire conference. In a game that saw the lead change hands some nine times along with a tie over the final 14:58 of the contest, and neither team leading by more than eight points, Bishop Ahr managed to get the win thanks to a Vick Napurano putback at the 1:06 mark, two free throws by fellow sophomore Darius Griffin at the 53.1 second mark that made the score 59-56, and then after a couple of foul shots by Cardy Mac sophomore Craig Thomas for a 59-58 Ahr lead with 46.7 seconds left, Junior Trojan forward, Justin Peoples took an entry pass from the right wing by junior Tom Lancey for a layup with 33.3 seconds left, and then after a Thomas turnover at the 22.6 mark, Peoples netted two foul shots with 21.8 remaining for the 63-58 win.
Both of these JV squads have a plethora of talent. With the likes of Napurano, Griffin, Peoples, and Manny Kroggmann, the Trojans reached the Final Four of the 2007 Perth Amboy/GMC Freshmen Tournament, and ended up finishing fourth after losing in the semifinals to Perth Amboy, and then in the Consolation to Spotswood to finish the season at 17-4 overall. Meanwhile, McCarrick has not only a fine group of sophomores such as Thomas and Rob Olivieri, but they also have junior Taylor Snider, and a couple of fine freshmen in Jeremy Cruz and Ryan Smith. Over the past several years, BGA has put together solid teams at the JV level with two straight Final Four appearances in the East Brunswick/GMC JV Tournament including a berth in the Championship Game, where it lost to St. Joseph's (57-55). Along the way, the Junior Trojans, seeded fifth went into the Bomb Shelter at Sayreville, and defeated an 18-4 Junior Bomber squad that defeated Woodbridge a few weeks earlier in the thrilling overtime game. McCarrick has also enjoyed some success at the JV level with three Elite Eight appearances, two Final Fours, and a loss in the 2002 Final to St. Joseph's (46-39). The 2002 JV squad was the foundation of the GMCT and Non-Public B South Championship team led by 2003 GMC Hoops Player of the Year, Mika Wilson. So, this game has not only become a heated rivalry because these two schools represent two-thirds of the non-public schools competing in GMC Boys Basketball, and the intense rivalry that has developed in recent years between the respective varsity squads, but also since these two JV teams are competing for division and conference honors every year.
After being at the Monroe game against Perth Amboy over near Raritan Bay, GMC Hoops took Route 440 to Route 287 North, and back to South Plainfield, where it eventually ended up on Oak Tree Road, and ended up at the school. With the varsity game being sold out in advance, there was some concern that the site wouldn't be able to get into the game, but there were no problems. After talking a bit with McCarrick Freshmen coach, Mike O'Hara, and one of his star Little Eagles, John Appiah, for a bit, I headed into the gym, where the crowd was already getting quite big. Managing to get a seat in the set of bleachers behind the Ahr bench, I sat down with 1:55 to go in the first half, and Ahr was leading by eight at 30-22. However, over the next 4:22 that bridged into the third quarter, the Junior Eagles scored 18 of the next 22 points to take a six point, 40-34 lead with 5:33 remaining in the third. Junior swingman, Taylor Snider, who had six points during the run, ignited the tear with a traditional three point play at the 1:36 mark for a 30-25 BGA lead. A little more than a minute later, Ryan Smith found the younger Snider on the right wing for a three pointer that pulled the Junior Eagles to within a basket at 30-28 with 28.8 seconds left before intermission. Napurano then closed out the first half scoring with a layup that gave Ahr a 32-28 lead heading into the locker room. The third quarter opened with Smith grabbing an offensive rebound, and scoring on the putback for a 32-30 Junior Trojan lead with just 24 seconds gone by in the period.
Continuing the rally, and taking the lead, Cardinal McCarrick then got a three point play from Thomas, who scored a basket as he was fouled, and made the bonus free throw for its first lead since my arrival at 33-32 with 6:58 to go in the frame. Bishop Ahr would take the lead back with a score that made it 34-33, but the Junior Eagles took the lead back on another layup and foul, but missed the bonus free throw for a 35-34 advantage at the 6:31 mark. Ten seconds later though, the visitors from South Amboy would suffer a critical blow as Snider went down with an apparent ankle injury. After a few minutes of being treated on the floor, the junior was assisted off the court, and didn't return. In spite of that though, McCarrick was able to not only maintain its lead, but actually increase it. Jeremy Cruz, who along with Smith, were two of the outstanding players McCarrick had at the 2007 Colonia Freshmen Summer League, where it went undefeated until the Championship Game when it lost to the host school, Colonia, swiped a steal and went the other way for a layup that put the Junior Eagels up by three at 37-34 with 6:16 to go in the period. McCarrick then added a pair of free throws at the 5:44 mark for an 11-2 tear to open the half, and a 39-34 lead. Cruz then helped cap the run by getting another steal, and dishing to a teammate for a layup attempt that resulted in a foul, and one of two at the line for a 40-34 lead, the largest the Eagles had in the contest. Ahr then scored three of the next four points before junior guard, Jordan Smith, drew a charge on a McCarrick player at the 3:12 mark as the score now stood at 41-37. Forty-four seconds later, Napurano stepped up to the line, and netted a pair of free throws for a 41-39 lead with 2:28 to go in the period.
