March 7, 2011 Volume-III - Issue-5 Ba s e b al l: Joi ni n g th e F a m i ly Pa g e 4 Manchester Basketball Reaches 1 st Title Game Pa g e 7 NJSIAA Wrestling Championships Recap Pa g e 8- 9 Lombardi Awards Honor Local Linemen Pa g e 10 Jackson Mem. Basketball Ends Long Drought Pa g e 12 Raritan's Jared Gurczeski Overcoming Adversity Pa g e 13 -14 Stumpy's Corner Pa g e 15
March7,2011 I Volume-III I Issue-5
A multimedia company that provides exciting and innovative coverage to high school athletics in the Shore Conference in order to highlight the achievements of local athletes in one of the premier conferences in New Jersey. Whether it’s the star of the team or the last player off the bench, everyone has a story and it is our mission to recognize as many athletes as possible and add to the memories for all of the families, coaches, friends and fans who support Shore Conference sports. Whether in print or on the Web, All Shore Media is your main source for all things exciting in the Shore Conference.
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COLLEGIATE SPORTS OF AMERICA TO SPONSOR MVP AWARDS AT SENIOR ALL-STAR GAMES By Scott Stump – Managing Editor While a group of Shore Conference senior basketball stars will be lacing them up one final time as part of the boys and girls Shore Conference Basketball Coaches Association Senior All-Star games on March 25 at Brookdale Community College, a group of eighth-graders will be getting closer to beginning their journey as future stars on the hardwood. That’s where Collegiate Sports of America, which will sponsor the Arthur W. Harmon Most Valuable Player Awards for the games, comes in. Founded in 1981, CSA has helped thous an d s o f s tu d en t- ath letes f r o m ar o u n d the natio n acr o s s all s po r ts gain ath letic s cho lar s hip . The time o f r ecr uitmen t is o n e th at w ill be h er e bef o r e th e up - and - comin g s tar s o f the S h or e Co n f er ence k n ow it. Preceding the boys and girls games, which are at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., respectively, will be a pair of futures games featuring the top eighth-grade talent in the area on the boys and girls sides.
“The addition of the eighthgrade games was really interesting to us,’’ said CSA’s Dan Martin. “Coming into high school, I don't think people realize how competitive the scholarship marketplace is now. “We have relationships with virtually every coach in the country, and every college, and that’s the big difference. For the most part coaches are overwhelmed with communications from athletes and their parents, but these coaches have signed with us, so they expect to receive profiles from us. We help in cutting through the clutter.’’ CSA provides profiles of athletes that include
academic and athletic data, honors and awards, measurables, video, contact information and more. Samples and further information can be found at CSA’s website, www.csaprepstar.com. “The profiles coaches received from us are in a sense solicited, as opposed to the unsolicited ones by well-intentioned athletes and parents, so you can be sure they will be seen,’’ Martin said. In addition to CSA’s involvement, RKE Athletic will also be providing the shirts worn by every player in all four of the games, and the U.S. Army has sponsored a halftime 3point shooting contest that has proven to be a crowd favorite in recent seasons. The high school games this season should be loaded with Division I talent, particularly on the girls side. Among the senior class, Neptune’s Shakena Richardson (Rutgers), Syessence Davis (Rutgers) and Chyna Golden (Pittsburgh), St. John Vianney’s Jackie Kates (Univ. of Pennsylvania), Arron Zimmerman (American University), Missy Repoli (Colgate), and Katie O’Reilly (Lehigh), Rumson-Fair Haven’s Nicole Issaacs (Manhattan), Stephanie Isaacs (Fairleigh Dickinson), Victoria Lesko (Boston College), and Ashley Cooper (Holy Cross), Howell’s Sarah Olson (NJIT), Red Bank Catholic’s Samantha Guastella (Quinnipiac) and Kasey Hobbie
(Presbyterian), Middletown South’s Meghan McGuinness (Niagara) and Jackson Memorial’s Christa Evans (Rutgers) make up arguably the most talented class in Shore Conference history. On the boys side, Christian Brothers Academy’s Matt McMullen (Colgate) and J.P. Koury (Bentley), Point Beach’s Jarelle Reischel (Rice University), Monsignor Donovan’s Sean Grennan (Seton Hall), Asbury Park’s Maurice Dickerson, St. John Vianney’s Mike Balkovic (Caldwell), the Lakewood duo of Jarrod Davis and Tony Walker, Rumson guard Kevin Alter, and plenty more talented players should make it an exciting event.
Check our web site for more information on the game www.allshoremedia.com
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Joining the Family
By Scott Stump â€“ Managing Editor A week before the story made national headlines and was splashed across ESPN in early February, Barnegat junior pitcher Mark McCoy and Toms River South senior pitcher Connor Kaden sat in front of their computer screens reading a stunning e-mail from Wake Forest assistant baseball coach Dennis Healy.
that for one of his players,'' McCoy said. "If you're a recruit and Wake is one of your top schools, what other coach in the nation would do that for his players, let alone a freshman he's only known three months? What would he do for you if you were a junior or a senior?'' Walter went through a fiveweek process of being tested to see if he was a possible match for Jordan after it was determined that none of Jordan's family members were a match for a new kidney. The surgery took place on Feb. 7, and both are expected to make a full recovery.
Healy was letting all the Demon Deacons recruits know in advance that head coach Tom Walter was going to donate one of his kidneys to freshman outfielder Kevin Jordan, who needed a transplant to counteract a condition in which his white blood cells were attacking healthy tissue. Kaden and McCoy had heard the usual stuff from coaches during their recruitment about the team being a family and everyone having each other's back, but this was a whole new level. It also more than affirmed the decision of the two recruits to continue their baseball careers as Demon Deacons. Kaden signed his National Letter of Intent with Wake Forest in November, while McCoy verbally committed there at the end of January, shortly before Walter made his life-altering decision. "I think it's an amazing story,'' Senior Kaden said. "Kevin was drafted (by the Yankees in the 19th round), so there was a chance he doesn't even come back to play. This is one of the biggest things I've ever heard a coach do for his kids. Donating part of his body to one of his own players who he's known for three months? Incredible. Kevin didn't even ask coach (Walter), coach just told him what was going to happen. Considering 'Walt' has his own family and two kids, he said, 'This kid wants a normal life, and I'm going to give it to him.''' "I think that's amazing that a coach is willing to do
"It's like divine intervention when you look at everything that happened and how we even got to Wake Forest," Jordan's father told Baseball America. "And then to meet a coach like Coach Walter and look at some of the things he had been through and done, and then to now do this, you just can't express it in words." Walter took the job at Wake Forest in 2009 after previously coaching at the University of New Orleans, and he will be adding a pair of New Jersey pitchers to his staff next season. One of them, Kaden, plays for one of the most highprofile programs in the state, Toms River South, while McCoy is a diamond in the rough who has been under the radar while playing for a small-school program at Barnegat. McCoy compares Walter to former Barnegat head coach Tom Sutaris, a Toms River South graduate who started the Bengals' varsity program.
