SJV duo leads North to OT win in Coaches Classic

Tim Morris

The Hub

    JERRY WOLKOWITZ Kerry Planer of Rumson-Fair Haven High School moves toward the basket in last week’s Shore Basketball Coaches All-Star Classic in Freehold Township. JERRY WOLKOWITZ Kerry Planer of Rumson-Fair Haven High School moves toward the basket in last week’s Shore Basketball Coaches All-Star Classic in Freehold Township.

FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP — Nina Vecchio to Vanessa Putnoky for two.

It was a familiar feeling for the St. John Vianney tandem. Only this time, instead of dropping in two for the Holmdel Lancers, it was a game-winning deuce for the North All-Stars in the annual Shore Basketball Coaches All-Star Classic played at Freehold Township High School last Wednesday night.

Putnoky’s lay-up off a Vecchio feed in the paint ended the triple overtime thriller in favor of the North, 77-75.

After the Shore’s best senior all-stars had exhausted all options for a win, in the third overtime it was down to playground rules — the first team to score a basket would win.

South got two free throws by St. Rose’s Kim Hughes (the 2000 Kerwin Award winner symbolic of being the best high school player in the Shore Conference) with 19.8 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 73-73, setting up the first overtime in the history of the Classic. After a two-minute overtime, each team had managed one basket. This time it was the North that rallied late as Diana Vega’s left-handed lay-up knotted the score at 75-75. Neither team could score in the second one-minute overtime, and the playground came into play — first to score in the third overtime wins.

"It was interesting but very scary," Putnoky said of the first-to-score format. "We had to play good defense. Every time they had the ball you are worried they’re going to score. On offense, we were looking for the right shot."

That came when Vecchio drove the lane and found her Lancer teammate one more time alone under the basket.

"The ball just kind of popped into my hands and there was no one near me," said Putnoky, who is headed to Bucknell University in the fall. "Nina always knows where I’m going to be."

It was fitting that the Vecchio-Putnoky combo produced the game-winner because they were the catalysts behind the North squad. It wasn’t so much the game-high 20 points by Putnoky but the way the Lancers had everyone running the floor and looking for open teammates. It was more of a showcase for team basketball.

    JERRY WOLKOWITZ Brian Wong of Rumson-Fair Haven tries to get around St. John Vianney’s Justin Bennett at last week’s Shore Basketball Coaches All-Star Classic in Freehold Township. JERRY WOLKOWITZ Brian Wong of Rumson-Fair Haven tries to get around St. John Vianney’s Justin Bennett at last week’s Shore Basketball Coaches All-Star Classic in Freehold Township.

"I only know of one way to play and that is push the ball up the floor," Vecchio said. "This game was a lot of fun. I really didn’t know many of my teammates, but everyone was making the extra pass."

It was a see-saw game all the way, with one team seizing the momentum followed by the other. Putnoky and Marlboro’s Vicky Adornetto (two threes) sparked a late second-quarter run that put the North up 38-33 at intermission.

The South fell behind 10 early in the third quarter but stormed back, led by Allentown’s Dana Thompson and Point Pleasant Beach’s Erin Wolleon, who asserted their size inside. The South would take a 53-52 lead into the final quarter.

Back-to-back threes by Putnoky gave the North a 66-62 lead late in the quarter, but the South answered with a 4-0 run to tie it.

Marlboro’s Trish Grohowski scored on a put back to give back the lead to the North, but Freehold Borough’s Allison Calandrino, who drained more threes than anyone in the Shore this year, stepped up and drained a three with 1:55 remaining to give the South a 69-68 lead.

Jenn Daly of Middletown North drove the length of the court for a lay-up, was fouled and made the free throw to make it 71-69. Again, the South responded with Kate Ahlers of Wall scoring on a put back.

Another offensive rebound and score by Grohowski made it 73-71 North with 35 seconds remaining. Hughes would then send the game into overtime with her two free throws.

Daly (14) and Vega (11) supported Putnoky’s 20 and Grohowski added eight, including her two big put backs late in the fourth quarter.

Hughes led the South stars with 13. Tiffany Masuhr of Monsignor Donovan and Thompson chipped in with 10 each.

Howell’s Staci Minuskin summed up what the all-stars thought about the game most.

"It’s a good compliment to be selected to play in this game," she said. "It was a lot of fun. I got to know the other players well. Everyone is very competitive. I finally got to play with Nina. We’ve always played against each other on AAU teams."

Teamwork was the difference in the boys’ game as well, as the South overcame a 23-point outburst by Neptune’s Brian Showers to roll to a 100-83 win.

A 17-6 run late in the first half erased a 31-27 North lead and put the South in charge by eight, 44-36, at the half (the boys played two 20-minute halves as in college). Toms River East’s center Mike Konopka scored 10 of the South’s 17 points, including the last six. He showed a variety of skills including a running jump hook that wasn’t defendable.

Konopka played an important role again in a 14-4 run midway through the second half that put the game away for the South stars.

Konopka would score 19 for the South, but he wasn’t the only player doing damage. Red Bank Catholic’s Justin Tardio and Freehold Borough’s Richard Harrell each put in 12 for the winners. For Harrell, it was like a home game as a sizable number of Colonials fans came to the Township to cheer him on and he didn’t disappoint.

Toms River North’s Ryan Stokes added 11 points for the South.

Raritan’s David White with 11 was the only other North player in double figures.