The Junior Eagles would keep the Junior Trojans at bay for the time being as they put together a 6-2 burst highlighted by a Cruz kickout to Thomas at the top of the key for a three pointer that made the score, 46-41 with 1:09 to go in the third, and then one of two from the line by the freshman guard at the 43.8 mark for a 47-41 lead. BGA would close out the frame with four points for a 47-45 McCarrick lead heading into the fourth. In the final quarter, Bishop Ahr would hold the Junior Eagles to just eleven points on three field goals, and 5 of 6 at the foul line. Thomas, who netted 12 over the final two plus quarters, had the majority of his team's points with six in the frame on two field goals and two free throws. Meanwhile for Ahr, Napurano, who scored 15 points over the final 17:55 of the contest, led the charge with 9 points on four field goals and a bonus foul shot while also handing out an assist. Within the first 59 seconds of the fourth, Cardy Mac got another score to go up by four at 49-45 at the 7:01 mark. It was at this point when the Junior Trojans made a move. First, BGA drew within two on a lob pass off the inbounds to Napurano for a layup that made the score, 49-47 with 6:46 to play. A little more than a minute and twenty seconds later, Napurano, grabbed an offensive board, and put it back in as he was fouled for a three point play, and a 50-49 lead with 5:25 remaining. Then, a bit of controversy entered the contest. With 4:32 to play, Thomas drove in toward the foul line from the left wing, and flicked in a jumper for an apparent 51-50 lead. At that point, the points were on the board. However, within a few moments, and after BGA got four straight points on a Napurano layup underneath and a subsequent kickout for a jumper from the left corner, they were gone as the Junior Trojans led 54-49 with 3:45 to play.
At about the same time that GMC Hoops noticed the discrepancy in the score, Thomas also saw the problem, and alerted McCarrick JV coach, Pat Kennedy, who was not thrilled, and brought the issue to the attention of the two officials. After some discussion, the points remained off the board. From the web site's vantage point it appeared that the person running the clock had awarded the points originally. However, the stat crew doing the books for Ahr didn't get the McCarrick numbers to add up, and thus, they were taken off, and stayed off. Keep in mind that this is purely hypothetical on my part. Returning to the game, the Junior Eagles were determined to overcome the obstacle brought about by forces beyond their control by putting together a 6-0 run over the next 1:25 to retake the lead. Highlighting the burst were two free throws by big man #55, and then a scrappy steal for a layup by Thomas for the 55-54 edge at the 2:20 mark. Jordan Smith then knotted the game up at 55-55 with two free throws, but Cardy Mac took the lead again on one of two from the line for a 56-55 edge with 1:19 left. On the very next Bishop Ahr possession, Napurano scored on a putback to give his team the lead for good at 57-56 with 1:06 to play. Following a timeout at the 58.2 second mark, Darrius Griffith was fouled, and stepped to the charity stripe for two free throws that made it a three point game at 59-56 with 54.4 remaining. To their credit, the Thomas and his Junior Eagles didn't quit as the sophomore guard got himself to the line for a pair of charity shots that drew McCarrick to within one again at 59-58 with 46.7 to play.
However, Cardy Mac couldn't get any closer as Peoples put the game away by first getting his layup of Lancey's assist with 33.3 seconds left, and then after Thomas traveled off an offensive rebound at the 22.6 mark, the sophomore forward drew a foul, and went to the line to sink both ends of the double bonus to round out the 63-58 final score. It was quite a game, and it got the crowd buzzing for the start of the much anticipated rematch of Bishop Ah'rs win over McCarrick in South Amboy on December 22nd. However, the second time around wasn't nearly as close as the Eagles cemented their claim to number on in the latest GMC Hoops Top Ten with an impressive 75-55 victory over the fourth ranked Trojans..
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