EDISON, NJ - TEAM. That was the key word that rang true throughout the gym at Middlesex Community College on Sunday afternoon. That was proven evident by the effort put forth by coach Mark Motusesky's Bears of East Brunswick High School in the quarterfinals of the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament.
For the second consecutive game, the Bears used a fantastic defensive effort and balanced scoring to offset yet another heroic performance by Spotswood's Jake Dadika, as, despite Dadika's 24 points--including 20 in the second half--the Bears advanced by defeating the Chargers, 59-50.
The Bears took control of this game from the outset, putting a vice on the Chargers' star in the first quarter while blasting out to a 15-3 lead, and the Chargers spent the remainder of the game scratching and clawing to get back in the game. Dadika, who came into the game averaging 25 points per game, was held to four points in the first half, as the Bears maintained a 29-21 lead at halftime.
The third quarter gave the Chargers a glimmer of hope, as Dadika started finding open spots on the floor, scoring seven third-quarter points to bring the Chargers within 35-30. It was at that point that the Bears ended all doubt, as they went on a 10-0 run to close out the third quarter, sending their fans in the packed gym into a frenzy by ending the fourth quarter leading, 45-30.
The fourth quarter saw Dadika and Matt Ciaccio desperately trying to bring the Chargers back, Dadika scoring 13 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter, but it was not meant to be, as the Bears lead was too much, their balance too strong.
To illustrate the team effort even further, four Bears players scored in double figures. Carl Taylor led with 14 points, Amir Bell had 13 points to go along with a game-high 11 rebounds and five assists, and Matt Ross and Garry Baumer each chipped in with 11 points. Baumer became only the 13th player in Middlesex County history to hit more than 200 three-pointers for his career.
All is not over for the Chargers, as, although they had their 11-game winning streak snapped, they still have the state tournament to prepare for. That starts next week.
With the victory, the Bears advance to the GMC Tournament semifinals, where they face third-seeded Sayreville on Tuesday evening at 5:30 p.m. at South Brunswick High School. Motusesky faces a tremendous challenge in reminding his team not be caught looking ahead and getting burned, as they know a victory there likely means a championship showdown with their archrivals from St. Joe's of Metuchen in the championship game on Thursday night. They key message for Tuesday is to play again as a TEAM and take care of business first.