Makes Another Bold Statement With Dominating
By Greg Machos
December 29, 2007
BRIDGEWATER, NJ—You would have thought that one impressive win in the usually tough Vaughn Stapleton Classic Round Robin at Bridgewater-Raritan would be enough. Moreover, a close overtime loss to the host school and powerhouse program in Somerset County would make you satisfied as well. However, when you're dealing with the Chiefs of Piscataway, one thing you find out very quickly, and that is they're never satisfied. After winning the 2007 Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament as the sixth seed, a feat only done three other times (St. Thomas Aquinas in 1982, Metuchen in 1988, and Sayreville in 2000) in the history of the tourney dating back to the days when it was the Middlesex County Tournament, the Chiefs have higher aspirations. Not only do they want to win the GMC Red Division, which they didn't do last year thanks to South Brunswick and St. Joseph's, but also try to break through in the very competitive North Jersey Section 2 Group IV bracket, which is often dominated by teams from the Watchung Conference. A win over a state powerhouse program such as Seton Hall Prep would be a major step in that direction.
While the Pirates of The Prep as it is called, appear to be down with its lone loss coming in the 2007 Tip-Off Classic to Iron Hills Conference rival, Columbia of Maplewood (67-42), they still have a couple key players back in Jimmy Burke and Ashton Gibbs, both natives of Scotch Plains. Gibbs also has a younger brother, Sterling, who is a freshman on the team. For years, Seton Hall Prep, which is coached by the legendary Bob Farrell, a disciple of Ed Chakey at Roselle Catholic, and also a good friend of East Brunswick coach, Bo Henning, has been a staple in the Tournament of Champions. The Pirates have appeared in the T of C in each of the last three seasons including the title over St. Patrick's in 2005. On top of that, since 2004, Seton Hall Prep has won the Non-Public A North Championship each year. Over the last three seasons alone, the Pirates have amassed an astounding record of 89-5. To put that in perspective, Piscataway is just two years removed from being 4-20 in 2005-06. Both teams entered the game with a 4-1 record as the Chiefs won their first three straight out of the gate versus competition from other teams in the GMC Red, and then defeated Immaculata (47-32) on day one of the Classic before losing two Bridgewater in overtime (55-54) two days ago. Meanwhile, Seton Hall Prep entered the contest winners of four straight including a blowout victory over East Brunswick (78-38) on the first day of play in the tourney, and then a much narrower win over Immaculata (50-43) on Thursday.
There would be no doubt though, which was the better team on this day. Piscataway, still clamoring for respect well beyond the borders of Middlesex County, may have found some with another dominating performance against a Seton Hall Prep squad that looked bewildered at times. P-Way outscored its Essex County opponent in each of the first three periods, and seemed well on its way to doing that again in the fourth and final period before the Chief reserves fell prey to a late Pirate blitz that not only gave Seton Hall Prep the edge in the period, but made the 53-43 final score cosmetically better as well. James White again led the charge for Piscataway. After leading the way in the victory over Immaculata on Wednesday with 12 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals, and an assist, the senior guard followed that up with 15 points on 6 of 11 shooting including a perfect 2 of 2 from beyond the arc, and a free throw in his only attempt at the charity stripe to go along with 6 rebounds, 2 steals, an assist, and a block. Senior forward, J.D. Griggs chipped in with 10 points on three field goals and a perfect 4 of 4 at the line to compliment his eight boards on the day while Tristian Benjamin had a big first half with all eight of his points coming in the first two periods including an emphatic two handed slam off a steal he picked up at the 5:00 mark of the second frame. Omar Smith also had a hand in the victory with 6 points and 8 rebounds while also picking up 3 assists, 3 steals, and a block.
