Emphasis on defense delivered Bombers By Warren Rappleyea Staff Writer N
Emphasis on defense delivered Bombers
By Warren Rappleyea
Next winter the Sayreville War Memorial High School boys basketball team will be in a new position, that of defending Greater Middlesex Conference champs.
Although the Bombers ended the campaign with a disappointing loss to East Brunswick in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Central Jersey Group IV semifinals, the Sayreville boys went 20-7 on the season and captured the GMC title for the first time.
After struggling a bit in midseason, Coach Gus Jaworski’s team reeled off 10 straight victories prior to the GMC tourney. In the semifinals, Sayreville edged East Brunswick 56-54, thanks to a swarming defense, and went on to meet Carteret in the finals. The Bombers had a battle on their hands against the Ramblers before finally pulling away in the last two minutes for a 50-45 triumph.
In Group IV action, Sayreville downed Woodbridge in the opening round. They pulled off an upset against Trenton in second-round action before bowing to East Brunswick.
Known in past seasons for its explosive offense, Sayreville was not, however, known for playing defense. First-year Coach Jaworski set about changing that and the results speak for themselves. Liberally substituting to keep fresh players on the floor, Jaworski’s team defended some teams into defeat.
"I’m a defensive coach," Jaworski acknowledged. "At the beginning of the year I told the guys that if we can play strong defense we’d be in every game. That’s what happened."
The coach noted that several of his players sacrificed their statistics to play what turned out to be a winning style. Senior forward Keith Beasley, a co-captain who at one point was averaging 14 points per game, made a concerted effort to hit the boards and get more of his teammates into the offense. Although Beasley’s average dropped to 11.5 ppg, his efforts made Sayreville a better team, the coach noted. Down the stretch Beasley averaged five rebounds and three assists.
Point guard Dwayne Thomas also curtailed his scoring and became what Jaworski termed, "a true point guard." A talented sophomore, he averaged 10 points, 5.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds, but more importantly worked hard to improve his defense.
Forward Chris Rucks and guards Bobby Brown and Yazid Jackson, all seniors, helped contribute to making Jaworski’s defensive strategy a success.
Rucks, who could have started for many teams, came off the bench to provide rebounding and defense while still contributing 6.5 ppg. Brown was a defensive spark plug who averaged six points and Jackson became something of an on-call defensive specialist off the bench.
"Many of our guys didn’t get the playing time they would have liked, or had the chance to score as many points as they would have liked," Jaworski said. "But they put personal goals aside and played like a team. That was one of the keys to our success."
The Bombers also received solid efforts from junior co-captain Ryan Charzewski, who averaged 8 ppg. He had a season high of 20 points against Woodbridge in the state tourney, to go with nine rebounds.
Fellow forward Samir Sanu, a sophomore, averaged eight points and eight rebounds and will be an important player in the future.
Keith Naylor, another junior forward, showed tenacity on defense and a nice touch around the hoop, averaging four points.
"This was an important year because of the foundation we want to build for Sayreville basketball," Jaworski said. "These guys wanted to make their mark. After we beat East Brunswick in the GMC semifinals, I thought the guys would be celebrating. The bus ride back to school was very quiet. They were still hungry and knew they needed to win one more game. I was particularly pleased to see them so focused."
Jaworski added that Sayreville’s fans served as the proverbial "sixth man."
"The school spirit here is great," he said. "Our fans were so supportive and they wanted us to win so badly that it helped the players. That definitely helped us in the GMC."
Next season the Bombers have a strong foundation to build upon with Charzewski, Thomas and Naylor returning. Two hard-working guards, junior Tom Cassidy and sophomore Steve Gitlin, also will play larger roles, Jaworski said.
"We’re going to lose five seniors, but we have people to step in," the coach noted.