Memorable Mondays: Top 5 games
Welcome to MSGVarsity.com's Memorable Mondays, a summer-long series that looks back on the top players, games and moments from the past season and gazes ahead to 2012-13. As the summer goes on, we'll compile all the lists and post them here: www.msgvarsity.com/mondays. New lists will be posted every Monday.
In Week 8 of Memorable Mondays, we look at five of the most memorable games from the 2011-12 school year:
BOYS BASKETBALL: St. Anthony 51, St. Benedict's Prep 50
You could have covered your eyes, plucked any one of the four games out of a hat and still emerged with an absolute winner from the New Year's Jump Off played at Teaneck Jan. 1.
Let's see, there was Teaneck edging St. Patrick in overtime, 65-63, on the heroics of sharpshooter Joel Hernandez; Plainfield squeezing past Hudson Catholic, 59-57, on a pair of free throws by Ahmid Williams with 25 seconds left; Hackensack conducting a feverish fourth-quarter comeback behind Rashard Figures to erase an 11-point deficit and beat Englewood, 59-55.
But the bulk of the hype leading up to that event was directed toward the long-awaited matchup between St. Anthony and St. Benedict's, and here was a case where result definitely met expectation.
Both teams were undefeated (St. Anthony rode a 39-game win streak), situated at Nos. 1 (St. Anthony) and 2 in The MSG Varsity poll and also ranked nationally. This also was the first meeting between these Garden State powerhouses in more than 10 years.
Clearly, we'd all been missing something special.
St. Benedict's fought its way to a 25-23 halftime lead behind the fabulous play of junior guard Tyler Ennis and senior guard Melvin Johnson, while St. Anthony hung tough behind the surprising offensive punch of senior forward Jimmy Hall. The Gray Bees then stretched that lead to 40-34 in the third quarter behind a nine-point outburst from Johnson, who would finish with 25.
But St. Anthony hunkered down defensively in the fourth quarter, forced quick turnovers and suddenly established the scoring balance that eluded the Friars for much of the first three periods. Senior forward Jerome Frink muscled his way inside for two big early buckets, senior guard Tariq Carey came alive with five points in the first 5:00 and junior guard Josh Brown hit a huge putback off a missed 3-pointer to give St. Anthony a 50-48 lead with 2:02 remaining.
Senior guard Kyle Anderson raised the lead to three on a free throw with 36.3 seconds left, but Ennis pulled the Gray Bees to within 51-50 on two freebies with 19.7 to go. St. Anthony missed the front end of a one-and-one with 17 seconds left and Ennis gathered the rebound. The Gray Bees attempted a game-winning shot with the clock winding down, but Brown got a piece of the long jumper to preserve the win for the Friars.
FOOTBALL: Cedar Grove 33, Verona 29
How could a game not be memorable with a finish that essentially no one involved could ever recall seeing before?
It was a new one on veteran head coaches Ed Sadloch of Cedar Grove or Lou Racioppi of Verona, their assistants and any of the reporters (some old ones!) along the sideline last Sept. 10 in Verona.
In short, Cedar Grove's Nate Philipson attempts a game-winning, 28-yard field goal with 6.3 seconds to play after his team drove 46 yards in just 27 ticks, but the kick is blocked by Verona's Billy Meade. The try by Philipson comes a mere 33 seconds after Verona snatches the lead on a 7-yard TD pass from Dan Denicola to Alex Dellavalle and a 2-point conversion run by Frank Greco on a fake kick.
But, wait, we've barely begun.
The block by Meade squirts behind the line of scrimmage and is scooped up by Cedar Grove junior lineman Vincent Cordasco. He's not sure what the rules say he can do with the football, so uses instinct as his guide and charges toward the end zone 12 yards away. Practically the entire town of Cedar Grove jumps into the resultant scrum and ushers Cordasco into the end zone with zeroes showing on the clock and mostly dazed expressions in the stands.
"That’s probably one of the best experiences of my life,’’ Cordasco said. "I saw the ball on the ground, I thought it might be dead, I didn’t even know. I scooped, I ran, I saw.
"That’s the first touchdown I’ve ever scored in my life. I’m still in shock.’’
Had Cordasco not achieved the improbable, this still would have been regarded as a classic game between two bitter Essex County rivals.
Cedar Grove opened a 21-13 lead on a 17-yard TD pass from Joe Slattery to Philipson with 8:56 to go in the game, but Verona tied it just over 4:00 later on Luke Sniatkowski's 26-yard option pass to Meade and Denicola's conversion throw to Sniatkowski. Cedar Grove answered on the next possession with a 35-yard pass from Slattery to fellow sophomore Paul Rufo for a 27-21 lead with 1:03 remaining.
GIRLS BASKETBALL: Gill St. Bernard's 60, Shabazz 56
The crowd of nearly 1,000 who filed into the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River to watch Shabazz and Gill St. Bernard’s in the semifinals of the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions was reduced to a quaint gathering by the middle of the third quarter.