"When coach Walker was quoted on ESPN saying that we recruit players as part of our family, that was word for word what he was saying when he offered me,'' McCoy said. "This guy doesn't beat around the bush. What I got from him was that he doesn't lie to you. He tells you straight up how it is. If you are projected as a starter or not, he is going to tell you. It's a lot like it was with Sutaris.'' While Walter said he made a great sacrifice for Jordan to ensure his player's health, it also can't hurt in recruiting in the sense that it is a concrete example of the lengths that he will go to for a player. "This just proves everything that the man has said,'' Kaden said. "I now know I can trust him with my life. You can definitely tell he's sticking up for his players, but I don't think they would ever use it as a recruiting tool.'' "I haven't doubted my decision ever since I made it, and (Walter) doing that just elaborates why I'm going there,'' McCoy said. "It's a family atmosphere, and he will go to the extreme to help you out.'' Barnegat's current head coach is another former Toms River South star, Brett Hardie, and McCoy said that part of the reason he came on the radar at Wake Forest was because of a recommendation from the coaches at Toms River South. McCoy went down to a camp at Wake Forest at the end of January, where he was extended an offer and gave a verbal commitment shortly after. McCoy, whose father is Barnegat's pitching coach, hit 91 miles per hour at a showcase this past summer and is hoping to lead Barnegat to a turnaround season after the Bengals finished 5-15 last season. Kaden, meanwhile, is the headliner on a Toms River South pitching staff that was dominant last season in winning the Shore Conference Tournament, but graduated All Shore Media Pitcher of the Year Andrew McGee and more. Still, the Indians return as once again another one of the top teams in the Shore and the state, and Kaden is coming off a junior season in which he finished 6-3 and struck out 69 in 42 innings with a 2.00 ERA to earn third-team All Shore Media All-Conference honors.
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A S A M P L I N G O F C U R R E N T A N D F O R M E R M A C A L L - S TA R S n Sehmonyeh Allen—Neptune HS
n Kristian Duravcevic—Fordham Preparatory School (NY)
n Sean Armand—Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis HS (NY)
n Mike Faherty—Brooklyn Polytech HS
n Delvon Arrington—St. Anthony’s HS
n Crissie Fisher—Rumson-Fair Haven HS
n Brian Baker—Colts Neck HS
n Sarah Fisher—RBR HS
n Mustafa Barksdale—RBR HS
n Adam Fleischner—Holmdel HS
n Robert Barksdale—Asbury Charter School
n Colin Ford—Manasquan HS
n Billy Beggans—Ocean Township HS n Steve Bridgemohan—E Brunswick HS n Josh Brody—RBR HS n Brandon Brown—Freehold Boro HS n Yesenia Burgos—St. John Vianney HS n Rashon Bruno—St. Anthony’s HS n Courtney Calderon—St. John Vianney HS n Richard Calia—Holmdel HS n Shilique Calhoun – Middletown North HS n Quarran Calhoun—Raritan HS n Cooper Calzonetti—Neptune HS n Chase Campbell—Oak Hill Academy (NC) n Cleveland Cannon—Long Branch HS n Raheem Carter—Long Branch HS n Corey Chandler—East Side HS n Robert Cheeks—St. Anthony’s HS n Rahmir Cottman—RBR HS n Don Coven—Long Branch HS n Paul De Salvo—CBA n Syessence Davis—Neptune HS n Allen Dean—Neptune HS n Taquan Dean—Neptune HS n Dana Jean DeGennaro—RBC HS n Chris Delaney—CBA n Pat Delaney—CBA n Jose Diaz—Pt. Pleasant Beach HS n Mark Donnelly—RBR HS n Sean Dunne—CBA
n Glen Ford—RBC HS n Greg Ford—Trenton Central HS n Avery Gardner—Long Branch HS n Billy Gilligan—RBR HS n Tyler Glass—Mater Dei Prep HS n Erica Gomez—St. John Vianney HS n Dana Graziano—Holmdel HS n Kevin Grier—CBA n Paul Halas—St. Rose HS n Felicia Harris—RBR HS n Michael Harris—Randolph HS n Mykel Harris—Great Mills HS (MD) n Ashley Hart—The Peddie School n Eugene “Nu Nu” Harvey— St. Benedict’s Prep n Corey Haskins—RBR HS n Kasey Hobbie—RBC HS n Darien Hutton—Ewing HS n Nolan Ivers—Holmdel HS n Jasmine Jackson—Old Bridge HS n Rosie Jackson—St. John Vianney HS n Tyson Johnson—St. Mary’s HS (NY) n Billy Kiss—Long Branch HS n Michael Kelly—St. Anthony’s HS (NY)
n Mike Mavrinac—Middletown South HS
n Joey Raines—Asbury Park HS
n Jasmine McCall—Manalapan HS
n David Reeves—RBC HS
n Billy McCue—CBA
n Anne Richards— The Lawrenceville School
n Christian Morris—S. Kent School (CT) n Darius Morris—Long Branch HS n Valerie Morris—Freehold Boro HS n Michael Murphy—Howell HS n Sachin Nagpal—Ranney School n Brian O’Reilly—Middletown South HS n Karen Otrupchak—RBR HS n Kevin Owens—Neptune HS n Toni Panza—St. John Vianney HS n Anthony Perry—St. Anthony’s HS n Shinece Perry—RBR HS n Earl Pettis—Saints John Neumann & Maria Goretti Catholic HS (PA) n Simon Press— Asbury Park HS
n Charlie Rogers—Matawan HS n Amanda Rosato—St. John Vianney HS n Alifiya Rangwala— The Ranney School n Will Sanborn—RBR HS n Keyron Sheard—RBR HS n Brian Snodgrass—Holmdel HS n Lauren Sokol—The Peddie School n Stephen Spinella—Colts Neck HS n Matt Stahl—Middletown South HS n Missy Stavola—Rumson-Fair Haven HS n Jenna Strich—RBC HS n Scott Stump—RBC HS n Kim Talbot—RBC HS n Aaron Tarver—RBR HS n Terrance Todd—Neptune HS n Maurice Turpin—Long Branch HS n John Weldon— Freehold Boro HS n Dawn Werner— St. John Vianney HS n John Werner— St John Vianney HS n Kade Weston—RBR HS n Kayshanna Wesley— Asbury Park HS n Eric Yarborough— Asbury Park HS
n Nick La Morte—Mater Dei HS
n Tomora Young—RBR HS
n Herve Lamizana—St. Patrick’s HS
n Terry Zinn—RBC HS
n Erin Leahy—Rumson-Fair Haven HS
n Lynne Zoltowski—RBC HS
n Carl Little—Asbury Park HS n Maggie Loundy—Pt. Pleasant Beach HS n Charles Markens—St. Patrick HS
V i s i t o u r w e b s i t e , w w w. m a c t e s t i n g . c o m
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Money Ball: Manchester Reaches Championship Game By Matt Manley – Staff Writer Once the Manchester boys basketball team gained control of the tempo in their NJSIAA South Jersey Group III semifinal on March 5, the Hawks gained control of the scoreboard. Still, the Hawks needed a little something extra to put away Shore Conference Class B South division rival Lacey for the third time this season. That's where senior Monwell Brown came in. Brown scored 12 of his gamehigh 15 points in the fourth quarter and, along with the rest of Manchester's athletic lineup, caused havoc on the defensive end with 11 steals to help Manchester turn a tight battle into a comfortable 48-32 win over Lacey. The win gave Manchester a threegame sweep of the Lions this season and secured a place in the sectional final at top-seeded Kingsway, Manchester's first final appearance in school history. "Money was big today," Manchester Ryan Ramsay coach said, referring to Brown by his nickname. "He's one of our seniors, and we expect a lot from him, Senior Nate especially in a game like this. I couldn't be more proud of Money and of all of our seniors. They're great leaders and they're great kids." The second half was anything but comfortable for Lacey, as Manchester's defenders got up in the face of every Lacey ball-handler. In total, Lacey turned the ball over 25 times, 17 of which came in the final 19 minutes. Although Manchester forced some early turnovers, the Hawks did not begin converting the takeaways into points until the latter part of the third quarter.
