Category Archives: The Courier News

Jabbie, South Brunswick roll into Central Group V semifinals

MONMOUTH JCT. – On the game’s opening play, tailback Blake Leeds hit Walter Wynkoop for a 29-yard completion on a halfback pass. Five plays later, the eighth-seeded Hunterdon Central football team was in the end zone and up 7-0 on top-seeded South Brunswick in the NJSIAA Central Group V playoffs.

“Coaches got us prepared and we were told to expect something early on from them. But we missed it and they got it over on us. But we said, ‘That can’t happen anymore,’ and it was do-or-die now so we have to go hard and come back,” South Brunswick’s Mohamed Jabbie said.

After the Red Devils’ touchdown, it was the Jabbie show from there, as the Rutgers commit made Friday’s game his own personal highlight reel, racking up 184 all-purpose yards while scoring three first-half touchdowns and leading South Brunswick to a 46-7 victory on a windy evening.

The Vikings will host either fifth-seeded Manalapan or fourth-seeded Trenton in the semifinals. That game is Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m.

South Brunswick (8-1) answered Hunterdon Central’s early touchdown with two scores in seven offensive plays, as Wendell Allen rushed in from 21 yards out on the Vikings’ first possession and Jaier Garrett found paydirt from 20 yards away after Phil Campbell picked off Hunterdon Central quarterback Christian Shaw.

With the Vikings up 13-7, Jabbie caught a short screen pass from quarterback Josh Liao and turned on the afterburners, racing 63 yards for a touchdown.

After the Vikings scored on a Liao three-yard run, Jabbie turned in two more highlight reel touchdowns.

The Red Devils went three-and-out following the Liao touchdown and on the punt, Jabbie lost track of the ball and it bounced behind him to the South Brunswick 25. But he didn’t panic, picking up the ball and using a variety of moves to shake the Hunterdon Central punt coverage team, racing 75 yards for the touchdown, essentially putting the game out of reach.

“The way the wind was blowing, I did not think it was going to go that far,” Jabbie said. “So I had to run to the other side and get my elbows closed to catch it, but I muffed it, and when I picked it up, I saw open field and set my blockers and went to the left side and from there, it was history.”

To cap his big night, Jabbie got himself wide open in the corner of the end zone and Liao lofted the ball towards him, but the wind took it and Jabbie was forced to make a tough catch, sprawling out and getting two feet in bounds for his third score of the night.

Liao finished 8 of 9 for 216 yards and two touchdowns and added a rushing touchdown for South Brunswick.

With one more home game remaining on its schedule, South Brunswick will have a familiar opponent, no matter who emerges victorious on Saturday afternoon.

The Vikings lost to Manalapan 21-7 in the Central Group V final last December. South Brunswick last played Trenton in the postseason in 2013, with the Vikings winning 28-8 in the state’s capital.

Jabbie said he and his teammates will be ready, no matter who wins.

“We just have to practice well; we’ve practiced so well since that Middletown South game. Our coaches are going to get us ready for next week, and since that game is tomorrow, we might go watch. We’ll know what we’re up against,” he said.

Christian Shaw went just 4-17 through the air for Hunterdon Central (3-7) for 22 yards and an interception and Leeds rushed for 24 yards on 11 carries.

HUNTERDON CENTRAL (3-7) 7-0-0-0-7

SOUTH BRUNSWICK (8-1) 20-20-6-0-46


HC – Leeds 4 run (Ungar kick)

SB – Allen 21 run (kick failed)

SB – Garrett 20 run (Fehte kick)

SB – Jabbie 63 pass from Liao (Fehte kick)

SB – Liao 3 run (kick blocked)

SB – Jabbie 75 punt return (Fehte kick)

SB – Jabbie 21 pass from Liao (Fehte kick)

SB – Shorter 20 pass from Liao (kick failed)


Passing – HC: Shaw 4-17-22-1; SB: Liao 8-9-216.

Rushing – HC: Leeds 11-24, Lacombe 3-6, Shaw 4-5, DePaola 1-2, Mania 1-2; SB: Allen 7-56, Garrett 5-45, Campbell 15-35, Jabbie 2-14, Liao 4-9, Cerminaro 5-8.

