Blues fall a game short of national tournament

Tim Morris

The Hub

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f the Brookdale Community College men’s basketball team didn’t have an identity before this year, the Jersey Blues do now. They are one of the best teams in the Garden State Athletic Conference and a serious contender in Region 19.

This year, the Blues won the GSAC’s North Division regular season and playoff championships, and played for the Region 19 crown for the first time in school history. When Brookdale (21-11) lost to Gloucester (35-1), the No. 1 ranked team in the country, 74-66, in that final held at Salem Community College on Feb. 27, they were one game away from playing in the junior college national tournament.

"Our program has really elevated itself," said Paul Cisek, head coach. "Now, making the Final Four is what we expect.

"We accomplished a lot this year, but we expected a lot," he added. "Our goals were to win 20 games, which we did, and win the North Division championship."

The Blues opened up the GSAC playoffs at home in Middletown. Brookdale cranked its running game up early, racing out to a 26-9 lead and never looking back on the way to a 100-83 win over Passaic. Billy Gilligan (29) and Earl Agee (21) were the sharpest shooters, combining for 50 points.

That win put them in the Region 19 semifinals for the third straight year which was the North Division championship game against Union, the team the Blues shared the regular season title with. Brookdale again relied on Gilligan (20) and Agee (27) to prevail, 78-73. It was the school’s first North Division playoff title, and it put them in the GSAC final, which also is the Region 19 title game, for the first time in history. The team was one step away from the national tournament.

Their win was costly. Gilligan was whistled for his third technical foul of the season late in the game which meant an automatic one-game suspension. The high-scoring forward would not be eligible for the title game. Gilligan had reacted to a call that gave the ball to Union after it appeared that the ball had gone off a Union player.

Cisek thought the technical call could have gone either way, but did not think it was unwarranted.

"The technical was deserving, but I thought a warning would have been more deserving," he said. "I thought they should have taken the situation into account. It was a playoff game, and it was a close call that went against us. The whole team reacted to the call, but Billy was closest to the official and he got the T. It was unfortunate that he was in a situation where a call like that could have an impact."

Gilligan’s ineligibility did not cast a dark shadow over the Blues prior to the final. The Blues regrouped and went to Salem determined to bring home the Region title.

"They were ready to play," said Cisek. "They were disappointed, but they didn’t just roll over. They went and played hard.

"I can’t say that his absence cost us the game," he added. "We missed him certainly. We missed his scoring and rebounding. But there are too many variables in a basketball game."

One variable was the way the Blues approached the game. Earlier in the season, without Gilligan, the Blues had taken Gloucester to overtime at their place in a high-scoring game. In the rematch, Cisek wanted his team, which was averaging 86.5 points a game to play a more deliberate game.

"I didn’t want to run with them; they are more athletic than we are," Cisek explained. "They like to play an uptempo game and just come at you. I looked for us to do what we do best. We shoot the ball well so I wanted us to run our offense and look for the open shot. We play strong defense and we needed to come up with a great effort. We mixed our man-to-man with some 3-2 zone to mix things up.

"It came down to a game of spurts," he added. "They went on a late run in the first half to go up by 12 and then pushed it up to 18 in the second half. We turned it around and got to within three late in the game."

Gloucester would take a 38-26 lead at the break behind the play of Wykeen Kelly and William Chaney. With 7:43 remaining, Gloucester had a comfortable 58-40 lead. But the Blues would come roaring back. A 24-9 run would cut the lead to just three at 67-64 with 1:40 left in the game. Agee would hit for 12 and Rory Levine came off the bench to put in seven, including a pair of threes.

However, Gloucester was able to keep Brookdale at arm’s length by making six of eight free throws in the final 1:40 led by Kelly, who was 4-4.

"There’s a reason they’re the No. 1 team in the country," said Cisek. "They are a very solid team. I think it came down to their being a little more athletic than we were."

Agee would lead Brookdale with a game-high 26 and added 10 assists while Kerry Betz backed him up with 23. Brookdale used its outside shooting to offset the inside play of Gloucester’s Jason Dunham (16 points and 13 rebounds). The Blues outshot Gloucester from three-point range 14-7 as Agee hit six and Betz five.