I basically juts try to do the little things," Brown said. "I play good defense, go after loose balls and try to get easy baskets and then I'll worry about scoring later. I like to score too, but I try to do a lot of other things to help the team. Defense and the hustle plays are what help us win games, so that's what I try to do."
Nickens scored 13 points for Manchester and fellow senior and point guard DeJuan Barlow added 10. Barlow hit two first-half 3pointers and drilled a long two just before time expired in the second quarter to send his team to the locker room with a 20-18 lead.
Manchester went on a 17-2 "Barlow is one of our true run from the 2:45 mark of the Senior Monwell Brown leaders," Ramsay said. "He second quarter to the middle just makes big plays on both of the third to turn a sevenends of the floor, and he's such a smart player. He's an point deficit into a 28-20 lead, but Lacey underrated player and without question one of the best point scored the next four points to stay within guards in the Shore." striking distance as the third quarter ended. The Hawks, though, scored the first eight Barlow, Nickens and Brown are part of a senior class of points of the fourth to go up 38-24 to take players who entered the program during a rebuilding phase, control of the game, with all eight points which coincided with Ramsay's early years as head coach. coming from Brown. He stole the ball, was Ramsay took the job for the 2005-06 season, which was one intentionally fouled by Logan McDonald, season after all-time leading scorer and former Rutgers guard and hit two free throws before hitting a 16Jaron Griffin graduated. footer to make it a four-point trip for Manchester, giving the Hawks a 34-24 lead. "We beat them twice this year, we won the division and we've been playing well lately, but we're still reading that we The Hawks allowed Lacey only 14 points were going to lose to them," Barlow said. "We felt like in the second half and held the Lions to just people were still doubting us but we all know how good we six points over a 15-minute period spanning are, and we just kept believing and we're going to keep the second, third and fourth quarters. playing." Manchester did a particularly stellar job on Nickens senior guard Deon Smith - the Lions leader “They’re a very good defensive team and in our three in points, rebounds, steals and blocks per games, we haven’t been able to find a way to score against game. Smith scored all eight of his points in the first nine them,” said Lacey coach Ryan O’Rourke, who reached the minutes and struggled to get touches after that with sectional semifinals as a player for Lacey in the late 1980’s. Manchester applying pressure to the Lacey guards. “We don’t have too many shooters on our team, so we need to move the ball and get it inside to score we couldn’t get to "They wanted to sit in their zone and slow the game down the rim and when we did, they were there." and we just had to get them out of it," Manchester senior forward Nate Nickens said. "We wanted to get out into transition, get a lead and make them come out of our zone, Photosby: because that's not the kind of defense we wanted to go CliffLavelle against."
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Three Shore WreSTlerS each FiniSh Second
By Bob Badders – Senior Staff Writer
he Shore Co n f er ence w as in mo s tly u nchar ted ter r ito r y ag ain o n M ar ch 6 at the NJSIAA I n dividual Wr es tlin g Ch amp io ns h ip s , but this time it w as a much diff er ent s itu atio n .
Regio n V I w as h eld w ithou t a s tate ch ampio n f o r the f ir s t time s in ce 2 004 as all th r ee of its f inalis ts f ell jus t s h or t o f ear n ing on e o f the toug hes t w r es tling s tate champio n s hips in the Southern’s Kyle Casaletto U n ited S tates . S outher n' s K y le Cas aletto at 1 2 5, To ms Riv er S outh' s B. J . Clag on at 1 30 an d J acks on M emo r ial' s D allas Win s to n at 1 8 9 each f in is h ed s econd amon g Reg ion V I ' s 15 medalis ts at Boar dw alk H all. With th e leg en ds o f pas t y ear s – S co tt Win s to n , J immy Law s o n, N ick Vis icar o , G lenn Car s on , Vin nie D elleF av e – h avin g mov ed o n to co lleg e, a new g r o u p o f w r es tler s d es cen d ed o n A tlantic City ov er the ch ampio n s h ip w eekend w ith h o p es of eq ualin g th e lof ty s tan d ar ds s et b y w r es tler s f r om M on mo uth and O cean cou n ties . Cas aletto clo s ed a b r illian t car eer w ith a s econ d- p lace f inis h , b u t too k h is lo s s to H igh P oin t' s N ick F r an cavilla har d . Cas aletto h ad lo s t to F r ancavilla 3- 2 in las t s eas on ' s 11 2poun d f in al on a r ev er s al w ith tw o s econd s lef t. H e s o ug ht r evenge, b u t w as tur ned aw ay by F r ancavilla du r in g a r egular s eas o n bout, 7 - 3 . “I ' ve b een w aitin g 3 6 4 d ays f o r th is , ” C as aletto told rep or ter s after his s emifin al w in o n S atur d ay. “Th is is w h at I ' ve been tr ain in g h ar d f or. ” F rancavilla br o k e h is heart ag ain , h o w ever. The th ree-time s tate champ es caped in th e s econd per io d to tak e a 1 -0 lead an d th en finis h ed a tak edow n off a s cramble to g o up 3 -0 . H e rod e ou t Cas aletto in th e th ird per io d to take th e title fo r th e s eco n d s eas on in a row.
