High-SchoolNew-Jersey: St. Benedict's

Findlay Prep one win from third NHSI crown

March, 30, 2012
3/30/12
4:43
PM ET

BETHESDA, Md. -- Instant analysis of No. 1 seed Findlay Prep's (Henderson, Nev.) 68-55 victory over No. 4 seed St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.) in Friday's semifinals of the ESPNHS National High School Invitational at Georgetown Prep.

Overview: Findlay Prep, ranked No. 2 in the POWERADE FAB 50, had moments of sluggish play but outscored No. 15 St. Benedict's in every quarter to pull out a 13-point victory. St. Benedict's simply did not shoot well enough against a longer and deeper team. The Gray Bees made 19 of 57 field goals (33 percent) while Findlay Prep shot 24 of 45 (53 percent).

St. Benedict's coach Mark Taylor, in his first season after taking over a program that went 13-12 in 2010-11, felt his two star guards, Melvin Johnson and Tyler Ennis, didn't get their legs under them in the first half. Findlay Prep led 28-17 at halftime and outscored the Gray Bees 18-3 during a stretch late in the third and early in the fourth quarter.

Findlay Prep's lead grew to 51-36 at the conclusion of that run, but three late 3-pointers by Johnson gave the Gray Bees some life. Johnson's final triple made it 63-55 with 1:02 remaining in the game, but St. Benedict's could get no closer.

"They are a scrappy team, they got good guards and they played hard," Findlay Prep coach Mike Peck said.

Turning Point: When Findlay Prep point guard Dominic Artis (12 points) failed to fight over a pick and allowed St. Benedict's Kamall Richards (9 points) to nail a 3-pointer with one second left in the first quarter. The Pilots outplayed the Gray Bees in the first quarter, but only led by two points (15-13). Peck gave his players a tongue-lashing at the break and they picked it up defensively the rest of the way.

"We came out flat in the first quarter and we didn't get to the rim," Taylor said. "We played better in the second half, but I thought we over-dribbled and didn't move the ball in the second quarter. We gave up too many transition buckets because of that."

Key Player: Findlay Prep wing Winston Shepard. The 6-foot-8 San Diego State recruit is the Pilots' best defender and most consistent performer on both ends of the floor. He loves the challenge of guarding the opposition's best player. He did a solid job on Johnson, a Miami recruit who came into the tournament averaging 22.5 points.

Johnson finished 5 of 16 from the field for 15 points, while Shepard led four Findlay Prep players in double figures with 17. Shepard made 7 of 8 field-goal attempts and added two assists and three steals.

Key Stat: St. Benedict's only made two field goals in the pivotal second quarter. The first came from Johnson at the 3:46 mark and made the score 21-15. Standout freshman Isaiah Briscoe (team-high 17 points) made the other at 1:17 to make the score 26-17. That was it for St. Benedict's in that eight-minute period as Findlay Prep outscored them, 13-4.

"We just picked it up in the second quarter," Shepard said. "We played hard defense and shot the gaps. We did our best to take out their two best players (Ennis and Johnson)."

St. Benedict's did not attempt a free throw in the first half and made only 7 of 26 field goals in the first half. For a team that did not get to the line, the Gray Bees needed to shoot a higher percentage from the field in order to win the game.

Up Next: The top-seeded Pilots will play No. 3 seed Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) for the 2012 NHSI title Saturday at 2pm ET on ESPN. It's a rematch of the 2010 NHSI title game when Findlay Prep defeated the Eagles, 59-46. Findlay Prep will look to win its third NHSI championship in four years while Montverde Academy will look to capture its first title.

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN

NHSI preview: St. Benedict's Prep

March, 22, 2012
3/22/12
10:44
PM ET
Team: No. 4 seed St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.)
Record, FAB 50 Rank: 33-2, No. 15 (No. 7 in the East)
Head Coach: Mark Taylor (1st year at school, 31-1; previously spent nine years at St. Joseph of Metuchen, N.J. and five at Ridge of Basking Ridge, N.J.)

Key Players:

Melvin Johnson
The 6-foot-3 senior guard is labeled by Taylor as "probably the best shooter" he's coached in 15 seasons at three New Jersey schools. That's high praise since Taylor coached Jason Williams at St. Joseph (Metuchen, N.J.) among 11 Division I players, including the Lakers' Andrew Bynum, in nine years at his alma mater. "Melvin can fill it up with unlimited range and driving floaters. He's special on the offensive side." The University of Miami recruit is ranked No. 92 in the ESPNU 100 and lived up to his billing with consistent play.