Gloucester had four players in double-figures led by Chaney’s 19.

Brookdale’s success is starting to have a positive impact on recruiting, noted Cisek. More and more of the better players in the Shore are beginning to take notice of the team.

"We’re starting to keep the kids from the area," he added.

Cisek will beat the bush recruiting as he has to replace the likes of Gilligan, Levine, Betz and Matt Raviaioli.

Agee, who blossomed into an exciting point guard, leads the freshman class that will be returning. Tom Tirrell, who made a good contribution down the stretch, also is back.

Now that the bar has been raised by the 1999-2000 Jersey Blues, the goal for future teams is to take that next step and get to the national tournament.

Kingsbery’s fast finish makes him All-American

Places third in the mile at national meet by running a personal best 4:16.99

Tim morris

The Hub

"It was a dream, a long shot that worked out," said Red Bank Regional High School’s Walton Kingsbery.

The dream was to earn All-American honors in the one-mile run at Sunday’s National Scholastic Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Armory in New York City. To do that, the Red Bank senior had to place third or better in the event.

Kingsbery’s task was daunting enough, but it became more difficult on Sunday when he discovered that he wasn’t in the seeded race. At first he thought it was a mistake, but it wasn’t. He was going to have to crank out a fast mile on his own.

"I had to go out and run against the clock," explained Kingsbery. "It’s easier to race against the clock indoors because you get splits every 200 meters."

At 800 meters, Kingsbery wasn’t so certain that a fast time was in the offing. He was back in eighth place as the field passed through the half-way point 2:11. He was looking for a 2:06 or 2:07. After a 66-second third quarter, it was time do something.

"I was in lane three running on the outside," Kingsbery noted. "With 350 to go, I went up high on turn three and used the momentum coming off the turn to take the lead. I’m learning how to run on the indoor tracks."

A brilliant 59.9-second last quarter by Kingsbery blew the race open. Knowing he had to get as fast a time as he could, he ran through the tape, stopping the electronic timer in 4:16.99, a new personal record indoors or outdoors and an effort that put him back among the miling elite (his time is 27th all-time in the state).

"I was very happy with the time," he pointed out. "I felt I had a lot left with a quarter to go. I knew I had to close as hard as I could. That 59 was a lot of fun."

More fun than Kingsbery has had in some time on the track. Since his disaster at the last month’s Meet of Champions (when he was fifth in the 1,600 and sixth in 3,200 after entering both races with the best times in the state), the Buc senior had been looking to put the experience behind him.

A quick 1:55.25 800 to take third at the Eastern States helped get him back on track. However, the 1,600 is his race, and on Sunday he finally got to run the kind of race he likes, sit and kick. When he needed it, the old Kingsbery kick was there. That quick burst of speed that takes him to the front and then the quick leg turnover that keeps him there.

After his satisfying 4:16.99, Kingsbery had to sit and wait and watch the seeded heat to see if his time held up. The final turned into a tactical race giving him hope. A 2:12 first 800 was playing into his hands.

The seeded race went to Justin Romaniuk of Suffern, N.Y., who ran a 2:01 last 800 to finish in 4:14.09.

Kingsbery’s eyes were now on the timer. When 4:17 came up, only one other runner had finished. Kingsbery’s 4:16.99 from the unseeded section had held up to put him in third place and on the All-American Team.

"It’s pretty crazy," noted Kingsbery. "My goal was to finish in the top three and make All-America. It doesn’t get any better than that. This makes up for what happened at the Meet of Champions. This is how I wanted to end the indoor season."

The newly recognized All-American will not rest on his laurels for long. On March 29, Kingsbery is scheduled to run an invitational mile at The College of William and Mary’s Colonial Relays in Williamsburg, Va.