For Seton Hall Prep, Ashton Gibbs led the way with a game high 16 points in a losing effort, but he really had to earn all of those points. In the contest, Gibbs made just 5 of 19 shots overall from the floor for 26.3 percent including 3 of 10 from two point range, and 2 of 9 from three point range. He did have a better day at the line going a modest 4 of 6. Chipping in for the losers was Rahmaan Patton, who was the only other Pirate to score in double figures with 10 points on 5 of 8 shooting while pulling down 8 rebounds on the game. Sterling Gibbs gave us a glimpse into the future of Seton Hall Prep basketball with 9 points on a perfect 2 of 2 from the floor including a three pointer, and a solid 4 of 5 at the line while also picking up an assist, a steal, and a rebound. For the complete listing of individual statistics on this game, check out the stats page in the GMC Hoops Game Stats Section. Comparing team statistics, Piscataway shot 21 of 53 from the floor overall for 39.6 percent, but made 3 of 5 from beyond the arc thanks much in part to White. The Chiefs were only 8 of 15 from the foul line for 53.3 percent. As much as those stats were below par, they were still more than enough since P-Way's stifling defense, urged on by the "P" chant led by Piscataway hoops site runner, Dennis Wells, simply shut the Pirates down. The Prep ended up shooting as a team, 16 of 41 from the floor for 39 percent including just 3 of 12 from beyond the arc for 25 percent. The Pirates were also just 8 of 14 from the free throw stripe for 57.1 percent. In other statistical areas, Piscataway held advantages in turnovers (15-18), rebounds (32-25), offensive boards (12-11), blocks (5-3), steals (13-4), and assists (8-7). The steals statistic is probably the biggest of them all since they created easy basket opportunities such as Benjamin's dunk. The only area, Seton Hall Prep had an edge was in charges (3-0).
In the first quarter of play, scoring was quite low as both teams combined for just 13 points in the period. Seton Hall Prep actually had twice as many turnovers than points. The Pirates only managed to score four points in the period on one of six field goal attempts including a three pointer on four attempts from long distance while making eight miscues. Piscataway had its share of struggles too by going just 3 of 9 from the field including 1 of 2 from three point range, but only made five miscues while connecting on both of its free throws. The Chiefs drew first blood as Benjamin took a pass in the key from Griggs, and made a jumper for a 2-0 lead. P-Way had a chance to go up even further when Benjamin swiped a steal, but Gibbs came up with a key stop by drawing a charge on Smith at the 4:50 mark. About a minute and eight seconds later, Benjamin picked up his first foul of the game on Patton, but that foul was on the floor, and the score remained 2-0. The scoring drought continued as Piscataway's defense came up big again with a steal by Bryan Waluk, who then drew a foul on Gibbs at the 3:11 mark. Gibbs then finally got his team on the scoreboard after being held scorless for 5:14 as he drove along the baseline on the right side, and was fouled by Waluk. Gibbs then made one of two from the line as Benjamin went to the bench with what seemed to be a cut or scrape on his arm with 2:46 to go in the first. On the next Chief possession, Griggs received the ball in the high post, and drove to his right for a layup attempt that picked up a foul from lanky Prep center, Tony Peters. Griggs then made both charity shots for a 4-1 lead with 2:29 to go in the first.
Neither team would score for 1:23 before Gibbs dialed long distance for a three pointer from the left wing for the first Seton Hall Prep field goal of the game, and only one of the quarter for a 4-4 tie at the 1:09 mark. However, Piscataway closed out the quarter with a 5-0 run including a quick reply to Gibbs' three by White, who drained a three himself, and then the Chiefs got a layin that got a kind bounce at the buzzer for the 9-4 first quarter lead. The second would start off just like it did in the first as P-Way opened the stanza with the first four points including a drive by Thomas Bennett for a score, and a putback off a Justin Blake miss by Wayne Newsome for a 13-4 lead at the 6:28 mark. Gibbs continued to account for all the Prep scoring with another baseline drive along the right side for a bucket as he was fouled by Waluk. The Scotch Plains-Fanwood native then made the bonus free throw for the traditional three point play, and a 13-7 Chief lead at the 5:42 mark. But, just like the three pointer by Gibbs earlier, White, who likes to prove himself against the best, quickly retorted with a three point play of his own as he scored on a putback with the foul a the 5:21 mark that put Piscataway back up by nine at 16-7. Then, came a big statement play in the came by the Chiefs and junior forward, Tristian Benjamin. On the very next Seton Hall Prep possession, Benjamin got a steal, and drove the length of the floor from the left side for a two handed, rim-rocking jam at the five minute mark of the second that not only made the score, 18-7, but also declared to all in the gym that P-Way had come to play on this day!