Receiving – HC: Wynkoop 2-44, Scheier 1-9, Leeds 1-minus 2; SB: Jabbie 3-95, Shorter 3-65, Campbell 1-46, Allen 1-10.


Hillsborough tops Plainfield in final minutes

PLAINFIELD – Joe Schultz hit Jimmy Suseck for a 17-yard touchdown pass with 3:44 left to complete a stunning comeback, lifting the Hillsborough High School football team to a 22-18 victory over Plainfield on Saturday afternoon at Hub Stine Field.

The Raiders scored the game’s final 22 points after yielding three touchdowns in the opening quarter, and ended their third two-game losing streak of the season.

Schultz finished 15-24 for 196 yards and two touchdowns for Hillsborough (3-6), leading his squad up and down the field in the second half as sunlight faded and nighttime crept in.

“We couldn’t see at the end of the game, but we had some guys making clutch plays,” Hillsborough head coach Kevin Carty Jr. said. “I’m really, really happy for our guys. We’ve had a lot of games this season like this where we’ve come up a little bit short, so to finish one off really means a lot to these guys. They deserve it.”

Hillsborough took less than three minutes out of the half to march down the field and get its offense going, using the legs of Kyle Kauffman to get inside the red zone. Kauffman, who ran for 43 yards on 13 carries, busted off a big 27-yard run on the drive and capped the series with a 1-yard touchdown plunge at the 9:39 mark of the third quarter.

After the Raiders held Plainfield (1-7) on downs, Hillsborough embarked on a 13-play, 88-yard drive that lasted over six minutes. Schultz hit Suseck for 15 to pick up a big first down early on and then connected on back-to-back 18-yard completions, one to Jackson Parham and then to Kauffman for a touchdown, bringing the Raiders within one score. Schultz hit Parham for the two-point conversion, cutting the lead to 18-15.

“Joe is a clutch player and a good athlete. Our guys have made plays throughout the year, but he was hot in the second half,” Carty Jr. said. “Our receivers made great plays like always and Joe was tough and competitive and I was really happy with him today. Offense played a lot better in the second half.”

Plainfield worked the ball down into the Hillsborough red zone on the ensuing possession, but quarterback Jayson Bryant fumbled a snap at the 20, giving the ball back to the Raiders.

But the Cardinals looked to swipe momentum right back as Jaleel Simmons picked off Schultz on the second play of the drive and appeared to have a return touchdown, but it was wiped out due to a penalty and on 4th down, after two false start penalties, Bryant threw incomplete and turned it back to Hillsborough with 6:44 left.

The Raiders needed only three minutes from there to take their first and only lead of the day, as Schultz hit on four straight attempts on the drive, the final one coming to Suseck in between two defenders in the corner of the end zone.

Plainfield’s last gasp effort got across midfield, but stalled when Bryant missed on three straight passes, including fourth down, sealing it for the Raiders.

“We just had to know that if we played the way we’re capable, we were going to come back in this game,” Carty Jr. said. “We played really tough on defense; Plainfield got a couple of big plays on us, but we put our defense in some bad spots because of turnovers, and when they had to go the whole field, our defense was able to lock down.”

Bryant set up all three Plainfield touchdowns in the first quarter, starting with hitting Simmons for a 64-yard catch-and-run on the game’s opening play before Jason Cisson dove in from 1 yard out. Bryant scrambled for a 13-yard score on 4th-and-goal from the 13 and hit Simmons for 35 to set up another Cisson score, this one from 3 yards out.

Bryant finished with 157 yards passing and 40 more rushing, and Simmons has 137 yards receiving on five catches for Plainfield, which lost its seventh straight.

HILLSBOROUGH (3-6) 0-0-15-7—22

PLAINFIELD (1-7) 18-0-0-0—18

P—Cisson 1 run (kick fails)

P—Bryant 13 run (pass fails)

P—Cisson 3 run (kick fails)

H—Kauffman 1 run (Eilbacher kick)

H—Kauffman 18 pass from Schultz (Parham pass from Schultz)

H—Suseck 17 pass from Schultz (Eilbacher kick)


Passing — H: Schultz 15-24-196-1, Fisher 7-13-61-2; P: Bryant 9-23-157-1.

Rushing — H: Kauffman 13-43, Parham 1-3, Schultz 7-2, Melillo 1-1; P: Cisson 13-77, Kennedy 9-42, Bryant 7-40.

