Middlesex Community College’s Michael Valentin drives into the lane against the Community College of Philadelphia’s Kenny Brown during the Dec. 3 game played on Middlesex’s home floor in Edison. Middlesex won the game, 73-68.
The faces change from season to season, but what doesn’t is how the Spotswood High School boys’ basketball team plays an up-tempo transition game that usually leaves opponents breathless.
Imagine what they must be thinking now that head coach Steve Mate said he plans for this year’s Chargers to run even more.
“We’re not big, but the upside is our ability to go up and down the court,” said Mate, one of the best strategists in the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC). “We’re going to exploit that as best we can this season.” A number of new faces will play pivotal roles, including four sophomores who demonstrated during the GMC Summer League that they deserve quality minutes.
Leadership will also be key, and Spotswood is certainly in good shape there with veteran senior guards Eric Dadika (15.5 points per game) and Marlon Hart (13.6 points per game). Both can also drain shots from any place on the court and will be counted on heavily to handle the scoring load.
Two juniors, J.T. Vento and Andrew Fuzesi, will also be important to the rotation because of their athleticism and explosiveness and will be a perfect complement to the Chargers offense.
The sophomores expected to see action are Abdullah Nieskens, a small but quick guard who can shoot; Nate Carone, an effective rebounder; Vincent Guardiola, a multi-talented athlete who has developed an aptitude for understanding the game; and Justin Dekovics, who will come off the bench to add scoring punch.
Two other seniors who should see regular action are Shawn O’Connor, who quarterbacked the football team and has developed a knack for doing the little things that make him a valuable asset, Mate said, and Dan Newton, who has developed confidence in his shot.
Spotswood finished last season 15-10 and fourth in the GMC Blue Division.
However, last year’s champion, Cardinal McCarrick High School, will not be a factor since the parochial institution closed its doors in June.
“I think we’re going to surprise people,” Mate said. “J.F. Kennedy [Memorial High School] has some big kids coming back and Bishop Ahr is always a tough opponent, and I expect they will compete for the title. But we’ll be in the mix too.”
There is no doubt the St. Joseph High School of Metuchen’s boys’ basketball team is favored to win the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Red Division title.
The Falcons are winners of three out of the last four division titles and have captured the conference tournament five of the last six seasons. They are loaded again and could wind up capturing the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions crown.
However, that doesn’t mean division foes like East Brunswick High School are simply going to gift-wrap the championship trophy and present it to the Falcons without so much as meeting them on the court.
“You can’t go into any gym in the Red Division and expect an easy win because it is loaded with quality teams,” Bears head coach Mark Motusesky said.
East Brunswick (17-8 last year) is a legitimately talented team that will win its share of games, possibly more than last season, and will be a tough out once the state tournament commences.
The Bears return three senior starters who averaged in double figures: shooting guard Matt Ross (17 points per game), point guard Mike Vick (10 points per game), and pivot man Addis Ralph (12 points per game). Senior power forward Justin Sewnarine (four points per game) saw action last year and will join the starting lineup along with another senior shooting guard, Mike Brizuela.
Newcomers hoping to become part of the rotation include senior shooting guard Atiqu Shaikh; juniors Dante Ralph (center), Gil Wyman (power forward) and Ezra Levitt (shooting guard); and sophomores Jesse Perel (power forward), Joe Sampson (shooting guard) and Ryan Crocco (power forward).
“We expect to compete for a sectional (Central Jersey Group IV) state title and be one of the better teams in the GMC if our newcomers give us quality minutes along the way,” Motusesky said. “Matt, Mike [Vick] and Addis will be our leaders, and it will be up to them to help us achieve our goals.”
Motusesky acknowledged St. Joe’s is not only the favorite to win the division but is arguably the top team in the state. However, he expects his team to provide competition along with South Brunswick High School and Old Bridge High School.
The Bears open the season Dec. 18 hosting North Brunswick Township High School and visit Perth Amboy High School Dec. 22. The Bears will also be part of the Windsors vs. Brunswicks Tournament and will visit West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North Dec. 28 and play at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South two days later.
Last season, the Monroe Township High School ice hockey team started 0-3 but did not lose consecutive games for the rest of the winter and ended up 11-9-1.