“I tho u gh t h e w r es tled a tou g h match , b u t it' s h ar d to b eat a k id lik e th at, ” s aid S o uther n head coach J oh n S tou t. “H e p r epar ed h ims elf v er y w ell an d tr ain ed h ar d, b u t ( F r an cavilla) is a k id that y ou have to do s o methin g s p ecial ag ain s t to b eat. ” Cas aletto clo s ed h is f antas tic car eer w ith a f inal r ecor d o f 12 4 - 2 0 . H e w o n th r ee D is tr ict 24 titles and thr ee Region V I ch ampion s h ip s . H e mad e it to th e s tate po dium thr ee times d ur in g h is car eer, f inis h ing eigh th at 1 0 3 po u nd s as a s o ph omo r e bef or e f in is h in g s econ d at 112 in 20 10 an d at 1 25 th is s eas o n. H e is f ou r th all time in w in s at S ou th er n beh in d th r ee- time s tate ch amp F r an k M o linar o, s econ d - place f in is her Lu ke Lann o and s tate ch amp an d th r ee- time f inalis t G len n Car s on . Clag on , d es pite h is los s in th e 1 30 - po u nd f inal to Wes t Es s ex s en ior A nth on y P er r o tti, p er hap s b es t illus tr ated th e br igh t f u tu r e in Regio n V I . A s one of n in e un der clas s men that ear ned med als , Clagon had the lo o k o f a s tate ch amp io n . H e f ell jus t s h o r t agains t the Ru tg er s - bo u nd P er r o tti, as a f ir s t- per io d tak ed ow n w as th e diff er ence in a 4- 2 w in. P er r o tti u s ed that s co r e p lus an es cap e an d a lo cking han ds p oint as cu s h io n ag ain s t Clag on ' s s eco n d- per io d tak ed ow n. Th e I n dians ' s o ph omo r e w as in po s ition f o r a ty ing taked ow n late in th e th ir d per io d, b ut P er r o tti held him off to tak e the title. “I t' s depr es s in g an d it h u r ts to lo s e the s tate f inal in f r on t o f all thes e p eo ple, ” Clag o n s aid . “Bu t I ' m s till ju s t a s o ph o mo r e an d I hav e tw o y ear s lef t. I ' m TRS’s BJ Clagon go ing to w o r k as h ar d as I can to b eco me a s tate ch ampion .”
Clago n h as n ow w o n tw o medals in h is f ir s t tw o s eas on s af ter f inis h in g s ev enth at 12 5 as a f r es h man. H e f inis h ed 2 0 11 w ith a 36 - 1 r eco r d and is 7 0- 6 f or h is car eer. H e w as th e I nd ians ' f ir s t f inalis t s ince D ar n ell M yer s w o n th e h eavy w eigh t title in 1 98 4 an d the th ir d r u nn er- up in p r o gr am his tor y. Win s ton made g r eat s tr ides th is s eas on as h e tur ned f r om a s op ho mo r e w ith lo ad s o f po ten tial in to a f ear ed ju nio r w ho co uld g r app le w ith any one in th e s tate. H e adv anced to the f inal w ith b ig w ins over P lain f ield ' s D aw ud H ick s and H ighlan d P ar k ' s Ty ler Rio s , b u t S t. P eter ' s P r ep ' s J ames F o x w as ab le to s to p th at r u n in its tr ack s . F o x, th e Beas t o f th e Eas t champion , d ef eated Wins to n 7 - 0 in the 1 8 9 - p o un d f in als to become S t. P eter ' s P r ep' s f ir s t s tate champ ion and f inis h w ith a per f ect 2 0 11 r eco r d of 4 2- 0 . Wins ton w r es tled an d los t to F ox d ur in g the Beas t o f th e Eas t tou r n amen t in D ecemb er, s o he kn ew w h at kind of a match h e w as in f or. H e ev en co mmented af ter h is s emif in al w in th at F o x w as th e mo s t athletic an d to ug h es t to s cor e o n th an an y w r es tler he h ad p r eviou s ly f aced . F ox ju mped out to a 2 - 0 lead af ter th e f ir s t p er iod an d p iled on f iv e mo r e p oints in th e s eco nd per iod w ith an es cap e, a tak ed ow n and tw o near- f all points . Th e H ar var d - b o un d F ox r od e o ut Wins to n th e entir e thir d p er iod f o r th e w in . “F o x is a b ig, s tr on g kid and h e w as a little too much f o r D allas , ” s aid J ag uar s head co ach D ou g Withs tan d ley. S in ce los in g d u r in g th e Beas t of th e Eas t tour nament, Wins to n d ominated h is co mp etition in h elping th e J agu ar s w in th eir s eco nd s tr aig ht G r ou p I V title. H e did that all s eas on at 1 89 p oun ds des p ite w eig h in g clo s er to 18 0. H e w eighed in at 17 7 p ou n d s f or S u n d ay ' s bo ut. Win s ton d ev elo p ed in to th e k ind of w r es tler th e J acks on co ach ing s taff h ad env is ion ed w h en h e beg an his h igh s cho o l car eer. H e mor ph ed f r om a k id w h o did n ' t ev en tr ain du r ing th e o ff s eas o n b etw een his f r es h man an d s o ph o mo r e s eas o ns to a w r es tler w ho w as o b s es s ed w ith n ev er again f eelin g th e d is ap p ointmen t of n ot p lacin g in the s tate tou r n ament. Wins to n mad e go od on th at p r o mis e th is w eek en d, ev en if he d id n ' t w in a s tate title. H e f in is hed hig h o n th e p o diu m an d s till h as on e mor e year lef t to tak e the n ext an d f inal s tep . The f in als w er en ’t th e lig h ts - ou t p er f o r mance Regio n V I has b eco me k no w n f o r ov er th e p as t f o ur s eas on s , bu t the r es ults p r o v ed that the f u tu r e is indeed b r ig h t f o r th e S h o r e Con f er en ce.