Many called it a night by that point, driven toward the parking lots by the prevailing thought that mighty Shabazz was a pretty safe bet for the T of C final once the top-seeded Bulldogs built what seemed like an insurmountable 23-point cushion. What those who left would discover soon enough is that you can a measure a deficit on the scoreboard but can never underestimate the heart of a champion when faced with the stark reality of elimination.
What transpired over the final 12 minutes will go down as the greatest comeback in the history of the T of C. Period.
It began with a putback by sophomore forward Taylor Rooks, a poignant bucket not for its point value but for its symbol of perseverance. That kind of relentless tenacity was at the core of an unforeseen rally by fourth-seeded Gill St. Bernard’s, which outscored Shabazz, 39-12, over the balance of the contest to spring a stunning 60-56 upset.
Give credit to Gill St. Bernard’s poise in the face of adversity. Despite the dire circumstances, it continued to execute its designed offensive sets not with urgency but efficiency. A 9-for-32 cold spell from the floor which aided in putting it in such a tough predicament was magically remedied by a scorching 13-for-18 stretch when the moment demanded nothing less than a hot streak.
And, the signature of the rally was how completely involved every facet of the lineup was in its construction. From the inside drives of Trevena Bennett to the perimeter marksmanship of Jasmine Sina and sisters Samantha and Linnett Graber to the interior output of Dominque Vitalis and Rooks, each person played their part perfectly.
“Honestly, it was just a crazy game,” said Sina, who scored eight of her 10 points over the last 10 minutes. “I knew we could get ourselves back in the game. We have such heart and everyone played together to pull it off. We had to knock down our shots. We started attacking the rim more, drawing fouls and getting free throws.”
BASEBALL: St. Joseph Regional 5, Paramus 0/Hoboken 11, St. Anthony 0
It seemed like any time Rob Kaminsky or Kenny Roder toed the pitching rubber, the chance for something memorable was bound to happen. That’s what makes singling out just one of their many gems as tough as it was to scratch out a hit against the two dominating left-handers.
Kaminsky, the ace of the staff at St. Joseph’s Regional and MSG Varsity New Jersey Player of the Year, counted three no-hitters on his 8-2 record, including two consecutively in mid-season. But, perhaps his best was saved for Paramus on May 5. The Gatorade New Jersey Player of the Year, who was named this past weekend by Baseball America as the national Pitcher of the Year, was in complete control over seven innings.
Armed with his fastball, hammer curve and teasing changeup, Kaminsky rang up 16 strikeouts in a 5-0 shutout. It’s that kind of performance that shows why the 6-0, 190-pounder is entertaining offers from some of the best collegiate baseball powers in America. He also carries bona fide potential to become a first-round selection in the 2013 Major League Baseball First-Year Amateur Draft next June.
As for Roder, another southpaw, the senior authored two no-hitters but it was his perfection against St. Anthony on April 20 that captured his control. The Brookdale-bound hurler was at his pinpoint best as his 16 strikeouts attested in an 11-0 perfect-game triumph, part of a 7-4 campaign in which the 5-8, 145-pound bulldog notched a mind-blowing 178 strikeouts in just 85 1/3 innings.
ICE HOCKEY: Delbarton 3, CBA 2
The unquestioned king of high school hockey in New Jersey has been Delbarton for some time now and last year at the Prudential Center the Green Wave provided another dramatic chapter to the program's growing history.
Heavily favored despite being banged up by injury, the loaded Green Wave found itself stunned when Christian Brothers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the Non Public championship.
Delbarton had owned The Rock as well as the private school tournament in recent history. It had become winners of the last four titles in a row and absolutely loaded with talent, inclusive of what head coach Bruce Shatel called, “some of the fastest and smartest hockey players I have ever coached.”
But for two periods CBA skated with Delbarton and found itself 15 minutes from the title.
And then something changed.
“Were we a little over-confident? Maybe,” said Shatel. “But I think they got our attention with how much they slowed us down and how well they played. I think we were fortunate with our depth to wear them down a little bit to be honest. To their credit, they put our backs against the wall and we were concerned, but we found a way.”
The way was on the backs of their stars, the guys who had done it all year. Alex Haggerty got it started with a great individual effort to cut the lead and then finished a beautiful feed from John Biaocco to knot the score at 2-2.
With the Delbarton offense swarming CBA netminder Chris D’Alessio, Josh Melnick scooped up and buried a rebound and the comeback was complete for Shatel’s bunch, another title for the mantle, and our pick for most memorable hockey game of the year.
Join us throughout the summer as "Memorable Mondays" brings you more top 5 lists:
Aug. 20: Top five teams from 2011-12
Aug. 27: Top five teams to watch in 2012-13
Find them all at www.msgvarsity.com/mondays.