The Falcons will have to fashion a similar turnaround this season if they are to finish with a respectable record. Two games into the campaign, Monroe was 0-2 before meeting Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) opponent Old Bridge High School Dec. 9 and Shore Conference foe Manalapan High School Dec. 11.
Head coach Jerry Minter has always believed that success runs in circles, and 2015-16 appears to be one of those seasons where his team will be in a rebuilding mode. “Our program numbers are the lowest we’ve had here in five years,” he said. “We graduated two large classes, and this year we didn’t get as many to come out for the team.”
Still, the goals are the same regardless of how many wear Falcons uniforms.
“We will continue to work hard as a team and improve individually every day,” he said. “Making the GMC and state playoffs is always on our list. We have a good group of returning and new players, and we’re looking to build on our [season-ending success] of last year.”
Up front, Monroe will rely on returning players Gerald Marrett and Jason Gizzi to provide the bulk of the scoring. Additionally, a strong sophomore class consisting of Kyle Lange, Michael Benedetti, Michael Conover, Dominic Micalizzi, Anthony
Lane and Austen Poye looks to step up and contribute to the offense. A freshman, Samuel Fishteyn, could also see action.
Defensively, the Falcons return the majority of their regulars. Nicholas Petri, Joseph Minerva and Kevin Broskie, along with freshman Matthew Skobelev, make up the backliners who will protect goaltenders Matthew Freitas and Brian Nichols.
Minter said St. Joe’s continues to be the top team in the conference but will receive competition from Old Bridge, Woodbridge High School, Colonia High School and South Brunswick High School.
“I believe high school ice hockey, in general, continues to grow in New Jersey,” Minter said. “Over the course of the 10 years we have had a team, I’ve seen the quality increase. We’re hoping we can keep pace, too.”
As a 10-year-old, Warren followed in the footsteps of her mother, Laurell, a former twirler for the University of Michigan, and won the New Jersey Baton championship for her age group. In addition, after an active youth playing township recreation basketball and tee-ball, Warren entered high school and became a valuable contributor to the basketball team and, a year later, to the softball team.
Besides that whirlwind of extracurricular activity, Warren was tasked with handling a demanding schedule of classes and the homework that came with them. It was difficult at first, but she learned the importance of time management and attacked her studies with the same vigor as if she was defending a shooting guard or hitting a softball. The result is a 3.5 grade-point average and the likelihood Warren will receive a college scholarship to play basketball at the next level.
“My family has taught me I always need to prioritize the most important things in my life,” said Warren, who was named to the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) All- Red Division team last season. “It starts with school, then sports and finally my social life.”
Now that Warren is about to begin her final season playing hoops for East Brunswick, she is clearly enjoying her favorite time of year.
“I’ve played on the basketball team since I was a freshman,” said Warren, who has consistently averaged between seven and eight points a game as a guard-forward and said hoops is the sport she enjoys most. “I have a few schools in the Philadelphia area interested in me, and we’ll see where that goes. When I do make a college choice, I plan to major in criminal justice and hopefully attend law school after graduation.”
Warren has also been an important member of the Bears’ softball team as the starting first baseman since her sophomore year, but she admitted the sport takes a back seat to basketball. That’s also true with twirling for the Hazlet Thunderettes, which is more of a fun activity these days, she said.
Whatever sport she’s playing, Warren is all about team.
“I’ve learned that for any team to be successful, there has to be chemistry among the players,” she said. “That doesn’t mean everybody has to be best friends because we’re all different. But I personally try to be the kind of teammate I know I would want playing with me — someone who works hard, is dedicated, trustworthy and caring. Fortunately, I’ve played with girls who have demonstrated those traits and I’ve tried to emulate them. As a result, I feel I’m a better-rounded player.”
Warren confessed she seeks perfection in nearly everything she does, which is why she has been driven to succeed on and off the court. She also feels fortunate to have been surrounded by people who helped her along the way and named three individuals who have been most responsible for her success: Keith Lane, Orin Taylor and Richard Lewis. Lane is Warren’s high school basketball coach who has not only taught her some of the finer points of the game, but also how to be an effective leader.