Receiving — H: Parham 8-93, Zimmerman 7-81, Suseck 3-54, Kauffman 2-18, Williams 1-12; P: Simmons 5-137, Kennedy 1-10, Cordoba 1-7, Woodard 2-3.

2014 Courier News All-Area Boys Lacrosse Team

The 2014 Courier News Boys Lacrosse 1st Team All-Area performers. Photo by: Kathy Johnson

The 2014 Courier News Boys Lacrosse 1st Team All-Area performers. Photo by: Kathy Johnson


Specialist — Paul Rasimowicz, Immaculata, Jr.

Rasimowicz, a faceoff ace, helped win possession for Immaculata game after game, as the Spartans raced to the Non-Public B title.

Attack — Ryan Cunningham, Watchung Hills, Jr.

Cunningham, the unquestioned leader of Watchung Hills’ offense, scored 46 goals and was recognized as an All-American.

Attack— Logan LeBlond, Somerville, Sr.

LeBlond, an All-American himself, finished eighth in the state in points with 110, scoring 45 goals and adding 65 assists for the South Group II champs.

Attack — JT Palladino, Ridge, Sr.

An All-American who netted 40 goals and 34 assists, Palladino will play collegiately at Harvard after a standout career for the Red Devils.

Attack — Luke Prybylski, Westfield, Jr.

In guiding Westfield to the North Group IV title, Prybylski scored 48 goals, with 12 of those goals coming in the postseason. The junior is also an All-American.

Midfield — Jack Harvey, New Providence, Jr.

Harvey, the fifth-leading scorer in the state, posted 122 points to break the New Providence record. He’s already the school’s all-time leading scorer with a season to go.

Midfield — Evan Key, Pingry, Sr.

Key led Pingry with a stellar season, posting 31 goals and 24 assists to earn All-American honors, as the Big Blue went 14-5 one season after a 2-13 mark.

Midfield — Tom Smith, Rutgers Prep, Jr.

Smith scored his 100th career goal and went over 200 career points this season, totaling 64 goals and 102 points for the Argonauts.

Midfield — Chandler Vanderbeek, Immaculata, Sr.

The heartbeat of Immaculata, Vanderbeek earned the Courier News’ Player of the Year honors by scoring 47 goals and adding 12 assists, while playing at an All-American level.

Defense — Sal Fama, Immaculata, Sr.

A true shutdown defender, Fama took on the challenge of covering the opponent’s top-scorer game after game, helping the Spartans allow just 6.75 goals per game.

Defense — Brian Heath, Scotch Plains-Fanwood, Sr.

Heath, the Kimber Division’s Defensive Player of the Year, backboned a Scotch Plains-Fanwood defense to a 16-4 record.

Defense — Jackson Simcox, Westfield, Jr.

Just a junior, Simcox was instrumental in Westfield’s turnaround, as the Blue Devils won their first sectional title since 1987.

Goalie — Christian Klipstein, Rutgers Prep, Jr.

Klipstein posted a save percentage of 68.5 and consistently dominated for Rutgers Prep, making a name for himself in the process.

Goalie — Owen Molloy, Ridge, Sr.

Molloy, an All-American, was superb in the Somerset County Tournament final, making 12 saves to earn MVP honors, as Ridge repeated.

Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year: Immaculata’s Chandler Vanderbeek

Immaculata's Chandler Vanderbeek, the 2014 Courier News Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year. Photo by: Kathy Johnson

Immaculata’s Chandler Vanderbeek, the 2014 Courier News Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year. Photo by: Kathy Johnson

You could say that playing lacrosse at Immaculata High School is something that Chandler Vanderbeek was born to do, even if he got to high school thinking he would be a football player primarily. But four years, 96 goals and 125 points later, Vanderbeek will be remembered as one of the very best players to wear the Spartans’ jersey, just like his older brother Taylor before him.

Chandler, along with his twin brother Connor and younger brother Griffin, helped lead Immaculata to the Non-Public B sectional title this season in his final year before embarking on another journey of family and lacrosse with Connor — the two will play at High Point University next year, rooming together in the dorms along the way.

But Chandler said that it wasn’t his original goal four seasons ago to turn himself into a lacrosse star.