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S HOWING C HARACTER : SHORE TRIO PLACES HIGH AT NJSIAA WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIPS
By Bob Badders – Senior Staff Writer
Hardy displayed the character necessary to wrestle back for third. t had been a while since Greg Velasco had tasted Hardy had the toughest road defeat, nearly a year to the day in fact, but when of the trio as he lost to he finally faced adversity for the first time this Bernstein, 4-3, in Friday's season he battled back like a champion would. “I was pretty upset,” Brennan said. pre-quarterfinal round. He “I wanted to win so bad, but I knew I Velasco suffered his first loss of the season to started his wrestleback had to refocus. Coming all the way High Point's Billy Smith, the eventual NJSIAA heavyweight journey at the very back to win (the consolation final) champion, in the second day of action in the NJSIAA beginning and pinned takes more character than winning the Individual Wrestling Championships on March 5. Several Mahwah's Ryan Sblendorio state title itself.” talented and experienced wrestlers have folded after such a in a win-or-go-home bout. Raritan’s Nick Liguori defeat, but Velasco did no such thing. Then, in another elimination Brennan may have fallen short of his match, he clipped Cranford's JP ultimate goal, but the senior ended his tremendous The Keyport senior Christiano, 4-2. He had already secured a top-eight finish, career on a high note by winning by major heavyweight pinned but continued pushing forward. He beat Monctlair's Otis decision over West Essex's Frank Marotti, 10-2, to Randolph's Peter Wolmart in Wright, the top seed in the entire bracket, 9-4 to reach the place third at 152 pounds. Brennan is Brick's first 1:11 nearly 30 minutes after consolation semifinals and then outlasted Bectonthird-place finisher ever and just the third wrestler his defeat and came back the Wallington's James Dugan, 3-1, to reach the third-place from the program to place among the top three. next day at Boardwalk Hall in bout. He battled hard with Haddon Township's Steve Dan McCullough won back-to-back state titles in Atlantic City to edge New Nelson, who had also entered the tournament undefeated, 1973-1974 and James Grieco finished second in Providence's Zach Troutman, and came away with a takedown and pin in overtime to 1965. 3-2 in double overtime, to finish third. finish third at the NJSIAA “I'm just glad I took top three in the state,” Individual Wrestling “It was devastating, especially since it was my first loss of Brennan said. “I've been trying to do that forever Championships. He finished season,” Hardy said. “You just want to pack your stuff the and I'm happy I finally got it.” his season with a 42-1 record, and go, but you have to fight through it.” a school-record 116 wins and Brennan defeated St. Peter's Prep's Francisco Velasco, Brennan and Hardy represented half of the six topthe best state tournament Colom 9-4 on Friday, Brennan pinned Pennsville's 3 finishers from Region VI, joining Southern's Kyle Casaletto finish in Red Raiders history. Kenny Emmons in 1:08 to reach the semifinals. He and assistant coach Pete After the loss to Barber he topped Bergen Catholic at 125, Toms River South's B.J. Clagon at 130 and Jackson Memorial's Dallas Winston at 189, each of whom finished Christathakis (6th at standout freshman Johnny Sebastian, 8-7. He took second. heavyweight in 1999) are control immediately in the third-place bout, Keyport’s Greg Velasco Keyport's only state dropping Marotti several times from his feet and He may have finished fourth, but Raritan junior Nick medalists. riding him out to win the final match of his career. Ligouri had one of the best tournament runs of the weekend. The Rockets 125-pounder battled injury and adversity for his “Once I lost I just had to use that energy to wrestle better,” “That loss was rough and it was hard to recover from it,” Velasco said. “It's real hard. I can't say it's easy, but you just Brennan said. “I had a lot of inspiration from my coaches and first two-and-a-half years, but came on strong and showed his true colors during the three days at Boardwalk Hall. have to let it go and do something – get mad – do whatever my family. I talked with my dad and he said how much it you have to, to make you want it. I had a tough match and would show who I really am if I came back and took third. After winning his opening bout of the tournament in the lost, so I had to dig deep and get back as far as I could.” preliminary round, he defeated Region III champ Eamonn “I feel like I should have been in the state final, but Gaffney of Seton Hall Prep, 5-2, to advance to the In a heavyweight tournament that featured five undefeated everything doesn't always work out the way you want it to.” quarterfinals. He was pinned by eventual champ and threewrestlers in the quarterfinals, Velasco proved the big kid from time champ Nick the small Bayshore school could wrestle with the more Central Regional junior Kalyph Francavilla of familiar names. He pinned Linden's Austin Frank in 13 Hardy might just be the state's best High Point, but seconds on Friday and then defeated West Orange's Emiliano wrestler that nobody has heard of, responded to win Betancor, a two-time Region IV champ, 5-3 in the but that distinction doesn't look like three bouts in the quarterfinals. Smith ended his state title hopes with a 5-0 it's going to last for long. Hardy consolation decision in the semifinals before Velasco battled back with entered the tournament undefeated bracket. He lost wins over Wolmart and the Region III champion Troutman. and left with just one blemish on to Camden his record as he responded from a “I came down here and proved I can wrestle with all these Catholic's Matt semifinal loss to place third at 160 guys,” Velasco said. “It feels great that all the hard work I put pounds. He is the first medalist for Sausman, 9-8, in in paid off at the end of the year. It's a great accomplishment the third-place Central since Nick Tenpenny to finish in the top three. I'm proud of myself and I'm matchup, but finished third at 189 in 2007. thankful for all my coaches that pushed me hard and finished strong in kept me focused.” “Friday night I both the bout and Brick’s Joe Ghione lost to (state his season. Brick's Connor Brennan had dreams of finalist) Jadaen Bernstein (of becoming the Green Dragons' first Finishing in sixth place were Brick Memorial freshman Joe Voorhees), who is a good wrestler,” state champion in nearly 40 years, Ghione at 103, Ocean senior PJ Parrino at 140 and Christian Hardy said. “He has the same type of but a familiar nemesis derailed Brothers Academy junior Vin Favia at 152. Southern style as me and it was an aggressive those plans. Brennan lost to sophomore Zach Wilhelm at 112, Toms River East match, but he overcame me. I was Westfield's Christian sophomore Rich Lewis at 119, Manchester junior Ken upset because it was my first loss of Barber 4-3 in Theobold at 125 and Marlboro senior Mitch Seigel placed the season but (head coach Mike) double overtime seventh, while Marlboro senior Vinnie Leone was eighth at Bischoff talked to me about in the semifinals 130 pounds. how I had to come to get knocked back strong This season marked the first since 2004 that the Shore into the and take third, Central's Kalyph Hardy Conference did not have a state champion. In 2008 the Shore and I did.” had a record seven champions crowned. Of the 15 medalists from Region VI in 2011, nine were underclassmen. Like Velasco and Brennan, consolation bracket. It was just Brennan's second loss of the season and the first since Barber defeated him by a point at the NJWCA All-Star Invitational on Jan. 30.
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Monmouth County Linemen Honored at Lombardi Awards By Scott Stump – Managing Editor They ar e th e p lay er s w h o ar e o f ten o v er lo o k ed by the med ia an d ou t o f th e s po tlig h t o f th e f an s , bu t on M ar ch 3 , a g r ou p o f M on mo u th Co u n ty lin emen h ad th eir chan ce to take cen ter s tag e. The 3 9th an n ual Lombar d i Aw ar d s banquet w as h eld at th e Eaton tow n S h er ato n H otel, h o n or ing on e s en ior lin eman f r o m each of M o n mo uth Coun ty’s 27 f o otb all pr o gr ams . The lin eman is s elected by his r es pective coachin g s taff f o r r ep r es en tin g the ideals and b elief s o f leg en dar y G r een Bay P ack er s coach Vince Lo mb ar d i, an d aw ar ded w ith th e s ign atu r e “Block of G r anite’’ tr o ph y at the ban quet s p on s o r ed b y the Rotar y Clu bs of M onmou th Coun ty an d th e Cen ter f o r Vo catio n al Rehabilitatio n. O ther ho n o r ees in clu d ed Ru ms o n - F air H av en head co ach S h ane F allo n, w h o w as s elected as th e M onmou th Cou nty Co ach o f the Year af ter leading th e Bu lldo g s th eir f ir s t s tate s ectio n al champion s h ip in s cho o l his to r y. S h o r e Reg io n al w as named the M o n mo uth Co u nty Team o f th e Year af ter f inis h in g 11 - 1 an d w in n in g its f ir s t Centr al J er s ey G r o u p I title s in ce 1 9 9 7 . A ls o , Rar itan s enio r q u ar ter back J ar ed G u r czes k i r eceiv ed th e pr es tigiou s J oh n Tug g le Aw ar d f o r ov er comin g ad v er s ity o n an d o ff th e f ield , as h e h as dealt w ith a p ain f u l cer ebr al pals y co n d itio n
in the low er h alf of his bo d y d ur ing h is athletic car eer. Th e even ing als o f eatu r ed a tr io o f g u es t s p eak er s , M on mo uth U niv er s ity head co ach K ev in
P ar nell ( Lon g Br an ch) ; A n d r ew M o rg en bes s er ( M analapan ) ; Ed die K ap alk o ( M an as q u an ) ; M ax S pan o ( M ar lb or o) ; J o hn F accas ( M ataw an ) ; D w ig ht S heeh an ( M ater D ei P r ep ) ; Br ian Cr o s by ( M id dleto w n N or th) ; To m M as i ( M id d letow n S o u th ) ; Ry an G r eenw o o d ( M o n mo uth Reg io n al) ; P h il S eidle ( N ep tu ne) ; Co n n or H ayes ( O cean ) ; Ch r is tian M ar ch en a ( Rar itan ) ; M ik e Ru s s ell ( Red Ban k Cath o lic) ; Ro n Vilar d i ( Red Bank Reg ion al) ; S am Water s ( Ru ms o nF H ) ; M att Co n te ( S h o r e) ; N ick D r ag on etti ( S t. J o hn Vian ney ) ; G ar r ett F o s ter ( Wall) .
