For the sixth straight year, GMC Hoops is getting a jump on the regular season with coverage of some of the teams in the Greater Middlesex Conference in pre-season scrimmage action. To see what scrimmages we'll be covering, view the 2007-08 schedule.
Joseph's Takes On Watchung Conference
By Greg Machos
December 10, 2007
METUCHEN, NJ--After a bit of a late start, and some difficulty getting into the Bird Cage at St. Joseph's High School in Metuchen, GMC Hoops managed to catch the final 30:14 of the scrimmage between the Falcons and the visiting Minutemen of Elizabeth from Union County and the Watchung Conference. Take away the fifth quarter in this scrimmage, and St. Joe's would have won by six, 56-50. Unfortunately for Falcons Fans, there were six quarters in this exhibition including a deciding fifth quarter that saw Elizabeth score nine unanswered points to begin the period, and then as big as a 19-2 tear for a 59-44 lead, and ultimately won the scrimmage, 69-61. Both teams won three quarters as the Minutemen won the first and second by both 11-10 scores, and the fifth 19-6 while the Falcons won the third 10-7, fourth 12-11, and the sixth 14-10. From the 6:14 mark of the third quarter, Elizabeth outscored St. Joe's by a 45-39 margin thanks largely in part to the 19-6 rampage in the fifth period.
Looking at the stats from the last 30:14 of play, Elizabeth was 18 of 39 from the floor for 46.2 percent including 1 of 4 from three point range for 25 percent. The Minutemen also connected on 8 of 10 from the foul line. Meanwhile, St. Joe's went 17 of 38 for 44.7 percent including 2 of 9 from downtown for 22.2 percent. The Falcons, however, were a perfect 6 of 6 at the charity stripe. In other statistical areas, St. Joseph's held edges in rebounds (24-21), and assists (15-9), but Elizabeth got the majority of steals (11-8), offensive rebounds (10-5), blocks (4-0), charges (2-1), and turnovers (20-21). In addition, Elizabeth scored 20 points off all of the Falcon miscues while getting 10 fast break points. St. Joseph's managed to register 13 points off of the Elizabeth turnovers it forced. The Minutemen also garnered six second chance points while the Falcons had five. Leading the way for the Falcons was junior guard, Nikko Vastola, who went 8 of 13 overall from the floor for 58.3 percent including 1 of 4 from three for 25 percent, and made all three of his foul shots for a total of 20 points along with 3 assists, 3 steals, and a rebound. Junior forward, Gerard Lewis chipped in with 6 points on 2 of 5 shooting from the floor and 2 of 2 from the foul line along with 6 rebounds, an assist, and a charge. Freshman forward, Robbie Ashamole played a lot in the last two quarters of play, and ended up with 2 of 6 shooting and a free throw for 5 points along with three rebounds, and a steal.
Sophomore guard, Steve Rennard made 2 of 3 shots including a three pointer for 5 points along with 3 assists in the time he played over the final 30:14 of the scrimmage while Eric Peterson chipped in with 4 points, 4 assists, and 2 rebound. Paul Konopacki rounded out the Falcon scoring with 2 points while Gagan Dhaliwal (0 of 3 FGs, a rebound, assist, and a steal), Mike Simpson (0 of 2 FGs, 2 rebounds, and an assist), Najhi Talley (0 of 2 FGs and 3 rebounds), Steve Brandenberg (0 of 1 FG, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal), Brandon Vas, and Matt Delaney all played, but didn't score. As mentioned earlier, it was a tightly played scrimmage with both teams going tooth and nail in the first two periods as the Minutemen won each frame by only a point, and the exact same score, 11-10. In the third period, the web site finally arrived, and sat down to see St. Joseph's trailed by a 24-20 margin with 6:14 left in the stanza. At that point, Lewis was at he foul line, where he sank his two free throws to pull the Falcons to within two at 24-22. A little more than thirty seconds afterward, Vastola swiped a steal, and went in for a layup attempt that drew a foul, and resulted in a pair of free throws to tie the game at 24-24 at the 5:41 mark. Rennard then gave St. Joe's a 26-24 lead on a layup at the 5:08 mark. The home team had a chance to increase its lead, but Rennard was called for a turnover by the officials at the 4:38 mark, and Elizabeth would eventually score to tie things up at 26-26 as the Minutemen got a steal that lead to a fast break layup at the 4:14 mark.
Less than thirty seconds late though, Lewis gave St. Joseph's the lead again with an offensive rebound and putback off of his own miss for a 28-26 score with 3:47 remaining in the stanza. Following an Elizabeth timeout at the 3:27 mark, neither team scored for over a minute and a half before St. Joe's got a field goal for a 10-2 tear, and a 30-26 lead. Compounding things for first year Elizabeth head coach, Chris Balent, was a turnover by his team at the 1:50 mark. Although, St. Joseph's couldn't take advantage, the Minutemen gave the Falcons another opportunity by turning the ball over again at the 1:25 mark. Not giving an inch, Elizabeth didn't allow St. Joseph's to capitalize on the mistakes, and eventually got on the board for the first time in 3:17 as an entry pass down low drew a foul that resulted in 1 of 2 from the foul line for a 30-27 Falcon lead with 57.3 seconds remaining in the period. Ten seconds later, the Minutemen scored again as they pounded the boards for two offensive rebounds that led to a putback for a 30-29 score at the 47.6 second mark. The visitors from Union County then had a chance to take the lead, but a layup attempt at the buzzer went off the rim, and the score stood at 30-29 entering the forth. In the period, St. Joseph's made 3 of 5 field goal attempts while knocking down all four of its free throw attempts despite seven turnovers. On the other hand, Elizabeth only made 3 of 8 shot attempts, and one of two at the foul line while it committed five miscues. In the fourth, the Falcons won their second straight period with a hard fought 12-11 effort.