“I was more football-minded coming into high school, and then I really fell in love with the sport of lacrosse. I enjoyed it so much, especially my freshman year, coming in with Taylor being a senior,” he said. “I knew I would put together a pretty good career, but I knew I would have to work very hard for it.”

Chandler is the Courier News Player of the Year.

With 47 goals and 59 points this season, Chandler elevated himself into Immaculata’s elite category, according to head coach Tom Mott, who’s been with the program since its inception in the late 1990s.

“The athleticism was very apparent as a 9th grader, when he and his brother came into the program,” Mott said. “You could see early on they were going to be special and Chandler would grab a long-stick and play man-down if we needed him to; we played him at attack and proved he would do whatever it took to win for us. There were games where he scored just once and we won, which speaks to that.”

Chandler credits Connor and Taylor, who is a rising senior captain at Hobart College, along with Griffin, a rising junior for Immaculata who scored a team-best 48 goals this spring, with his development as a lacrosse player.

“There’s nothing better than playing with them on the field; it’s awesome to have your brother out there with you, especially one that’s exactly like you. You’re the same and you’re just as talented and you know what they’re capable of and it’s a great experience to have played with Connor and Griffin and one year with Taylor,” he said. “They make me better, because sometimes you have that competition. Sometimes Connor will score three goals and I’ll hear, ‘Oh, he scored three, he’s your twin brother, what are you going to do now?’ ”

For all of the memories that Chandler and his brothers and teammates have accumulated over the past four seasons, he said that one will always stand out more than the rest, if only because it was relatively unexpected from the outside.

Immaculata hosted national-power St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) — team that finished the season ranked No. 15 nationally — on March 29 of this season and fell behind by four goals at the half. But Chandler netted a hat trick, Connor added a pair and Griffin had his coming out party with four goals, as the Spartans tied the score and forced overtime. In the extra period, Chandler scored the game-winning goal, eventually ending up at the bottom of a dog-pile he said he’ll never forget.

But the joy of winning always pushed Chandler to succeed, saying there “is nothing I hate more than losing.”

Girls Lacrosse Coach of the Year: Ridge’s Barbara Erickson

In a time when lacrosse is blowing up to a point where high schoolers are playing it year-round, Ridge High School head coach Barbara Erickson knew she had a challenge on her hands with the Red Devils this season. Not only was Erickson returning from a one year away from the girls lacrosse program, but she was dealing with a talented group of players that needed a bit of guidance to play as one, with team goals at the forefront.

“My main goal this year, with these kids playing club lactose and putting so much focus on the sport year-round, was to get everyone on the same page and playing together,” Erickson said. “The kids are looking to play in college, so they are showcasing themselves outside of school, so I had to bring them back in and get them on the same page. If you can’t do that, you don’t go very far.”

Ridge, with Erickson leading the way, went very far, winning the North Group IV title, went unbeaten in Somerset County contests and won its third straight county title, all while compiling a 19-4 record.

Erickson is the Courier News Coach of the Year.

“I didn’t know what to expect in my first year back,” Erickson said. “There’s a lot of talent on this squad and I tried to make the non-conference games tough for us so we would be prepared for the end of the season. It gave us confidence that we could play with the elite teams like that.”

The Red Devils, led by a host of juniors including four Courier News first-team performers, defeated Ridgewood for the North Group IV crown and Bridgewater-Raritan for the SCT title. They also knocked off rival North Hunterdon three times in 2014.

“Most of our juniors have been playing together on the varsity level for a few years now and moving forward to net year, they’re hungry to win. Sometimes they fade towards the end of the season, but this season, they were pushing themselves,” Erickson said. “They wanted to get better and they wanted to win.”

Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year: North Hunterdon’s Julia Wood

North Hunterdon's Julia Wood, the 2014 Courier News Player of the Year. Photo by: Jason Towlen

North Hunterdon’s Julia Wood, the 2014 Courier News Player of the Year. Photo by: Jason Towlen

When Julia Wood first started out in the girls lacrosse program at North Hunterdon High School four years ago, there was no way she thought she’d be a record-breaking midfielder that would go on to earn a Division I scholarship. But after 235 goals and 315 points in her four seasons with the Lions, Wood has earned both of those accomplishments with flying colors.

“Especially since my freshman campaign was not the best; I know it’s not all about goals, but I only had four of them,” Wood said. “But I think I’ve come a long way since then. I definitely didn’t expect all of this since freshman year.”