Callah an , Rutger s off en s iv e lin e co ach K yle F loo d , an d f o r mer S an D iego Ch arg er s an d Clev elan d Br ow n s d ef en s ive lin eman K eith Baldw in.
As for the linemen honored, they are as follows: Rob er t D oher ty ( A llen tow n ) ; D ar r yl J o hn s on ( A s bur y P ar k ) ; M ar k K apn ick ( Co lts N eck) ; H ar r is on S to kes ( F r eeh old) ; A dam Rih acek ( F r eeho ld Tw p.) ; Chr is M ar ciano ( H o lmd el) ; Tim D onah ue ( H ow ell) ; Rober t F lannigan ( K eans bu rg ) ; G r eg Velas co ( K ey p or t) ; J ames
Shore Regional Named Team of the Year
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Jackson Memorial Basketball Ends 40-year Drought By Scott Stump â€“ Managing Editor While Middletown North's inspiring postseason run after having its star player dismissed from the team at the end of the regular season dominated the headlines in the race for the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV title, Jackson Memorial's boys basketball team has a pretty good story of its own to tell. It's the one about the underdog Ocean County team losing its three-year starting point guard because of residency issues during the regular season, winning a division title, and then making a run to its first sectional final appearance in 40 years. That's what the fifth-seeded Jaguars accomplished when they went on the road and knocked off the top-seeded Lions 4644 on March 4 behind a pair of free throws by senior guard Bryan Specht with 26 seconds left in the game. Jackson (21-8), which also set the school single-season record for wins, advanced to meet 10th-seeded Rancocas Valley in the Central Jersey Group IV final in its first appearance in the championship game since losing to Lawrence in the 1970-71 season. The Jaguars ended the run of the Lions (22-4), who tied the school single-season record for wins set in 1975-76.
with a game-high 18 points and senior guard Frank Derise added nine points in their final game.
After Specht knocked down his clutch free throws with the Middletown North student section right in his face, Middletown North had one final chance to win or tie it. Junior Jason Huelbig caught the ball at the top of the key with time running out, took one dribble to his right and fired a desperation 3-point attempt that banked off the front rim before senior forward Connor Saker gathered the rebound and the celebration began. "We knew we had the talent, but no one else seemed to believe,'' Specht said. "Just to think in the future when we come back, we can look back and say, 'That was my team that did that,''' said Saker, who scored four key fourth-quarter points. "It's an amazing feeling, and I can't even describe it right now.''
Senior Connor Saker
Junior guard Brandon McDonnell led Jackson with 13 points, junior forward Brandon Holup added 12, and Specht and Saker each had seven points. Jackson also shot 11-for-14 from the foul line. Senior John Martens led Middletown North
After Saker's two free throws gave Jackson a 44-43 lead with 2:13 remaining, Huelbig missed a jumper and then Jackson threw the ball away to give it back to the Lions. Derise drew a foul and then hit one of two free throws with 35.5 seconds left to tie the game at 44. Specht then was fouled on a cut to the basket on the Jaguars' ensuing possession and sank the biggest free throws by a Jaguar in 40 years. "Coach (Joe Fagan) says it every day, 'High school basketball is not pressure, so just step up there and relax,''' Specht said. The veteran Jaguars did a great job of withstanding Middletown North's initial rush on the road, as the Lions stormed out to a 15-4 lead behind eight points from Martens. McDonnell helped them recover by scoring all eight of Jackson's points in the first quarter to keep the Lions' lead at 15-8 at the end of one. Holup then got hot in the second quarter, scoring 10 of his 12 points during the period to bring Jackson within 21-20 at the half. After a defensive switch, Holup also blanketed Huelbig, who had been a catalyst for the Lions in the postseason but finished with five points on Friday. "That start was like a visiting team's worst nightmare, but we got the jitters out, settled down and played basketball,'' Saker said. The Jaguars made their move in the third quarter, as Saker neutralized Martens and the Jaguars tightened the defense while jumping back and forth out of man-to-man and zone. They also ran crisp sets offensively, getting backdoor layups, free throws and open jumpers from multiple players. Jackson had the lead as high as eight points twice in the third quarter, includig a 36-28 advantage after a jumper by McDonnell following an offensive rebound. Martens then canned a 3-pointer to cut it to 36-31 before a free throw by Saker gave Jackson a six-point advantage at the end of three quarters to set up a furious finish.
Junior Brandon McDonnell
While Middletown North had forged ahead after the dismissal of star center Shilique Calhoun in early February for disciplinary reasons, Jackson has also been playing without junior point guard Elliot Bell, a three-year varsity player who has not been on the team since early January because of questions about his residency. "People don't realize what a blow that was with Elliot (leaving),'' Fagan said. "Our whole defensive structure changed because he's really good pressuring the basketball. We lose 6-7 possessions a game between what he gets on steals and offensive rebounds.'' "They lost Calhoun, and they were a different team, but we lost Elliot Bell, who I would say is one of the better point guards in the Shore Conference,'' Saker said. "Losing Calhoun was a big thing for them, but we lost Elliot Bell even before they lost Calhoun, and we still got this far.''
