The idea for the Skyland Conference/Greater Middlesex Conference Basketball Challenge came from college basketball’s annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The inspiration came from the memory of Brayden Carr.
The two leagues are going head-to-head Saturday in 19 boys and 19 girls basketball games at 16 sites to support the Brayden Carr Foundation. The charity, which is designed to help children with seizure conditions and their families, was set up by former South Plainfield residents Jim and Natalie Carr in honor of their 2-year-old son, who died in 2011.
“When Brayden Carr passed away – his parents are friends of myself and my wife- I thought that it might be a good thing to have the conferences get together and do something to honor him,” said South Plainfield athletic director Al Czech, a former girls coach at Mount St. Mary Academy. “The Brayden Carr Foundation is a great thing and this way people in the basketball (community) can add to the money.”
Czech said each host site has a designated way of raising funds, whether it is a 50/50 raffle, a collections basket or through admissions proceeds. Several game officials are donating part of their paychecks.
Every school in both conferences was invited to participate. Here is a look at the full slate:
South Brunswick at Franklin: Defending GMC Tournament champion South Brunswick has been without injured star point guard Danielle Roberts since opening night but only recently began feeling the effects as it won seven straight before back-to-back losses to Perth Amboy and Piscataway. Up-and-comer Franklin is off to a strong start but this is the second of three difficult games in a one-week span. A win in any of them will raise an eyebrow.
Best of the Rest
Bridgewater-Raritan at South Plainfield: Kate McLaughlin scored 24 points to lead South Plainfield to a 68-57 double overtime win when the teams met last February. Led by recent 1,000-point scorer Denisha Petty-Evans, Bridgewater-Raritan is much improved since then, while it will be intriguing to see what South Plainfield has left at the end of a week that included back-to-back rivalry games.
Delaware Valley vs. Timothy Christian at South Plainfield: Both teams play in the smallest divisions of their conferences but are off to big-time starts. Timothy Christian rolled through the first cycle of the Gold Division schedule and even its one setback – a four-point loss to Metuchen – was encouraging. Battle-tested Delaware Valley and its three-headed backcourt already has played five Group IV schools.
Bishop Ahr at Immaculata: Arguably the two most tradition-rich non-public schools in their respective conferences have taken the area by surprise this season. Bishop Ahr graduated 72 percent of its scoring last season but has reloaded to post wins against North Brunswick and Woodbridge. Senior-laden Immaculata, which is coming off five straight losing seasons, has won six of its last eight.
Other matchups: Hunterdon Central at Monroe; Mother Seton vs. Bernards at South Plainfield; Voorhees at East Brunswick; Manville at South Amboy; Warren Hills at Perth Amboy; Pingry at Middlesex; J.F. Kennedy vs. North Plainfield at J.P. Stevens; South Hunterdon at Spotswood; Edison at North Hunterdon; North Brunswick vs. Mount St. Mary at Franklin; Old Bridge at Phillipsburg; Sayreville at Watchung Hills; Woodbridge vs. Hillsborough at Immaculata; Cardinal McCarrick at Somerville; J.P. Stevens at Ridge.
New way at Piscataway
After starting the season 2-5 and suffering three consecutive losses in the Mount St. Dominic Holiday Festival, Piscataway has salvaged its poor start by reeling off five straight wins, including double-digit wins over the likes of Perth Amboy, South Brunswick and North Brunswick.
“I think the biggest difference was in the beginning the players were looking for a scorer,” said first-year coach Corey Floyd, who noted that the holiday tournament really helped his team. “We don’t really have a main scorer, we’re getting scoring from everybody.”
Senior Kristyn Shea has stepped up as a leader for the team so far and has been one of several players to help take on the scoring load.
“Shea has been the glue and the rock of the team so far,” Floyd said.
Senior Isis Dwyer, junior Kiki Bynes, and freshman Kendrea Williams have been key scorers at times in the 11-player rotation Floyd has utilized.
As the Chiefs continue to get acclimated to a new system, Floyd believes the team can make some noise in both the division and the GMC Tournament.
“They’re starting to buy into the system and they’re starting to gel,” Floyd said. “But we have to keep building.”
HNT Player of the week
Junior forward Cassie Smith was instrumental in helping Metuchen to three consecutive wins over Mother Seton, Wardlaw-Hartridge, and Dunellen. Smith led the Bulldogs in scoring in all three games, scoring 26, 16, and 20 points in the three games as Metuchen improved to 9-3.
CN Athlete Spotlight
Junior forward Carli Wilson finished with 17 points for the second straight game Tuesday to help Hunterdon Central snap a four-game losing streak by beating Hillsborough. In the previous two games, Wilson scored 29 and 25 points against two of the Skyland’s best teams in Gill and Franklin.
CN Top 10
CN Top 10
1. Gill St. Bernard’s …9-2
2. Bridgewater-Raritan …10-1
3. Franklin …7-4
4. Governor Livingston …10-2
5. New Providence …10-2
6. North Hunterdon …8-3
7. Piscataway …7-5
8. Watchung Hills …5-4
9. Delaware Valley …9-2
10. Rutgers Prep …6-3
HNT TOP 10
HNT TOP 10
1. Perth Amboy …8-1
2. South Brunswick …8-2
3. Bishop Ahr …8-2
4. J.F. Kennedy …10-0
5. Franklin …7-3
6. Piscataway …7-5
7. Woodbridge …7-4
8. North Brunswick …9-3
9. Linden …8-4
10. South Plainfield …6-4