Tyler Ennis
The 6-foot-2 junior point guard runs the offensive attack for the Gray Bees, which averages 82.8 points a game. Ranked No. 41 in the ESPNU 60, he leads the team in assists (7.1 per game) and steals (2.5 avg.) while scoring 15.0 points a game, second to Johnson on the squad. "Tyler and Melvin get everyone involved in the game," Taylor said. "Our three guard setup drives the engine and Tyler's at the wheel. Our team chemistry is very good with a trio of guards and trio of forwards and Tyler is a big part of that."

Isaiah Briscoe
Not many freshman are starters, much less standouts, on FAB 50-ranked teams. But the 6-foot-3 first-year combo guard is no ordinary frosh. "Some analysts rate him in the Top 5 in his class," Taylor said. "He doesn't play like a freshman. He's very strong and plays above his age level." Briscoe is the team's third leading scorer (11.9 ppg) and second in assists (5.3 avg.). "With a senior, junior and freshman handling the ball much of the time, we have a mix that gives defenses fits," Taylor said.

Road to NHSI:

With a new head coach, some first-year players, and a regular season schedule not matching up with some of the top-ranked POWERADE FAB 50 teams after a 13-12 record in 2010-11, the Gray Bees were absent from the pre-season rankings.

But Taylor guided the Prep to nine straight wins in December before meeting up with defending FAB 50 champion St. Anthony (Jersey City, N.J.) in a Jan. 1 clash of unbeatens. The Gray Bees took the current No. 3 ranked Friars to the wire before bowing 51-50. The Gray Bees reeled off 22 straight wins and soared up the FAB 50 charts to No. 10.

They concluded their regular season at the prestigious Alhambra Catholic Invitational, where they dropped their second game of the season to FAB 50 No. 13 DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.) 64-49 after opening the tournament with a 69-65 victory over John Carroll (Bel Air, Md.). They rebounded to defeat No. 46 Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) for third place.

"We beat Gonzaga without Tyler Ennis and Jordan Forehand, who had a bad ankle, and led the whole way," Taylor said.

Coach Taylor feels strongly the Gray Bees didn't deserve to drop a few seeds after losing to eventual tournament champion DeMatha without the services of Ennis. He does understand the Alhambra Tournament served as a nice tune-up for the NHSI, where the Gray Bees will enter with confidence because Ennis will be cleared to play.

Inside Scoop:

Taylor's two-trio attack has worked to near perfection. He uses three guards -- Johnson, Ennis and Briscoe -- out front and has three forwards, all Canadians, he rotates at the two front court spots. The inside players are 6-6 senior Kamalll Richards, 6-8 junior Isaiah Watkins and 6-7 senior Denzell Taylor. "The two-trio setup has worked well," Taylor said.

Richards averages 11.7 points and 7.0 rebounds; Taylor 5.7 points and 6.9 rebounds; and Watkins 8.2 points and a team-best 8.1 rebounds a game. The fact the Gray Bees are the only team which is playing in two major tournaments -- the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament in Frostburg, Md., and the NHSI -- over the course of three weekends hasn't escaped Taylor's watch. "We've played some good teams one at a time but this two-week pace is like the college Big East Tournament with back-to-back-to-back games against elite teams. It's survival of the fittest."

Findlay Prep gets No. 1 seed for NHSI

March, 21, 2012
3/21/12
11:36
PM ET
ESPNHS has announced the seedings for the eight boys' teams that will compete in the fourth annual ESPNHS National High School Invitational.

The year's event, which features six POWERADE FAB 50-ranked teams, will be March 29-31 at Georgetown Prep in Bethesda, Md. The championship game is set for 2 p.m. ET March 31 on ESPN.

As expected, two-time NHSI champion Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.) was awarded the top seed and will face No. 8 seed Coolidge (Washington, D.C.) March 29. Coolidge (29-7) will have its hands full with the No. 2 team in the country. In three years, only Montrose Christian (Rockville, Md.) has played the top seed in the No. 1 versus No. 8 game down to the wire, and that came in 2010 when Montrose lost to Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) by two points.

This year, FAB 50 No. 9 Montrose Christian (20-2) snagged the second seed and opens the tournament with seventh-seeded Ravenscroft (Ravenscroft, N.C.). The North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association Class 3A champions come in with a 31-3 mark, but they didn't venture too far from home this season and are decided underdogs against the defending NHSI champions.

Returning from last year's championship team is emotional leader Justin Anderson, a Virginia recruit, and Michael Carrera, who averaged a record 12.7 rebounds in Montrose Christian's three victories. Stu Vetter's club has to show its backcourt is capable without reigning tourney MVP Tyrone Johnson (now at Villanova), but Ravenscroft has even more to prove. The last two years, the NCISAA entrant has been routed in its opener.