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Th e Stron g, Si le nt T ype : Raritan â€™s Jared Gurc zeski By Scott Stump â€“ Managing Editor In the middle of a 2004 Hazlet Pop Warner football season that would not end until the team made it to Orlando for the national championships, quarterback Jared Gurczeski finally got an answer to the pain in his legs that he had endured for as long as he could remember. Up until that point Gurczeski had been told it was a result of growing pains, but soon the sixth-grader learned that he had cerebral palsy in the lower half of his body. Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that is often present from birth and is caused by abnormalities in parts of the brain that control muscle movements and permanently affects body movement and muscle coordination, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. In Gurczeski's case, it usually resulted in painful tightness in his shins and calves. "I was told it was obviously going to hurt, and I was going to have to take it easy for a little, but it wasn't going to get worse,'' Gurczeski said. So after receiving that diagnosis, what did the 11-yearold go out and do? "I actually started at defensive tackle in our next game,'' Gurczeski said. Pop Warner teammate Shane Mertz, who is now a 6-7, 290-pound Northwestern football recruit, has broken his arm, so the team needed someone to fill in. After receiving potentially life-altering news about a condition that would scare most 11-year-olds to their core, Gurczeski went out and mixed it up in the trenches at a position he never really played. "I didn't see it as anything that was going to stop me or anything,'' he said. Fast forward to 6 1/2 years later, and it still hasn't.
Dealing With Pain Now a Raritan senior, Gurczeski was the starting quarterback on the football team and is currently a starting forward on a Raritan basketball team that already has won Class A Central and Shore Conference Tournament titles while also making a trip to the NJSIAA sectional finals. During the past two years, particularly in football, Gurczeski endured a series of events that some players might have taken as a sign that maybe it was time to walk away, but he always kept coming back for more. First, there is his cerebral palsy, which requires him to apply a moist heat pack to his shins and calves every day and perform a series of stretches to loosen his calf muscles and take pressure off his shins. He also will often freeze water in a Dixie cup, peel back the edge, and ice his shins to try to relieve the pain. In addition, the varying football surfaces and cleats would aggravate his condition. Raritan's home field is artificial turf, but the Rockets would occasionally practice on an adjacent grass field if the turf field was being used for other sports, and several of their away games were on natural grass. When the Rockets would run around the track that rings the football field during conditioning drills, Gurczeski would run on the field because the track surface would result in locked up calves. "I think football is worse than basketball because of the different fields and everything, plus the cleats and the cold weather, which cramps my calves up,'' Gurczeski said. "It's rough at times, but it's worth it.'' When the pain particularly flares up, Gurczeski will go to the athletic training room for cold whirlpool treatments or take anti-inflammatory medication, which he says he tries to avoid unless the pain is severe. While managing the pain and tightness of his
condition is a daily athletic occurence, during his junior football season Gurczeski also endured the removal of a pilodonal cyst on the base of his tailbone that required surgery. This past football season, a foot infection caused him to be rushed to the hospital on the day of a game against Point Boro for a scary 48-hour visit until the infection was under control. A week later, Gurczeski suffered a medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury to his knee in a win over Long Branch, but recovered from that to play in Raritan's season-ending win over Holmdel on Thanksgiving. He has worn a brace on his left knee all during basketball season to deal with the lingering effects. "We always joke around with him that he's injury prone and this kind of stuff only happens to him, but he always comes back and fights through it,'' said Raritan senior Tim Pizanie, one of Gurczeski's friends, who was a wide receiver on the football team and is a starting guard for the Rockets. His efforts during football season did not go unnoticed, either. Gurczeski was this year's recipient of the prestigious John Tuggle Award at the 39th annual Vince Lombardi Awards dinner on March 3 at the Sheraton in Eatontown after being nominated by Raritan head coach Anthony Petruzzi. Presented by the Rotary Clubs of Monmouth County and the Center for Vocational Rehabilitation, the award is named after the former New York Giants fullback from the 1980s who died of cancer. It is awarded to a player who has overcome adversity on or off the field. The ironic part is that rather than aggravating his condition, sports are often the best medicine for it.
The 32-Minute Man Sprinting up and down a football field or a basketball court is not the problem when it comes to Gurczeski's condition. It's the part in between that is the issue. "As soon as I stop moving, it can start to hurt,'' Gurczeski said. When Gurczeski is on the sidelines during a football game or taking a seat during a basketball game, his calves and shins can lock up into a painful state. That also goes for days off between games or practices, or time off during the summer.
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Raritanâ€™ s Continued from page 13 "When I'm not playing for a week or two, and I try to start to get going, that's when it hurts the most,'' he said. "That's why I'm always playing pickup basketball with my friends outside and everything. I'm always trying to do something active.'' While Raritan's five-man basketball rotation would be tough for most athletes to maintain, in a way it's just what the doctor ordered for Gurczeski. The Rockets rarely substitute, usually only if one of the starters gets in foul trouble. They have played multiple games this season where all five starters, which include four seniors, have played all 32 minutes. Gurczeski is a dirty-work player known for grabbing offensive rebounds, scoring on putbacks, knocking down jumpers and setting screens to get teammates open. It's the type of draining, physical play that would have most players at least asking for a quick breather. "To be honest, he's obviously the one kid I worry about the most, but Jared doesn't even ask to be taken out of any live drills in practice,'' said Raritan basketball coach Denis Caruano. "His answer is always, 'Coach I'm fine.' He probably spends more time than anyone else in the gym and the training room, but he never gets down.'' "He definitely keeps it to himself,'' Pizanie said. "The way he plays, he never complains about it, and he's a really upbeat guy even when he's in pain.'' Caruano can't even remember the last time this season that he took Gurczeski out for performance-related reasons, only removing him because of foul trouble or because the Rockets were comfortably ahead. Caruano and athletic trainer Amanda Stump know that the only way they are going to find out if Gurczeski is really suffering is by asking his mother, who is a registered nurse. "I have communications with his mother, who gives me the truth because Jared won't complain about anything,'' Caruano said. "My mom is always worried, being a nurse and everything, but she's a big help,'' Gurczeski said. "As soon as I'm hurting, I go straight to her no matter what.'' You can bet that unless he gets in foul trouble on Wednesday night, Gurczeski will be out there the whole way for a team looking to vanquish a Lakewood squad that is the highest-seeded team left in the tournament and the favorite to win it all. He has drawn the assignment of guarding Lakewood senior forward Jarrod Davis, one of the Shore Conference's top players. Despite entering the game with a 19-2 record and only one loss to a Shore Conference team all season, Raritan still feels like it has something to prove as far as beating a well-regarded opponent. Raritan is not as flashy as Lakewood and plays with a more methodical approach than the high-flying Piners, who boast some of the Shore's biggest names in Davis and senior Anthony Walker. The Rockets aren't so much defined by their star, Wagner-bound junior center Mike Aaman, as they are by Gurczeski. Players like Aaman rarely come along at Raritan, while players like Gurczeski are the glue at successful programs.