“[Coach Lane] offered me so many opportunities during summer and fall workouts,” she said. “He taught me how to develop my skills and to lead by example — showing and not telling,” Warren said.
“Basketball is a 12-month-a-year sport for Allie, and it shows,” Lane said. “Her skills have improved markedly and being selected captain was well-earned.” Taylor coaches Team Miller Lightning, Warren’s AAU club where she has improved her skills even more by playing against other college-bound competition.
“I’ve played for [Coach Taylor] four years now; it seems a lot longer because I’ve learned so much,” she said. “He has spent hours with me after practice, taught me to never give up in any situation and develop the ‘IF’ factor, which is intestinal fortitude.”
Last but not least is Lewis, who is Warren’s grandfather. Grandpa, as she calls him, has never missed one of his granddaughter’s basketball or softball games and has been a steel-like source of strength.
“He played sports himself, so he understands what competition is about and has related his experiences to me,” Warren said. “My brother, Haydn (an East Brunswick graduate), plays football at Widener University, and Grandpa has worked with him, too. He would do anything for [us]. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without his love and help.”
Perhaps the most important message Warren has gleaned from Lane, Taylor and her grandfather is that dedication, hard work and love are the keys to success, no matter what she does.
It’s a mantra Warren plans to carry with her throughout the rest of her life — wherever that takes her.
The Central Jersey Umpire Association is looking for men and women who enjoy baseball and would like to make extra money. The group has many games on weekends, weeknights and weekdays from 7U to summer college level.
Cadet training for 2016 will begin in February. Call or email Ron Marino for more info at 732-829-8036 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Experienced umpires wanted as well.
If the East Brunswick High School football team’s 20-7 loss to Old Bridge High
School is any indication, the Bears are on track to become a better football team under head coach Bob Molarz.
But in Molarz’s own words, the team is not quite there yet.
“I believe the program is headed in the right direction,” said Molarz, who completed his third season at East Brunswick, which finished with a 3-7 record. “We really could have ended this season .500, but there were two games we lost when we were leading in the fourth quarter by double digits.”
The Bears’ relatively close game with Old Bridge came against a team that will play for the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V championship. The Knights (8-3) meet South Brunswick High School (10-1) Dec. 5 at Rutgers University’s High Point Solutions
Stadium in an all-Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) final.
Finishing games is just one area Molarz and his staff will focus on during the offseason. That and utilizing a growing pool of experienced talent could finally enable East Brunswick to be a legitimate contender in the GMC Red Division next fall. The Bears have not had a winning season since 2010, and Molarz’s cumulative record as East Brunswick coach is 8-22.
Kyle Wiggins, who will be a senior, has two seasons under his belt as an often-used running back and should be one of the better rushers in the division. James Schuld, who split quarterback duties with senior Brendan Kennedy, will become the full-time signal caller and has the size at 6 feet, 180 pounds and arm strength to make him a threat to run or throw with equal effectiveness.
Wide receiver Owen McSweeney and tight end Matt Bartus are excellent targets when Schuld decides to air the ball. East Brunswick will also return size and experience on the line and an active secondary including Anthony Torres, who will be joined by Wiggins and McSweeney.
“We were in the red zone a lot but didn’t score,” Molarz said. “All we need to do is finish a couple of times, and that will give us the confidence we can do it more often.”
Once again, Spotswood High School, which finished 7-3, will be faced with a major rebuilding job because of the graduation of key seniors who occupied skilled positions. However, that’s nothing new to head coach Andy Cammarano and his staff, which has had to replace the starting quarterback in each of the last two seasons. Both times, the Chargers won the GMC Blue Division championship.
However, the most difficult task next year will be finding somebody who can do what senior receiver Marlon Hart accomplished this season. He was a game-changer every time he touched the ball.
Before putting on a football uniform this season, Hart devoted his athletic career to playing basketball. However, once he made the decision to play football, he became an instant star, amassing over 600 receiving yards and six touchdowns, a pair of kickoffs returned for touchdowns and a punt return for another score.
Senior Shawn O’Conner successfully eased into the quarterback job, taking over for Ryan Smolin, who guided the Chargers to their first division title since 2000. The agile O’Conner ran well and displayed a surprisingly strong arm.