Wood, who netted 101 goals and 33 assists in leading North Hunterdon to a 19-4 record, a third straight Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament title and a berth in the North Group IV semifinals, is the Courier News Player of the Year.

“I’ve been lucky to coach her for the last four years and she’s one of those kids that she’ll take a hit and she’ll get right back up,” North Hunterdon head coach Stacy Ditze said.

This season, as the victories piled up, Wood eclipsed alumnus Alison Jaeger in two scoring categories in school history. With her 78th goal of the season on May 12, Wood passed Jaeger and her sister Caroline for the most goals in a single-season in school history, and when Wood notched goal No. 216, she went by Alison for most career goals for the Lions.

Wood was held to fewer than three goals only twice this season, and scored seven goals on three different occasions. But her finest moment may have come in the North Group IV quarterfinals, against Bridgewater-Raritan. Wood poured in seven goals and added two assists, lifting the Lions to an overtime victory and a third meeting of the year against rival Ridge.

“Honestly, I’ll of course remember the H/W/S Championships, but this year, our game against Bridgewater in states, when we went into overtime is the one I’ll always remember,” she said. “We came back, then they came back, they tied it up and we won in overtime and that game will always stick out to me.”

After registering just nine points as a freshman — she only appeared in seven games — Wood became a wrecking ball, scoring 70, 60 and this season 101 goals, vaulting her up the all-time record book at North Hunterdon. In what seemed like a simple advancement, Wood said she just got more comfortable with her teammates and on the field, which led to the higher scoring outputs and even more Lions’ victories.

“She came out confident as a freshman, in my eye,” Ditze said. “But for me, the thing she improved on most was her game-sense; she understood when to shoot or pass or hold the ball and she was able to lead us with that sense. She really came up clutch for us a lot and she’s an all-around player that did what it took for us to win.”

Next season Wood will be suiting up for the University of Louisville — a program that set a school-record for wins and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time — along with fellow Courier News first-teamer Jillian Balog. The bond they’ve shared since seventh grade, playing on T3 Lacrosse teams, is something Wood is really looking forward to continuing as collegians, even if she’ll be back at the bottom of the totem pole as a freshman, just as she was four seasons ago.

“I think going into next year, into a D-I program, I just need to remember that I am a freshman and even if I don’t play at all, I have to keep my confidence up and I think my turn will come with hard work,” Wood said. “Playing with Jillian is going to be great; I love playing with her. We went to camps together, so I’m really excited to play with her in college.”

Boys Lacrosse Coach of the Year: Westfield’s Pat Tuohy

As the season unfolded, the Westfield High School boys lacrosse team continued to chug away and keep focused on the goal that head coach Pat Tuohy laid out.

“Last year we made it to the sectional final and lost to Ridge, so we had that game on the radar all season,” Tuohy said. “That’s what we wanted to make it to and we had a tough time with our regular season schedule, but we just kept pushing towards the postseason. We wanted the one or two-seed, but we got the three-seed and it just set us up. You couldn’t have scripted it any better for us.”

Westfield took out defending state champion and second-seeded Ridge in the semifinals and then blasted top-seeded Bridgewater-Raritan for the title in Tuohy’s second year at the helm.

He is the Courier News Boys Lacrosse Coach of the Year.

“We wanted to just make sure that every year we’re getting better and beating Ridge in the sectional semifinals was huge for us,” Tuohy said. “Going in there, playing them at night on their turn, there was no panic in our group. They were calm and knew what too do and there were games when we’d lose badly, but the confidence of my group never wavered. They never thought they would lose and that’s what carried us through the postseason.”

Westfield would go on to beat Southern 10-6 for the Group IV state title, the school’s first state title since 1987.

Tuohy, a Westfield resident that volunteered with the program in between tours of duty in Iraq with the Marine Corps in the early 2000’s, before graduating from Roanoke College in 2006. He returned home to work with the JV team and eventually take over the top squad two seasons ago.

He’s seen the program grow to new heights under his leadership and Tuohy said she’s excited for the future of Westfield lacrosse. With a host of juniors and underclassmen coming back next season, expect the Blue Devils to continue moving up the ranks.