"He's probably one of the best examples we can give,'' Pizanie said. "We talk about that as team, that Raritan image. We're not always the best or the most athletic, but we're going to play hard to the end. He really symbolizes that.'' Gurczeski has earned respect the old-fashioned way, not because some Internet recruiting guru bestowed it on him, or because he is throwing down dunks and inciting the crowd to look at him. He earned it because he has not missed one practice all season and has played nearly every minute of every game without making an excuse or a complaint. That won't get you YouTube views, but it will have your old coaches telling stories about you to players and friends 20 years later. His story is the one that earns an eyebrow raise between two coaches talking after a game, not the story that gets 45 comments on a blog. Caruano remembers informing Linden head coach Phil Colicchio, who has seen his share of players overcoming adversity, about Gurczeski's story after the Rockets lost a hard-fought nonconference game against the Tigers on the road early in the season. "I told him Jared's story and about how he was our quarterback and also plays baseball, and (Colicchio) said, 'That can't be,''' Caruano said. "The kid doesn't want anything known about it. He doesn't want an excuse out there. He's gained the respect of others when I get them the opportunity to tell them what he overcomes, but he doesn't want people to feel sorry for him.
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"To me, it's an unbelievable testament to his character and work ethic to overcome a possibly debilitating situation where many could've given up." His teammates, most of whom he has known for virtually all his life, see the grimace on his face in a football huddle or the wince when he plops down on the bench in a basketball game, and they don't say a word. "We're not going to notify the coach,'' Pizanie said. "He's so competitive that we just keep it quiet, and leave it to him to decide when he's had enough.'' "All my friends know, but I don't really talk about it much,'' Gurczeski said. "I don't tell people unless they ask, like if I had to sit out a week or something. It's just another thing. It hasn't stopped me from really doing anything.'' That also means playing in college, as Gurczeski looks to continue playing football at Division III Fairleigh Dickinson-Florham, King's College or Delaware Valley. He may be a young man on the brink of adulthood now, but his approach to his condition is the same as it was when he was a little sixth-grader who jumped in on the defensive line after receiving potentially devastating news.
You shake it off, and you get back in the game. Page13Photoby:
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A SM / 15 Caruano. "Some people think it's getting a little dirty, but a night like this with two local rivals, two small schools, two divisional teams, that was a phenomenal scene. It was just a special night.'' "We're all from Hazlet, we all grew up together, and we've been playing basketball together since we were about eight years old,'' Furlong said. "I think that helped us because we had a team bond that probably some other parochial teams and other teams don't have, and it was important in the end.''
eams lik e th e Ra r itan bo ys bas ketball s qu ad th a t wo n its f ir s t S h or e Con f er en ce To u r n amen t title s in ce 2004 by beatin g Ru ms o n th is s eas on a n d th en goin g d eep in to th e N J S I AA Tou r n amen t a r e n o t s u p pos ed to exis t an y mor e.
Teams like this are supposed to be relics of the past, Norman Rockwell paintings that don't exist in the 21st Century. It may only be a blip on the radar in between titles for the usual powers, but it is a satisfying blip. People tend to think of black-and-white when it comes to public and parochial/prep programs, like everyone should play for their local high school and parochial schools are the devil. I don't agree with that because I've seen parochial and prep programs change the lives of players who would've been lost souls at their local public schools and probably would have never succeeded in the end. I've also seen plenty of public school players do well and move on to the next level, and sometimes transferring to a different public school was the best thing in the end for a certain player's career and his academic and social life.
You're telling me five kids who grew up in the same town won a conference championship in the age of parochial powers, prep schools and public schools that seem to have a new transfer popping up every five minutes who wants to play on a winning team? The SCT title is supposed to be reserved for Christian Brothers Academy or basketball hotbeds like Lakewood and Neptune, which have had their share of transfers, coming and going, in recent seasons. Even Raritan's other I just like knowing that it still SCT title in 2004 was can be done the old-fashioned headlined by star way. forward Qa'rraan Calhoun, who grew up in "We can't recruit,'' said 6-footLong Branch, Red Bank 9 junior center Mike Aaman, who Raritan seniors Tim Pizanie (left) and and Asbury Park before turned in a monster 22-point, 24Kevin Furlong (right). transferring to Raritan as rebound effort against Rumson. a sophomore when he moved in with his cousin, "We're not a CBA, we're not a Catholic school, and we Marques Johnson. don't have kids from all over Monmouth County. We just have kids from our town, we work hard every That's what makes what the Rockets just single day in practice, and it paid off.'' accomplished so rare in the first SCT final since 1979 that didn't feature Neptune, CBA or Lakewood. Check "If you have the team chemistry and your kids work the addresses, go to their houses, send a private hard enough, you can achieve anything,'' Pizanie said. detective - junior Mike Aaman and seniors Kevin "You don't have to have kids from all over the state to Furlong, Jared Gurczeski, Tim Pizanie and Mike win a championship, and I think we proved that this DaCosta all grew up in one small town, Hazlet. They year.'' are not an AAU team that changed addresses to play And to think, the centerpiece of the whole operation for the same high school or an all-star team from nearly went to a vaunted basketball factory instead of Monmouth County. Just a group of guys from the coming to Raritan. Aaman is a leading candidate for neighborhood. the Shore Conference Player of the Year. He also is a "It's true, it's a different high school game than kid who took a trip with his mother to St. Benedict's when I was younger,'' said Raritan head coach Denis Prep in Newark as an eighth-grader with a definite
interest in playing for one of the nation's premier programs, a school loaded with Division I talent from all over America. Aaman, who was 6-7 when he was a freshman, was certainly intrigued by the possibility of playing for then-St. Benedict's head coach Dan Hurley, the son of legendary St. Anthony coach Bob Hurley Sr., who had built the Gray Bees from an afterthought into a national power. "It was 50-50,'' Aaman said about the possibility of attending St. Benedict's. "My mom was thinking about it, but the money and the traveling were tough. I don't really think I was ready to go away to high school, and to be waking up at five in the morning. I was only going to be 14 (years old) and taking the train up to Newark every day.'' Aaman decided to stay in Hazlet and has become a sensation, filling stat sheets and galvanizing a team of veteran guards with his relentless work on the boards. Could he have gone to St. Benedict's and won a ton of games against higher-level competition? Absolutely. Would any of those wins have been as satisfying as the one the Rockets had on Friday night? "Good thing I didn't go,'' Aaman said. "I would've missed out on a great opportunity with my teammates. I think I made the right decision overall. To do this with my friends and teammates that I grew up with is just a great feeling.'' Plus, things all worked out in the end. Aaman will end up playing for Hurley after all, as he is verbally committed to Wagner College, where Hurley is a firstyear coach at a program on the rise in the Northeast Conference, which includes Monmouth University. For a bunch of kids who grew up in a so-called non-basketball town, a moment that seemed like a crazy dream when they were younger and watching CBA, Neptune and even a star-studded Raritan team take home titles became reality. The Raritan student section rushed the court at the final buzzer, engulfing the Rockets in a euphoric celebration as they became the only team besides Neptune or CBA to win multiple SCT titles since 1993. "I tried a million times to envision this when I was younger, and this is greater than anything I could've imagined,'' Pizanie said. Maybe that has been Raritan's biggest contribution to the Shore Conference boys basketball scene this season. For at least one year, it let everyone imagine possibilities that didn't seem to exist any more.
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