Joe Hayford, a small but tough-nosed player, was valuable as a bulldozing running back who could gain tough yards and was equally valuable as the middle linebacker on defense. He will also be hard to replace.
Finally, two-way tackle Lou Vacca will be sorely missed because of his size, at 6 feet 2 inches tall and 295 pounds, and toughness.
Cammarano has built his team’s success based on a regimented weightlifting and condition program during the offseason that has proved to work every year.
Winning has contributed to more players joining the team, and the coach is hoping that will be the case next season when the Chargers once again compete for a division title.
Whatever he believed, the four-year coach found out he was dismissed along with athletic director Julie Hermann Nov. 29, the day after the Scarlet Knights lost to the University of Maryland, 46-41, at High Point Solutions Stadium.
Both decisions were made by Rutgers President Robert Barchi, which he outlined in a letter addressed to the Rutgers community. The letter also included the announcement that Patrick Hobbs, a dean emeritus of the Seton Hall University School of Law, was hired as the university’s permanent athletic director.
Barchi had finalized his decision on letting Flood and Hermann go earlier in the week and then initiated the process for finding a new AD. Hobbs was officially offered the job Nov. 27, which he immediately accepted. The letter also emphasized the search for Flood’s replacement would begin immediately and that the process would be led by Hobbs.
At the former head coach’s press conference after the Maryland game, Flood insisted he had heard nothing about his status as coach and was almost defiant when asked to comment on reports he would be let go.
“Nobody’s given me any indication I wouldn’t be the football coach,” he said. “I get those questions and I think the shame of those types of questions is they lead other people to believe that there’s some question about it. To my knowledge, there’s no question about [remaining as coach].”
Flood then rattled off the Scarlet Knights’ accomplishments under his fouryear watch, which included a 27-24 record, including a 2-1 record in bowl appearances, a 2012 Big East title and the 2014 Lambert Trophy, an antiquated award presented to the East’s top football team.
It was only last year, Rutgers’ first season as a member of the Big Ten Conference, that the Knights finished 8-5, including a 40-21 victory over the University of North Carolina in the Quick Lane Bowl. Flood’s record the year before when Rutgers was a one-year member of the American Athletic Conference was 6-7 overall and 3-5 in the league. In 2012, the year he took over for Greg Schiano, who became the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach, the Knights finished 9-4 overall and 3-2 in the Big East conference.
Still, Flood’s overall record could not save him from being axed after Rutgers finished this season 4-8 overall and 1-7 in the Big Ten. That, coupled with the turmoil surrounding Flood’s suspension for three games by Barchi for violating NCAA rules by communicating with a faculty member in an attempt to help a player improve his grade in a course, sealed the coach’s doom.
Hermann arrived at Rutgers two-and-ahalf years ago when she replaced Tim Pernetti, who was also let go by Barchi.
As Barchi stated in his letter, his expectations are for the process of hiring a new coach to not take long. He didn’t specify a specific timeframe; however, with openings occurring almost daily across the major college landscape, including Maryland, hiring a new coach has become Hobbs’ immediate priority.
Schiano is mentioned in media reports as a possible candidate to return to his former position, as is Al Golden, who was fired as the University of Miami coach after arriving there two years ago from a successful stint as Temple University’s coach. Both Schiano and Golden are New Jersey natives and have strong ties with high school coaches in the Garden State.
Outside the locker room following Rutgers’ final game, senior running back Paul James was asked what his response would be if a prospective player wanted to know why he should come to Rutgers.
“I would say come to Rutgers to be part of the family,” he said. “The relationships you build with people who become your best friends for the rest of your life, that’s what I’ll be taking from this program. We don’t just talk family — we live it. And the closeness that develops between us enables us to overcome any type of adversity.”
The Rutgers football program will now have the opportunity to live up to what James believes.
The Sayreville U8 Jr. MetroStars are a high-level boys travel soccer team playing for Sayreville Soccer Club in the MAPS league. The team is comprised of 7- and 8-year-old boys from South Amboy, Sayreville, South River and Avenel. They completed their regular season undefeated at 10-0 with 49 goals scored and six goals against. They also played in two tourneys: the Marlboro MegaBlast, going 4-0, and the MAPS Fall Classic, going 2-2 against the top competition in the state.