After missing last year's event because of key early season losses, No. 12 Montverde Academy is back in the fold as the third seed. Kevin Sutton coached the team in 2010 when they advanced to the finals, but this year the 21-3 Mustangs have a new coach in Kevin Boyle. He turned St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.) into a national power but his program never had the opportunity to compete at the NHSI.

Boyle now gets the opportunity against No. 6 seed La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.), a newcomer on the national scene with a big and talented roster. Montverde not only faces the challenge of a hungry 25-2 team ranked No. 23, they also face the challenge of idle time. Montverde had not played another high school since Feb. 4.

One team that certainly won't have any problems with idle time is fourth seed St. Benedict's (Newark, N.J.), which competed in the prestigious Alhambra Catholic Invitational last weekend. Gray Bees lost only their second game of the season (33-2) to eventual tournament champion DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.) in the semifinals.

Had St. Benedict's won that tournament without its point guard (Tyler Ennis) and sixth man (Jordan Forehand), there's a strong possibility they would have been seeded second. They only dropped five spots in the FAB 50 to No. 15 (two spots behind DeMatha) and will open the NHSI against fifth-seeded Ely (Pompano Beach, Fla.), the FHSAA Class 7A state champ ranked No. 16. If Ennis and Forehand are not healthy for St. Benedict's, they could have trouble stopping the backcourt of Ely, which has proven its scoring ability in big games this season.

If St. Benedict's situation is any indication, this could be the most balanced NHSI field yet. Findlay Prep wants another crack at La Lumiere to avenge its only loss, but in order for that to occur both teams have to advance to the championship game. If history is any indication, La Lumiere might have a good shot at the semifinals (where defending champion Montrose Christian could be waiting) since the No. 6 seed has won in the opening round the past two years.

"You play 30 games for a seeding, but when the ball goes up, everyone is 0-0," said Findlay Prep coach Michael Peck. "We're blessed to be able to participate, as these games give the competing teams some closure."

Ronnie Flores is a senior editor for ESPNHS. He can be reached at ronnie.flores@espn.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @RonFloresESPN
After games on Sunday, March 18

Just like last year, St. Anthony and Plainfield will play in the Tournament of Champions final. But when the two meet Tuesday at the Izod Center, this time it will truly be a battle between the state's top two eligible teams. (The emphasis is on "eligible" since St. Benedict's doesn't compete in the NJSIAA.)

Last year, that matchup came in the Non-Public, North B final when St. Anthony battled St. Patrick, but with the defending champ Friars on a ridiculous 64-game win streak and Plainfield having blown out contenders like St. Joseph (Met.) and Teaneck, this the matchup we've all wanted to see.

A preview of the contest came on Feb. 7, when St. Anthony held Plainfield to a season-low in points during a 43-31 win. The Friars' defense is just as stifling as it was then, meaning the Cardinals will have to find ways to get scorers like Sekou Harris and Jahmal Lane going.

Nationally, St. Anthony remains at No. 3 in the POWERADE FAB 50 while St. Benedict's fell to No. 15 after losing to national No. 13 DeMatha (Md.) in the Alhambra Catholic Invitational in Maryland. The Gray Bees, who were without the injured Tyler Ennis, will look to rebound at the NHSI tournament next week. Finally, Plainfield enter the national list at No. 49.

Here are this week's rankings (last week's rankings in parentheses):

1. St. Anthony (Jersey City) 31-0 (1)
Friars pushed their win streak to 64 games by blowing out Atlantic City in the Tournament of Champions semifinals. Next up: Plainfield on Tuesday in a rematch of last year's T of C final.

2. St. Benedict's 33-2 (2)
After beating John Carroll (Md.), the Gray Bees fell to eventual champ and FAB 50 No. 13 DeMatha in the Alhambra Catholic Invitational. Gray Bees move on to the NHSI tournament on March 28-31 with hopes that Tyler Ennis, who sat out the loss with injury, will be back to full strength.

3. Plainfield 30-3 (3)
Cardinals surged past St. Joseph (Met.) and into the Tournament of Champions final to face St. Anthony for the second year in a row. Plainfield fell to St. Anthony in February by the score 43-31.

Click here for the full POWERADE weekly New Jersey hoops rankings.

N.J. Week 12 hoops rankings: State champions crowned

March, 13, 2012
3/13/12
1:21
PM ET
After games on Sunday, March 11

The marathon that is the high school basketball season is winding to a close, as the state sectional champions were crowned this past weekend.