Elizabeth had a chance right away to take the lead in the fourth after getting a steal off an errant pass that ultimately resulted in a foul, but missed the front end of a one and one at the 7:03 mark. The Minutemen would eventually take the lead though as a guard penetrated, and made a fine dish for a layup underneath that made the score, 31-30 at the 6:30 mark. A little more than a minute and a half went by before there was another score, and it would be Elizabeth getting on the board again with a steal off another errant pass by the Falcons that led to a layup, and a 33-30 lead with 4:54 left in the period. The Minutemen, which reached the North Jersey Section 2 Group IV Championship last year by surprising both Bridgewater and Plainfield in the earlier rounds, then made it an 9-0 run on a fast break that was capped by a nice feed for a layup that made the score, 35-30 at the 4:28 mark as St. Joe's head coach, Dave Turco called for time. Following the timeout, the Falcons got up off the canvas, and went back to work. Vastola sparked the rally with a jumper from the left baseline off an assist by Lewis to trim the deficit to 35-32 at the 4:07 mark. After a timeout was called at the 3:29 mark, neither team scored for over a minute before Konopacki got his only points in the time GMC Hoops observed the scrimmage with a bank shot in the key to make it a one point game at 35-34 with 2:20 left.
On the very next Elizabeth possession, the Minutemen retook the lead with a drive for a layup, and the foul, but missed the bonus free throw for a 37-35 lead at the 2:10 mark. Over the next 1:15, St. Joseph's rallied again with 7 of the next 9 points for a 12-3 run for a 42-38 lead with 55.3 left. Vastola capped the run with a three pointer from the left corner off a pass by Rennard for the four point advantage as former South Brunswick head coach, Balent, was forced to call for time. Following the timeout, Elizabeth scored the final points of the period as the Minutemen grabbed two offensive rebounds that led to a foul, and two from the charity stripe for a 42-40 Falcon lead going into the fateful fifth period. In the fourth quarter, St. Joseph's scored on five field goals including a three pointer, and a free throw while Elizabeth registered its points on five field goals and a foul shot. The fifth quarter was the decisive one in this otherwise closely contested exhibition. The Minutemen come out of the huddle during the break between quarters with a different attitude. Even the players on the bench were more demonstrative and enthusiastic. Elizabeth High School ended up with 19 points on a three pointer, seven field goals, and two foul shots while limiting St. Joseph's to just six points on three field goals including two by Vastola for four points.
The onslaught began right away as Elizabeth forced a steal that led to a layup and a foul for a three point play, and a 43-42 lead at the 7:43 mark. Coming up with another steal, Elizabeth came back down on its next offensive possession with a three pointer from the left corner for a 46-42 lead at the 7:15 mark. On the very next Falcon possession, Ashamole through an errant pass that ended up in the hands of Elizabeth, which came back down, and scored on a three point play as Ashamole tried to make amends for his mistake, and block the shot, but the ball went in, and the youngster was called for a foul that made the score, 49-42 at the 6:52 mark as St. Joe's called timeout. Following the stoppage, St. Joe's tried to regroup, and rally as Rennard passed to Vastola for a jumper that made it a 49-44 Elizabeth lead at the 6:30 mark. However, Elizabeth ran off four more points including an offensive rebound and follow, and then a steal for a layup to make it 53-44 at the 5:16 mark. The Minutemen would score again before Dave Turco called for time once more at the 4:10 mark with Elizabeth now leading, 55-44. The timeout, like the previous one, didn't seem to be the tonic as Elizabeth went back at it againn for a score on a scoop shot for a layup while being fouled. Fortunately for the Falcons, the visitors from Union County couldn't make it a third conventional three point play as it missed the bonus free throw so the score stood at 57-44. The Minutemen then forced a five second call, and got another score for a 59-44 lead at the 2:45 mark as the Falcons called timeout again. By this time, Elizabeth had amassed a 21-2 surge going back to the very end of the fourth period.
Finally, St. Joseph's got its ship righted again as it closed out the period with the final two baskets. Lewis fought to pick up a loose ball for a short jumper at the 1:40 mark that made the score, 59-46, and then Vastola ended the quarter scoring with a short jumper for a 59-48 Minutemen lead going into the final period of action. In the final frame, St. Joseph's won the period by a 14-10 margin, but it wasn't enough to overcome Elizabeth's lead. The Falcons opened the scoring when Peterson found a cutting Vastola from the right wiing for a layup that made it a nine point deficit at 59-50 with 7:09 remaining. After Elizabeth turned the ball over, Brandenberg found Vastola for a layup off the inbounds as he was fouled for a three point play that made the score, 59-53 at the 5:15 mark. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they couldn't get any closer. Despite an Elizabeth turnover at the 6:15 mark, St. Joe's couldn't take advantage, and the Minutemen made the Falcons pay with a nice fast break capped off by a great dish to the trailer on the play for a layup to make it an eight point game at 61-53 with 5:15 left. Both teams then exchanged two field goals apiece for a 65-57 score at the 2:30 mark. The Minutemen then put the icing on the win with two offensive rebounds that led to a foul, and two free throws for a 69-59 lead with 33.6 left. The Falcons then ended the scrimmage with a score as Ashamole made a nice move for a left handed layup and the foul at the 12.9 second mark for the 69-62 final score. More analysis on this scrimmage is now available in the GMC Hoops Blogosphere.
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