St. Paddy’s 10-Mile Run is Sunday at Liberty Oak Park

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undreds of runners and racewalkers will take to the roads of Freehold Township on Sunday when the Freehold Area Running Club hosts the 11th Annual St. Paddy’s 10-Mile Run. For the sixth time, there will be an accompanying Windmill Leprechaun 5K race. The starting point for both races is Liberty Oak Park, Georgia Road. The 10-miler will take runners and walkers over the scenic back roads of Freehold Township before heading back to the park for the finish.

Kevin Devine of Morristown won last year’s St. Paddy’s race in 55:54, while the women’s winner was local standout Annie O’Dowd of Old Bridge. She ran a 1:05.41. Megan Phillips of Spring Lake Heights was second to O’Dowd last year and is returning to take another shot at winning one of the region’s most popular road races.

The course record is 49:17 set by Philadelphia’s Bill Frawley in 1998.

Another Quaker stater, Laura Mason, holds the women’s course record. She ran a sizzling 56:51 back in 1994.

Ken Holryd of Jackson won the Leprechaun 5K in 16:50 while Howell High School’s remarkable Lindsey Gallo was the women’s winner in 18:32. It was Gallo’s second straight win in the event.

Starting time for the 10-mile race is 11 a.m. with the 5K following at 11:15.

Race day registration will begin at 9.

Proceeds from the races will benefit Freehold Township Recreation programs, the PBA Torch Run for Special Olympics, CentraState Healthcare Foundation and other local causes.

Call the FARC hot line at (732) 431-2627 or consult the Web site at www.farcnj.com for more information.

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JACKIE POLLACK
Kerry Planer, Jess Fitzgerald and Chrissy Fisher of Rumson-Fair Haven celebrate after trouncing Shore, 47-15, in the Central Jersey Group I Championships Monday.



Elks to hold ‘One Pitch

Softball Tournament’

The Red Bank Elks Lodge No. 233 will hold its first "One Pitch Softball Tournament" under the direction of Richard Schnieder on March 19 from 9 a.m. until dusk. Rain date will be April 2. The cost is $175 per team-double elimination. Trophies and T-shirts will be awarded to the first-place winners, trophies to the second-and third-place winners.

There will be a party at the lodge for all players which will include hot dogs, burgers, soda and free drafts. Music for dancing will be provided by disc jockey Jimmi Mac. There will be a cost of $5 per guest. Call Brennan Brendan at (732) 747-1884 or Mike McCray at (732) 741-9771. The sign-up deadline is March 12.

RBC boys fall in title game, finish year 22-4

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Joe Cavanaugh of Red Bank Catholic gets tied up with Christian Brothers Academy’s Eric Hazard while fighting for a rebound in the the South Jersey Parochial A final.

LAKEWOOD — Even with Tuesday’s loss to Christian Brothers Academy in the South Jersey Parochial A final, the Red Bank Catholic boys basketball team had a year to remember.

"I’m very proud of my kids," RBC Coach Mike Beerst said. "We tied the school record for wins, we won C South and got here to the finals, beating a good Holy Spirit team."

While the Caseys do have plenty to smile about, Tuesday’s game against the Colts was a hard way to end the season.

CBA led 29-12 at the half and 48-23 after three quarters. The final score was 65-49.

"I think they’re just awesome because they have everything," Beerst said. "If you take their inside game away they go outside and hit a three. Go outside and defend and they come inside and hurt you there."

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Santo Siciliano of Red Bank Catholic drives to the basket Tuesday against Christian Brothers Academy in the the South Jersey Parochial A final.

For their part, the Caseys had some trouble getting things going early, as shots simply would not fall.

By the time the Caseys got on track the game was out of hand.

Still, there was one bright spot as senior Justin Tardio scored 21 points and finished with more than 1,000 for his career.

Tardio’s classmate Santo Siciliano added 14 points and eight rebounds.

"I’ve got a lot of young guys," Beerst noted, "but I also wanted Tardio and Cavanaugh and Siciliano — who worked so hard to get to this level — to be out there too."

The Caseys’ season featured the longest winning streak in team history, 18 games. That stretch, which included some tight games against Freehold Borough, gave RBC the C South title.

"We were very fortunate to win a lot of the games that we did, but my kids had a lot of heart all year long," Beerst said.

