Don’t look now, but the Old Bridge High School boys basketball team has suddenly become relevant.
Since the Cedar Ridge and Madison Central merger formed Old Bridge in 1994, the boys basketball program has produced four winning seasons. The last one came in 2002-03 when the club was 17-11. The school record for victories was set by the 1997-98 team that finished 18-6.
With a week of showdowns including Piscataway, East Brunswick and St. Joseph commencing tonight, the Knights (5-3, 2-1 GMC White) have the opportunity to make some noise in the division.
After dropping a pair of games to quality teams in Columbia and Manalapan at the Huskies Holiday Classic, Old Bridge used that experience to its advantage and dealt Middletown North just its second loss of the season Friday.
The Knights beat the defending Central Jersey Group IV champions by 24 points in their own building.
“It was a huge win because we were coming off a tough Christmas tournament,” Old Bridge senior forward Sultan Aminu said. “We showed ourselves that we’re not the same team that lost 34 of 46 games the last two years, and it showed everyone else we’re not a soft product of the schedule anymore.”
“They’ve seen my passion for winning, and the kids know who’s in it for the right reasons and who’s not,” said Old Bridge rookie coach Jim Macomber. “They’re starting to feed off of that and starting to believe they’re a pretty good team.”
Believing is often the first step to becoming a good team, and even in defeat, the Knights have shown they understand the mentality a good team personifies.
Take the Columbia game into consideration. Old Bridge struggled offensively and trailed by 16 at the half.
“I think in prior years there was really no will to win. They’d quit and lose by 35,” Macomber said. “We cut that lead to seven this year.”
Despite having to play a little bit of catch up since he was hired relatively late into the summer, there’s no question that Macomber has already taken ownership of the program.
“He’s an old-school, no-nonsense coach,” Aminu said. “He plays no favorites and everyone has to practice hard or he’ll kick you. He shows that he has a passion for winning and he gets us to believe in him.”
It hasn’t hurt that he inherited two extremely solid players in Aminu, who mans the low block, and junior spark plug Tyler Crews who’s in possession of the rock.
Aminu averages 20 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, while Drews is averaging 18.2 ppg.
Investors Bank Scholarship Games
Rahway High School athletic director Tom Lewis, executive director of the UCIAC Union County Interscholastic Athletic Conference, is the man behind this inaugural event aimed at garnering the reputation of a good hoops showcase of teams from neighboring counties that perhaps establish new rivalries.
Its main mission though, stems from its philanthropic cause headlined by two scholarships awarded in the name of Union County legends Frank Ciccarel and Sam Sidorkis.
Player of the Week
Karl Towns, St. Joseph: With Division I prospect Wade Baldwin held out of action, the Kentucky-bound Towns turned the gym into his personal playground Thursday night. The sophomore sensation simply couldn’t miss, as he poured in a career-high 35 points on 16-for-20 shooting, added 15 rebounds and 5 blocks, and capped his memorable night with a slam dunk in the fourth quarter as St. Joe’s beat South Brunswick 71-43.
In the Paint
For more boys basketball coverage, visit Joe Martino’s In the Paint blog at blogs.MyCentralJersey.com/inthepaint and follow Joe on Twitter @JoeMartinoMyCJ and @MyCJ_Sports.