Winning 20 games has been a trend for the Carl W. Goetz Middle School boys’ basketball team, which has done so in each of the last three seasons. This year’s team again is off and running in a 7-3 start.
But this team will need some help if it wants to repeat as Ocean County Intermediate Athletic League champions after suffering its second league loss of the season recently to unbeaten Toms River Intermediate North.
Goetz is alone in second place in the standings, but coach Steve Bado believes he has the personnel to stay in the hunt.
Goetz plays in the four-team championship round in the Santa Scamper at Mount Carmel School in Asbury Park. Goetz plays at 7 p.m. Jan. 2 against an opponent to be determined. The team went 2-1 in pool play, losing to championship-round qualifier St. James School when three of its starters were out, rolling past St. Joseph Grade School of Toms River and beating St. Aloysius School of Jackson, 30-23, in the tournament.
“We’re getting guys some game time experience,” Bado said. “In late January and February, we’ll make a run in the tournaments.”
The lineup is laden with eighth graders with big-game experience. Eighth grader Tom Cartnick also was an outstanding pitcher last summer for the Jackson Little League team that won the district and state championships and got to the Mid-Atlantic Region finals before losing for the farthest advance of any Jackson Little League team.
Also in the Goetz starting lineup is point guard Nick Colon, whose 15-point average leads the team in scoring, and Rony Bantang is a talented 6-foot-2 center who also played sweeper on the Goetz high-powered boys soccer team that nailed down a repeat unbeaten season and Ocean County Middle Schools Red Division title. Both are eighth graders.
Michael Cooper is another eighth-grade starter at guard, while the other starting spot is shared by 5-foot-10 eighth graders Zach Novak and Jake McKown.
“This is a very coachable bunch of guys,” said Bado, who is assisted by Joe Pienkowski, the boys’ lacrosse coach at Jackson Memorial High School. “They know what it takes to be successful.”
It’s a team that adapts to situations. It runs in transition when the opportunity presents itself, but it can patiently pull the ball back in a half-court set against teams like Lakewood Middle School that rely so much on speed.
“We’re not as big as last year. We have very good athletes,” Bado said, with the only other player with size being 6-foot-3 backup center James Vislocky, an eighth grader. “It’s not a typical Goetz team of a stud guard and big guys. It’s well balanced. Scoring comes from everywhere.”
The defense has been adequate, holding every opposing team under 40 points. The deep bench includes eighth graders Aaron Hutchsinson, who can play guard or forward, and guard Jake Rasinski, as well as seventh-grade guards Caden Brooks, Stanley Smith and Sean Slusak and forward Matthew Potok. Slusak also was on the school’s championship soccer team.
After the holiday tournament, Goetz returns to action Jan. 5 at Lacey Township Middle School. It is not at home again until Jan. 14, when it plays Central Middle School.