PISCATAWAY, NJ - For the Bears of East Brunswick High School, the goal all season long was to “Get Back to the RAC.” That is, to make a return trip to the Rutgers Athletic Center, and the finals of the Greater Middlesex Conference Basketball Tournament.
By doing so, most everyone agreed that it would result in another opportunity to square off against their nemesis, the Falcons of St. Joseph’s High School of Metuchen. The two teams squared off four times last year and had already met twice this season. If the goal was to get there, then by all accounts, it has been a very successful season. If the end result was to defeat the Falcons, well the Bears were again introduced to the strength, balance, and depth of the St. Joe’s team, as the Falcons controlled the game from the second quarter on in winning their fifth consecutive GMC crown with a 59-45 defeat of East Brunswick Thursday night Feb. 27.
When the Falcons’ Kentucky-bound and McDonald’s All-American center Karl Towns went out in the second quarter with foul trouble, Bears fans had to believe there was reason for optimism. Instead, the spotlight shifted to two of their star guards, two-sport star Marques Townes, and Vanderbilt-bound guard Wade Baldwin. The twosome simply dominated the second and third quarters, and a game that was close after the first quarter, saw the Falcons up nine by halftime, and totally in control after the third.
The Bears all-everything guard Amir Bell, as he has all season long, led the way with 21 points. However, unlike the semifinal game, when Sayreville simply had no answer for Bell, the Falcons had answers galore for him in the final, as both Townes and Baldwin took over the game once Towns had to sit on the bench.
The game was a rugged closely fought contest that resembled two boxers feeling each other out through the first quarter, with St. Joe’s holding a slim 13-9 margin at quarter-end. When Towns picked up that second foul with six minutes to go in the half, Bears fans in the crowd of more than 5,000 had to feel optimistic. However, the Falcons simply pressured the Bears defensively, and once they did, they were able to allow Townes and Baldwin to use their quickness to exploit the Bears in transition numerous times, either driving in on easy layups, or drawing fouls and scoring from the foul line. The Bears were the ones who seemingly had no answers in this game. The lead grew to double digits late in the second quarter, and eventually the Bears trailed by nine at halftime.
Any hope of a comeback virtually ended early in the third, when Towns scored on a dunk, and another three point play by Townes put the Falcons up by 14, and left the Bears scrambling for the remainder of the game to try to mount a comeback that was not going to happen. Townes led the Falcons with a game high 22 points, and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. For Falcons coach Dave Turco, it was his fifth consecutive GMCT championship, and sends 22-2 St. Joe’s into their State Championship bracket with a head of steam.
For Bears first year coach Mark Motuesky, it has been an excellent debut season for him, and the Bears still have one more challenge ahead, as they carry the fifth seed into the NJSIAA State Central Jersey Group 4 Tournament, where they start their tournament play with a matchup on Tuesday March 4 against 12 seeded Hunterdon Central.