He noted that while his seniors provided a foundation for this year’s team, he will be able to build on three quality underclassmen who developed this year.

Sophomore Mark McGraw and juniors Jeff Hemschoot and Jared Gaudet undoubtedly learned some important lessons this season, including how to bounce back from a disappointing loss.

The Caseys’ 18-game winning streak came to an end when they were upset in the first round of the Shore Conference Tournament by Brick Memorial.

Rather than be put into the tailspin by that loss, the Caseys came right back and beat a quality Middletown South team and then beat Notre Dame and Holy Spirit to reach the final against CBA.

Caseys take South Parochial A title

RBC tops Bishop Eustace

59-47 in title game, plays

tomorrow in Elizabeth

LAKEWOOD — It may not have been their typical game, but it was a typical result.

The Red Bank Catholic girls basketball team beat Bishop Eustace of Pennsauken 59-47 to win the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association South Parochial A Tournament title on Tuesday in a game that was closer in the fourth quarter than the final score indicates.

The Crusaders battled back from a 35-21 first-halftime deficit to cut the Caseys’ lead to 40-37, when Ann Shovlin completed a traditional three-point play with 6:25 remaining.

"I knew they would come back at us," Red Bank Catholic Coach Joe Montano said of the team that eliminated his squad from the state tournament last year. "They got a couple of seniors out there; they’ve got a lot of pride; they’ve got 23 wins and she (Bishop Eustace Coach Doreen Lacatena) does a great job."

The Caseys pushed the lead back to five when Lynne Zoltowski finished on a pass from Alisa Kresge just 11 seconds later. Just 28 seconds after that, Kresge released an outlet pass that Brooke Tomovich converted for a 44-37 margin.

Jessica Depalo, who finished with a game high 16 points, completed a traditional three-point play to push the lead back to double digits at 47-37. She, too, was the beneficiary of a Kresge pass.

"Alisa’s been very aggressive and we did a great job of breaking the press," Montano said of the freshman point guard and total team effort. "The play’s designed to get the ball to the outside to hit our guard cutting though, and that gets her to the open floor where she’s a very good player."

The Crusaders did not fold their tent after RBC’s 7-0 run.

A put back by Shovlin, with about 2:30 remaining, cut the lead back to 49-45 and the Caseys were in a very unfamiliar place, needing to make foul shots to ice the game.

RBC’s lack of close-game experience did seem to show a bit as they went 6-of-11 from the free-throw line in the game’s final 2:21.

Kelli Talbot, who finished with 14 points along with eight rebounds and eight steals, was 4-of-7 from the line and she acknowledged that not being in that situation all year made it a little tougher.

"I guess I made the ones that were important, that we needed," Talbot said. "But we work hard on that and I’m still going to continue to work hard on my foul shots. I don’t care if I’m making 90 percent, I’m going to keep working on my foul shots."

One thing that did work the entire game for RBC was its defense.

Whether it was a rebound, Depalo grabbed 18, a blocked shot, Tomovich had three, or a steal, Kresge added three, Zoltowski two and Lindsey Woodfield also had one, the Caseys got what they needed.

"We definitely fell back on our defense," Talbot said. "If one of us has an off game offensively, we just pick that (defense) up even more."

That defense resulted in the final margin as the Caseys were able to hold the Crusaders to just a pair of free throws in the final 2:30.

With the victory the Caseys remained undefeated and matched the highest number of wins, 28, in school history. RBC’s girls hit that mark when they won the state Tournament of Champions in 1996.

"My biggest fear tonight, driving here, was that we hadn’t lost a game," RBC Coach Joe Montano said. "I remembered it would be our 28th win which would tie the ’96 team which won the State Championship, and as I was driving in I remembered how much we learned by losing to St. John Vianney (Holmdel) and Christ the King (Queens, N.Y.) that year, and how much it helped us in the state tournament."

The Caseys will face either Immaculate Heart Academy of Westwood or the Academy of the Angels of Demarest on Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Dunn Center in Elizabeth. Those teams faced each other yesterday in the North Parochial A final.

