SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ -- Wednesday's night's South Brunswick boys basketball victory in double overtime, 88-77, over St. Joseph in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament semifinals was rightly categorized as an instant classic.
The fourth-seeded Vikings will be playing second-seeded St. Thomas Aquinas in the GMC Tournament championship game Friday night at 8 p.m. at Middlesex County College.
Wednesday night was not the first time South Brunswick and St. Joe's battled into overtime in a GMC Tournament game. In 1993, the first time South Brunswick ever reached a county championship game, the Vikings lost to St. Joe's, 57-54, in overtime.
The 1993 Vikings' run to that classic championship final at the Rutgers Athletic Center was full of intrigue and plot twists worthy of a whole chapter in the history of South Brunswick basketball.
In the first round, South Brunswick--which was the fourth seed that year just as in 2020--easily dispatched Highland Park, 83-51. Julian Tate, South Brunswick's 6-foot-5 all-county center, dominated the game with 26 points, 13 rebounds and four assists.
The quarterfinals were next at Middlesex County College. The opponent was no easy mark, however. Perth Amboy Tech came in with the county's most dominant big man, 6-10 Ferdinand Williams, who would go on to lead Perth Amboy Tech to the Group 1 championship that season and then play at Division 1 George Washington University. Williams finished with 13 points and 14 rebounds against the Vikings, but South Brunswick's tough defense held PAVT to just 36 percent shooting, and 6-4 forward Andre Ollivierra sank seven of 10 shots and scored 15 points to lead South Brunswick to a 48-45 victory.
"Andre used his quickness and vertical jumping ability in that game to get by Ferdinand," said 1993 South Brunswick head coach Tom Carpenter at the time.
Having vanquished one team from Perth Amboy, South Brunswick then had to face another when the Vikings took on top-seeded Perth Amboy in the semifinals at the RAC. Perth Amboy came into the game with a 22-0 record, and had a 41-34 lead over South Brunswick going into the fourth quarter. But the Vikings, who succeeded in slowing the pace against uptempo Amboy, rallied to forge a 49-49 tie at the end of regulation. Ollivierra finished with 13 points and nine rebounds before fouling out, and Mike Kaseta scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter and overtime to lead the Vikings to a 59-56 upset victory.
(That would be one of only two games Perth Amboy would lose that season en route to a 24-2 record. The other Perth Amboy loss came against Shawnee in a game shortened by an infamous massive on-court brawl in the Group 4 state semifinal at Brick Memorial High School.)
Third-seeded St. Joe's awaited South Brunswick in the championship game, and the Vikings were ready, getting out to a 10-point halftime lead. But the Falcons cut the South Brunswick lead to one by the end of the third quarter, and the teams were tied, 50-50, at the end of four quarters. St. Joseph, a balanced team with a solid backcourt tandem of Ryan Moglia and Mike DeRocckis (who each scored 14 points), prevailed in overtime, defeating South Brunswick, 57-54.
In the loss, Tate came up big, with 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Vikings. He sank nine of 10 free throws. Vikings guard Reggie Parks knocked down all four of his field-goal attempts and finished with 10 points.
"This was a great bunch of young men to be a part of," Carpenter said of the 1993 South Brunswick team--which finished 21-5--at the end of the season. "They were a class act. I'd like to think the younger players looked up to them. There was no taunting and no trash-talking. It was a refreshing team to watch."
Other South Brunswick teams that carved their indelible marks in the school's athletic history included the 2007 team coached by Chris Balent that reached the Group 4 state championship game at the RAC before losing to Linden, and the 2016 team that, under current head coach Joe Hoehman, went to the GMC final and lost to a nationally ranked St. Joe's team.
Incidentally, South Brunswick isn't the only GMC Tournament finalist flashing back to the early '90s this week. St. Thomas Aquinas, the Vikings' opponent in Friday's final, will be appearing in its first GMC championship game since 1992, when the school, then known as Bishop Ahr, won the crown.
Note: Guy Kipp spent 20 years covering Middlesex County scholastic sports for The Star-Ledger. Kipp covered such South Brunswick basketball greats as Donnell Lumpkin, Julian Tate and Devon Young during those two decades. This article recounts his coverage of the 1993 team that reached the GMC Tournament finals.