Some brought little surprise, like when St. Anthony, the third-ranked team in the POWERADE FAB 50, used stifling defense to repeat as Non-Public B champions. The Friars' 67-39 victory against Gill St. Bernard's ran their win streak to a national-best 63 games, secured their 27th group title and earned them the top seed in this week's Tournament of Champions.

Others triggered shock and suspense, like when Plainfield had to storm back from a halftime deficit to beat Neptune in the Group 3 championship — this coming one round after the Cardinals downed previously undefeated Teaneck by 22. Or when Atlantic City had to pull off a similar late run to beat an upstart Elizabeth squad in the Group 4 title game.

And one contest made history. Ewing's 59-50 win against Pascack Hills in the Group 2 final made Shelley Dearden the first female coach in state history to lead a boys basketball team to a state championship.

Here are this week's rankings (last week's rankings in parentheses):

1. St. Anthony (Jersey City) 30-0 (1)
Friars repeated as Non-Public B champs while running their win streak to 63 games by easily beating Hudson Catholic and Gill St. Bernard's. They enter the Tournament of Champions as the top seed, awaiting the March 14 winner of Ewing and Atlantic City.

2. St. Benedict's (Newark) 31-1 (2)
The Gray Bees begin a tough two-week stretch, playing in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference in Maryland beginning with a contest against John Carroll (Md.). Then they will take part in the ESPNHS NHSI tournament beginning on March 28.

3. Plainfield 28-3 (4)
The Cardinals handed Teaneck its lone loss of the season before rallying back against Neptune to win the Group 3 title. Next up: Asbury Park in Wednesday's opening round of the Tournament of Champions.

Click here for the full POWERADE weekly New Jersey hoops rankings.

N.J. Week 11 hoops rankings: Sectional titles on the line

March, 6, 2012
3/06/12
1:11
PM ET
After games on Monday, March 5.

Championship weekend is underway in the Garden State, as teams are vying for the various sectional titles as well as a spot in the Tournament of Champions.

With that said, it's still somewhat crazy to think a year ago at this time, St. Patrick and St. Anthony were facing off for the Non-Public, North B crown and nation's top ranking. It's also crazy to think that that was the last time the two powerhouses would ever play, as St. Patrick's loss in the Non-Public, South B quarterfinals this past week was likely their last game with the school expected to close in June. Meanwhile St. Anthony, which is ranked No. 3 in the POWERADE FAB 50 and faces a test in Hudson Catholic, is a win away from repeating as sectional champs.

Also, a huge matchup looms Wednesday, as Teaneck puts its undefeated record on the line against a talented Plainfield squad in the Section 3 semifinals.

Here are this week's rankings (last week's rankings in parentheses):

1. St. Anthony (Jersey City) 28-0 (1)
Friars cruised back to the Non-Public, North B final with wins against Oratory Prep and Dwight-Englewood, as Kyle Anderson totaled 60 points in the two victories. Next up: Hudson Catholic in the March 8 title game.

2. St. Benedict's (Newark) 29-1 (2)
The Gray Bees rode the momentum from their Prep A title to rout Rise Academy (Philadelphia). Two more games are on tap this week before they compete in the Alhambra Catholic Invitational in Maryland on March 15-17.

3. Teaneck 29-0 (3)
Highwaymen routed Passaic Tech to clinch the North 1, Group 3 title. Next up: a huge matchup with No. 4 Plainfield in Wednesday's Group 3 semifinals.

Click here for the full POWERADE weekly New Jersey hoops rankings.

N.J. Week 10 hoops rankings: State playoffs get underway

February, 28, 2012
2/28/12
2:16
PM ET
After games on Sunday, Feb. 26.

This year's state playoffs begin on a bittersweet note, as St. Patrick announced this past weekend that financial issues have forced it to close its doors at year's end. But before this happens, the Celtics will look to end their storied history with a bang in the Non-Public, South B playoffs.

Joining their quest for section supremacy as well as a spot in the Tournament of Champions is St. Anthony (the POWERADE FAB 50's No. 3 squad and winners of 59 straight), St. Joseph (Met.) (led by Quenton DeCosey, the state's best-kept secret), Teaneck and its 26-0 record as well as a battle-tested Plainfield squad that finished as last year's T of C runner-up.

Not in the mix is St. Benedict's. The Gray Bees are not part of the NJSIAA, meaning last week's easy win against Blair Academy in the Prep A championship signals the end of their season, unless they earn a spot in the ESPNHS NHSI tournament.

Here are this week's rankings (last week's rankings in parentheses):

1. St. Anthony (Jersey City) 26-0 (1)
Friars pushed win streak to 59 games with three victories to cap the regular season. They begin play in the Non-Public, North B tournament on Friday after a first-round bye.