2014 Courier News All-Area Girls Lacrosse Team

The 2014 Courier News Girls Lacrosse 1st Team All-Area performers. Photo by: Jason Towlen

The 2014 Courier News Girls Lacrosse 1st Team All-Area performers. Photo by: Jason Towlen


Attack — Jillian Balog, New Providence, Sr.

Balog, the leading scorer in the history of New Providence girls lacrosse, scored 54 goals this year and finished with 183 for her career. She’ll play at Louisville next season.

Attack — Elizabeth Behrins, Ridge, Jr.

Behrins, one of two players for Ridge to total 95 points this season, netted 56 goals and a team-high 39 assists and registered 11 hat tricks this year.

Attack — Devon Brown, Ridge, Jr.

Brown posted 58 goals and added 37 assists, for a team-best 95 points. She netted 21 of her goals in postseason contests, including nine in the Somerset County Tournament.

Attack — Erika Cavallo, Hillsborough, Sr.

Cavallo netted 75 goals to go with 28 assists and finished her career with 208 goals and 260 points. She’ll play collegiately at Towson University next year.

Midfield — Allison Lane, North Hunterdon, Sr.

Lane, the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament MVP won 128 draws with her height advantage and totaled 90 goals and 119 points for the Lions and will play at Marquette.

Midfield — Ally Mastroianni, Bridgewater-Raritan, Fr.

Mastroianni burst onto the scene with 97 goals and 158 points, good for second-most in the state. The freshman phenom also controlled 133 draws for the youthful Panthers.

Midfield — Dakota Pastore, Somerville, Jr.

Pastore, who was the state’s second-leading scorer, has already set Somerville records. With 128 goals and 30 assists this year, she is up to 299 goals and 411 points for her career.

Midfield — Annie Pearson, Ridge, Jr.

Pearson, noted as Ridge’s unsung hero by coach Barbara Erickson, scored 29 goals, scooped up 86 groundballs, controlled 66 draws and forced 42 turnovers.

Midfield — Julia Wood, North Hunterdon, Sr.

Wood, the Courier News Player of the Year, broke multiple school records with a 101-goal, 32-assist campaign that pushed her points total to a North Hunterdon-best 312 in four seasons.

Defense — Lauren D’Amico, Westfield, Jr.

D’Amico helped lead Westfield to the brink of the Union County title, racking up 57 draw controls and matching up with opponent’s top-scorers.

Defense — Callie Dewitt, Ridge, Jr.

Dewitt a clutch lockdown defender for the Red Devils, anchored Ridge to the SCT title and a berth in the Group IV Final. She finished with 38 groundballs and 33 caused turnovers.

Defense — Emily Howarth, Bridgewater-Raritan, Jr.

Howarth won 48 draws and scored 12 goals to go with her usual steady defense, locking horns with No. 1 scorers and helping lead a very young Panthers squad.

Goalie — Madison Martino, North Hunterdon, Sr.

Martino averaged nearly eight saves per game and backstopped the Lions to the HWST title and the semifinals of the North IV tournament.

Goalie — Mallory Weisse, Westfield, Jr.

Weisse, a true anchor for the Blue Devils, made 578 saves as Westfield has turned its program around from 5-13 two years ago into a sleeping giant in Union County.

Bridgewater-Raritan falls to Southern in T of C semifinals

Near the end of the first set in Tuesday’s NJSIAA Tournament of Champions semifinal, the Bridgewater-Raritan High School boys volleyball team stormed back to take a 23-22 lead, prompting Southern to call a timeout.

As champions do, Southern (36-2) replied with three straight points to win the set and the defending state champs rallied to take the second set as well, earning a sixth straight trip to the Tournament of Champions final in South Brunswick.

Behind the stellar play of senior Mike Gesicki, Southern proved too much for the Central Jersey champion Panthers (23-7), who were valiant in defeat.

“I think they just had a few more kill opportunities than we did in transition; we gave up a couple more free balls that they were swinging back at us, and at this level, you have to be aggressive to win,” Bridgewater-Raritan coach Corey Romanak said. “You’re not going to win by hitting free balls over the other team’s swings, so I think they were a little more aggressive at the net and that was the difference.”

Gesicki, who will play football at Penn State in the fall, had seven kills in each set, and Romanak knew his squad would have to pay extra attention to the 6-5, 245 pound middle blocker.