Bennett then followed that up with a drive through traffic for a layup before Benjamin came up with another steal for a layup, and drew a foul, but missed the bonus foul shot for a 22-9 lead at the 3:24 mark. Both teams would exchange scores for a 24-11 P-Way advantage before the Pirates rallied with six of the final seven points of the first half for a 25-17 Chief lead at the intermission. Sparking the rally was two free throws by Gibbs at the 3:10 mark. At the half, Gibbs was just 3 of 9 from the floor including 1 of 5 from beyond the arc, but made 4 of all six of his foul shots for 11 points in the half along with a rebound, assist, steal, and charge. Patton chipped in with 3 of 6 shooting for 6 points and 6 rebounds. Both Gibbs and Patton accounted for all the Pirate scoring in the first half while the trio of Benjamin, White, and Bennett comprised of 80 percent of the Piscataway scoring. Benjamin had a solid half going 4 of 7 from the floor for all eight of his points to go along with three rebounds, three steals, and a block. White also had eight points on 3 of 5 shooting including a three while also making a bonus free throw, and grabbing four rebounds. Bennett registered four points on a perfect 2 of 2 shooting from the floor. Looking at the halftime statistics, P-Way shot just 10 of 23 from the floor for 43.5 percent, but limited Seton Hall Prep to only 6 of 19 from the field for 31.6 percent including a paltry 1 of 7 from downtown. Both teams were 4 of 8 from the charity stripe for 50 percent while the Chiefs held the edge in turnovers (8-11). Rebounding actually went to Seton Hall Prep (15-12) along with charges (1-0). Piscataway owned the rest of the stat departments with edges in assists (3-2), steals (8-3), and blocks (2-1).
In the third quarter, Seton Hall Prep came out with more purpose initially, and played more physical defense. The results were dramatic, but only for a brief time as Brendan Kirby handed out an assist on a Patton layup just 30 seconds into the new half for a 25-19 Chief lead. Things got a bit more precarious for Piscataway as Waluk picked up his third personal foul at the 6:41 mark, but a bit less than a half minute later, Smith squashed the fears with a drive to the left side for a layup while drawing a foul. Although the senior forward missed the chance to convert the conventional three point play, he had done enough for the time being to stem the tide as the score read, 27-19 with 6:12 to play in the third. Staying persistent, the Pirates continued to chip away at the lead with the next four points to pull within four at 27-23 before White came up with a clutch three pointer from the top of the key at the 4:29 mark that made the score 30-23. One minute and twelve seconds later, Gibbs retaliated with a trey of his own from the right corner that pulled the Pirates within four again at 30-26 before a double foul was called on both Benjamin (third personal) and Prep's Stephon Treadwell (fourth personal). On a subsequent Piscataway possession, Griggs drove through the key for a score down low that increased the Chief edge to six again at 32-26 with 2:43 to go in the stanza. The Chiefs followed that up with two more scores including a White layup at the 1:58 mark for a 6-0 run, and a 36-26 lead as P-Way head coach, Guy Jensen called a timeout. Following the stoppage, Piscataway picked up right where it left off as Blake made his only three attempt of the game at the 1:17 mark for a 39-26 lead while an official timeout was called at the other end as Patton was injured.
Although Seton Hall Prep got the final points of the third with an offensive rebound and follow by reserve forward, John Caprio, that made the score 39-28 entering the fourth, they were on the ropes. Another statement play came at the beginning of the fourth when Gibbs drove in for a shot along the baseline just nine seconds in. With a snarl and a stare, White came up with the blocked shot, and that fueled a 4-0 run to start the final frame as Griggs fed off White's defensive play with an offensive rebound and putback of the senior guard's miss, and then Waluk got his only points of the game on an offensive board of his own miss for a follow, and a 43-28 lead with 6:38 remaining as Farrell called for time to try one last time to get his team to regroup, and rally. Following the timeout, Griggs would pick up his third personal foul at the 6:16 mark, but the Chiefs would be fine as The Prep didn't get its first score of the period until the 5:01 mark when Sterling Gibbs got his first field goal of the game on a layup for a 43-30 lead. The Chiefs then essentially put the game with the next four points on an offensive rebound and putback by Smith, and a layup by Blake for a 47-30 lead before Sterling Gibbs struck again with a trey to end the run, and make the score, 47-33 with 3:01 to play. The Chief reserves came in for a brief time, and the Pirates took advantage with an 8-4 showing that closed the gap to 51-41, but they couldn't get any closer as P-Way came away with a huge early season victory, 53-43. With the victory, Piscataway improved to 5-1 overall, and 2-1 in non-conference play. Seton Hall Prep dropped to 4-2 overall. Both teams went 2-1 in the tourney.
Seton Hall Prep (4-2)
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