Bulldogs ride defense to CJ Group I crown

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Chrissy Fisher of Rumson-Fair Haven beats Shore Regional’s Carissa Zambrano to a rebound in the Central Jersey Group I final on Monday.

FRENCHTOWN — There was very little Shore Regional could do. The Blue Devils were bedeviled and befuddled by a Rumson-Fair Haven defense that takes no prisoners. At least the Blue Devils were not alone. They were just the final victim in Rumson’s impressive run to the Central Jersey Group I championship.

In the sectional final played Monday night at Delaware Valley Regional High School, George Sourlis’ Bulldogs put on an awesome display of pressure — team defense.

"Defense is our key and that’s what we stand for," said point guard Kerry Planer, who spearheaded the Bulldog effort with her ferocious on-the-ball defense. "It’s incredible. We’ve just been playing such good defense and it shows on the scoreboard."

The scoreboard was not lying when the numbers read 47-15. The Bulldogs (23-4) were that dominant.

Sourlis remarked that Rumson’s tenacious defense is the byproduct of preparation.

"We work at defense every single day," said Sourlis. "We like to think it’s the difference between us and everyone else.

"Our defense starts our offense," he added. "We get a consistent effort from our defense every game. That’s our staple."

Shore (15-12) saw that consistency first-hand and were never in the game, trailing 19-2 after one quarter and by 25 points (31-6) at halftime. Leading scorer Carissa Zambrano, the Blue Devils’ 5-11 center, never had the chance to get her team in the ball game.

Every time she got the ball in the paint, the Bulldog defense collapsed around her preventing her from getting a good look at the basket. She would be held to just a single point.

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Jeannie Danowitz heads to the basket after a steal against Shore Regional in the Central Jersey Group I final on Monday at Delaware Valley Regional High School.

Planer and Jeannie Danowitz put great pressure outside on the ball and play the passing lanes well, while Jessie Geltzeiler’s versatility enables her to defend a number of positions.

Center Chrissy Fisher and forward Jody Robbins are rock solid underneath and control the boards.

"We’ve been holding teams well under their scoring average," Planer noted.

As awesome as the Bulldogs were on defense, it was the offense that began the game on all cylinders with everyone taking and hitting the open shot. That made Shore’s task impossible.

"Everyone contributed tonight," said Planer. "The last couple of games everyone has been shooting well. It hasn’t been just a couple of players. It’s been a team effort and that’s what we need."

Fisher, who did a fine job controlling Zambrano in the paint, also flashed some post-up moves of her own and led the team with 13 points, including eight in the first quarter.

Planer knocked down 12 and played her usual, steady floor game.

Geltzeiler scored five of her six points in the first quarter, including a three, as time expired.

For the Bulldogs, the title was a long time coming. They are ranked as one of the top teams in the state but had no titles to show for it.

They lost three times to Red Bank Catholic, the No. 1 team in the state, and once to defending state champion St. John Vianney.

The losses to RBC were in the finals of the Casey Tournament and in two regular season games in the Shore Conference Class C South Division. The Caseys were responsible for costing the Bulldogs two championships.

They were not about to let a third chance slip away.

"All year we’ve been looking to fill the wall with a championship and now we’ve done it," said Planer. "But it’s not over yet. We still want to keep on playing."

Rumson’s next quest is the Group I state title (the final is Sunday at the Dunn Center in Elizabeth) and if victorious there, on to the Tournament of Champions which begins on Wednesday.

Rumson’s march to the state sectional title got easier with each step. The Bulldogs opened with a 41-31 decision over Spotswood. Next came Colts Neck on Saturday, and the Bulldogs romped 51-18, followed by the 47-15 final over Shore. In three games, Rumson has given up just 64 points.

Sourlis attributed the impressive march to the title to the team’s schedule. Rumson has gone out of its way to play quality competition.

"We played a tough out-of-conference schedule to prepare us for now," said Sourlis.

The Bulldogs have been prepared for all challenges to date and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Rumson playing in the TOC next week.

The Bulldogs’ Group I semifinal game on Wednesday against Wildwood ended too late to be included in this week’s

Hub.