Rutherford, NJ - A strong start in the second half keyed a 58-34 St. Mary victory over Wayne Hills in the championship of the Jack Stone Shootout. Friday night’s contest at George Vuyosevich Memorial Gymnasium saw the host Gaels improve to 6-0 while Wayne Hills suffered its first setback and is 6-1.
In the opening period Saint Mary utilized a 100 offensive efficiency (15 points on 15 possessions) to build a 15-7 lead. Wayne Hills played zone, 2-3 or 1-3-1 and the host Gaels stayed in transition looking to beat the zone before it could set up.
The Gaels led by seven before a Wayne Hills run cut it to four with just over two minutes remaining. Coach Kevin Grimes’ Patriots looked to attack the basket. If that option was not available they were not hesitant to shoot from long range. The last two minutes of the half Brian Gaccione’s Gaels got the lead back to eight at 29-21.
The game is 32 minutes and demands a consistent effort over that time period. There are parts of the game, though, that bear added significance. Such a time is the first four minutes of the second half. St. Mary ‘won’ those first four starting with an 11-2 run over the first two and a half minutes. After those initial four minutes the Gael lead was 16 (43-27) and all the momentum was on their side.
"At the half we talked about coming out strong those first few minutes," Gaccione said. "We also wanted them to call the first time out which they did (following that 11-2 run). We always want our opponents to call the first time out in the first and third quarters." One of the keys to the run was Gael guard pressure. The defensive intensity waned a bit in the second period. The final half it turned up a notch. "Overall I think we defended pretty well," praised Gaccione.
The margin was 21 (49-28) after three periods with the Gaels staying with the same ingredients that built the lead- getting into the ‘gut’ of the zone for penetrations or kickouts to the perimeter, clogging the middle on defense and limiting the Patriots to one shot per possession.
Victor Torres earned game MVP honors with a 19 point 12 rebound double-double. Both were game highs for the St. Mary senior center. Torres also proved the consummate ‘rim protector’ blocking several shots and basically cutting off any hopes of a Patriot inside game.
Luke Gaccione added 16 points along with a game-high seven assists. Another solid performance by the senior guard. Cory Mullholland paced Wayne Hills with 12 points.
There was no statistic on offensive rebounds. Using the simple ‘eye test’ it was evident the Gaels dominated in that category. They also did a great job sharing the ball with 17 assists on their 23 field goals, an outstanding 74% assist rate.
Dickinson won the consolation game with a 62-35 defeat of Paramus. Markeis Isley-Monroe earned MVP accolades with an outstanding 24 point, 14 rebound effort. The Rams’ junior center also had five steals and two blocked shots.
In the fifth place game Jackson Memorial defeated Marion P. Thomas Charter School 46-37. Nairi Latham of Marion P. Thomas paced all scorers with 15 points. Shaun Hubbard led Jackson, a member of the Shore A conference, with 12. Anthony Hallihan had an 11 point, 13 rebound double-double for Jackson.
Matt Stone, former coach, AD and all-time leading boy’s scorer at St. Mary, handed out the awards. Tournament is named after his late father Jack Stone.
St. Mary resumes NJIC Meadowlands conference play hosting Wood-Ridge on Wednesday. Wayne Hills visits West Milford on Tuesday.