“We know his strong shot is across court, so we tried to move the block, trying to force him a little bit into an uncomfortable position, but he’s a great athlete,” Romanak said. “We had a couple of plays on him, but not enough to stop him.”

Mitchell Repak and Danny Gallagher paced Bridgewater-Raritan with seven and six kills respectively and Niko Lambert finished with nine digs, while BJ Blair had 21 assists and five digs for the Panthers, who were making their first appearance in the Tournament of Champions since 2006.

With six state titles — tied for most all-time — Bridgewater-Raritan will have to wait at least one more year before adding to the total.

But on Tuesday, Romanak’s usage of timeouts nearly got the Panthers into Thursday’s championship match. After each of his four timeouts, Bridgewater-Raritan won the immediate point, including going on a 5-0 run to take the 23-22 lead late in the first set. He said afterward that he simply told his players to remain focused, and it translated on the court.

“You’re playing one of the best teams in the state and one of the parts of the game plan coming in was we had to stay disciplined and stay aggressive. I think that after each timeout, there was no letup,” Romanak said. “When you play a team like Southern, you can get star-struck by some of their swings, and we didn’t do that. We knew coming in that Gesicki was going to get his swings, but we know that they’re only worth one point. We played aggressive for every point there was and whenever had the opportunity to capitalize on a point, I feel like we did. But I think they had a few more swings than we did today.”

Bridgewater-Raritan, which was swept in the prestigious Super Six Tournament at St. Joseph in early May — with a loss against Southern thrown in — and looked like it wouldn’t be much of a factor in the state tournament, left Romanak very proud following the loss Tuesday.

“I couldn’t be any prouder of this team; they’re the true definition of a team,” he said. “You look at our stats, we don’t have one guy that’s getting 30 kills a match; I have five guys that are getting six kills a match. I love this team.”

Ridgewood ends Immaculata’s TOC boys lacrosse run

After racking up the goals en route to earning the NJSIAA Non-Public B boys lacrosse title, Immaculata ran into a buzzsaw against Ridgewood on Saturday in the Tournament of Champions quartefinals.

The Spartans closed an early gap to one at 3-2 near the end of the first quarter, but Ridgewood went to work from there, scoring eight of the next 10 goals to earn a 16-8 victory at Bridgewater-Raritan’s Basilone Field.

The teams combined for 21 penalties in the game, with 14 of those coming in the second half. Ridgewood (15-7) capitalized for three man-up goals and Immaculata (15-5) converted two of its man-up opportunities.

Immaculata coach Tom Mott, unhappy with the way the game was called, expressed his displeasure following the game.

“Things did not go our way in terms of calls. There were things that were not called all year that were called today. I’m sure they are frustrated, just like I am. College officials come back and change everything,” he said.

Ridgewood will play top-seeded Delbarton in Wednesday’s T of C semifinals, with a spot in the championship game on the line.

Twin brothers Chandler and Connor Vanderbeek each netted two goals and younger brother Griffin had a goal and an assist for the Spartans, who netted five of their eight goals in the second half.

“They fought at the end, to the last minute, which is really all I can ask for,” Mott said.

Ridgewood outshot Immaculata 34-26, and the Spartans hit a pair of posts in the third quarter, when they were trying valiantly to come back and make a game of it.

Matt LoParo paced Ridgewood with four goals and two assists and Andrew Seiter netted four goals for the Maroons, who received points from seven different players.

But in the end, the penalties were the story. In the second half, the teams were whistled for 14 penalties, some of which were questionable on the field.

Mott also noted that he thought Ridgewood’s faceoff men got away with some moves on the x that weren’t legal, in speaking after the game. When asked what the difference was in the first half, when Ridgewood took off running for good, Mott was blunt.

“Their faceoff guy cheating,” he said. “They let him cheat the whole first half. You’re not supposed to be in the neutral zone or be leaning. He was over the ball. It was a little bit unfair.”

The loss capped a roller-coaster ride for Immaculata, which won the Non-Public B title on Wednesday night by a score of 17-13 over Morristown-Beard. The Spartans outscored opponents in the Non-Public B Tournament by a combined score of 46-20, regaining the title that Rutgers Prep ripped away form them just one year ago.

Chandler and Griffin Vanderbeek finished their careers on Saturday with 125 and 132 points, respectively.