2. St. Benedict's 28-1 (Newark) (2)
Melvin Johnson dropped 27 points to lead the Gray Bees to an easy win against Blair Academy in the Prep A championship, making for their 19th straight win.

3. Teaneck 26-0 (3)
After downing Indian Hills, the Highwaymen will put their undefeated record on the line Wednesday against Jefferson Township in the second round of the North 1, Group 3 tournament. Chris Jones leads the way with 21.3 points per game.

Click here for the full POWERADE weekly New Jersey hoops rankings.

NJ Week 8 hoops rankings: St. Anthony knocks off Huntington Prep

February, 14, 2012
2/14/12
5:50
PM ET
After games on Sunday, Feb. 12

A month ago, Bob Hurley surprised many when he called his undefeated St. Anthony squad "a work in progress" just hours after winning at the HoopHall Classic in front of a national TV audience.

On Tuesday, Hurley gave another reason for opponents to worry when he told me that his Friars squad, fresh off beating national power Huntington Prep by one to push their two-year win streak to 53 games, still hadn't played its best.

"We've gotten better, but we still haven't played our best basketball" Hurley said of the No. 3 team in the POWERADE FAB 50. "Saturday was great and now we'll see if we can keep using that experience to grow more. Kyle [Anderson] is really the only returning starter at his same position. Jerome Frink started, but he played center last year and now he's a forward. So with all these new players and positions and with how much Kyle likes to pass, he's still trying to figure out where to get them the ball.

"It's like a chef working on a new recipe. You keep working with ingredients to see what turns out the best."

The PrimeTime Shootout wasn't so kind to Gill St. Bernard's. The Knights lost to a New Jersey team for the first time this year when Plainfield knocked them off in a 78-77 overtime contest. The Cardinals were coming off an eight-point loss to St. Anthony, which also beat them in the Tournament of Champions final last year. Could a rematch be in store?

Here are this week's rankings (last week's rankings in parentheses):

1. St. Anthony (Jersey City) 20-0 (1)
Friars won a 51-50 thriller against national powerhouse Huntington Prep (W. Va.) at the PrimeTime Shootout behind Kyle Anderson's 18 points. The No. 3 team in the FAB 50 will again be tested against Jefferson (N.Y.) and Bishop Eustace this week.

2. St. Benedict's (Newark) 26-1 (3)
Gray Bees blew out Solebury, Lakewood and St. Patrick by an average of 35 points.

3. Teaneck 20-0 (4)
Highwaymen remain undefeated and move up a spot after a statement win against No. 10 Paterson Eastside. Next up: Bergen Tech and Paramus Catholic.

Click here for the full POWERADE weekly New Jersey hoops rankings.

NJ Week 7 hoops rankings: St. Anthony moves to third in FAB 50

February, 7, 2012
2/07/12
2:51
PM ET
After games on Sunday, Feb. 5

Conference tournaments are starting up for some teams while many of the state's top squads will descend upon Roselle this weekend for the PrimeTime Shootout. Nothing beats the postseason, but there are some great appetizers on tap this week.

St. Anthony, which pushed its win streak to 48 games and is now third in the POWERADE FAB 50 rankings, will be put to the test Tuesday when it faces No. 6 Plainfield. The Cardinals are hungry for a big win after seeing their 14-game win streak snapped against St. Patrick last week. St. Anthony will then take on West Virginia power Huntington Prep at the PrimeTime Shootout on Saturday.

Tuesday will also feature a big matchup between No. 4 Teaneck and No. 10 Paterson Eastside. Teacneck has yet to lose this season but the Ghosts are riding a 12-game win streak.

On a side note, big ups to Kavon Stewart, who had 20 dimes in Hudson Catholic's blowout win against University Charter Academy.

Here are this week's rankings (last week's rankings in parentheses):

1. St. Anthony (Jersey City) 15-0 (1)
Friars pushed their win streak to 48 games with blowout victory against Ridgewood last week. Multiple tests are on the horizon versus No. 5 Plainfield on Tuesday and West Virginia power Huntington on Saturday.

2. Gill St. Bernard (Gladstone) 16-2 (2)
Knights secured the top seed in the Somerset County Tournament with easy wins against Rutgers Prep and Watchung Hills.

3. St. Benedict's (Newark) 22-1 (3)
Gray Bees have now won 13 straight. This week, they play Solebury (Pa.) before playing Lakewood and St. Patrick at the loaded Primetime Shootout.

Click here for the full POWERADE weekly New Jersey hoops rankings.

NJ Week 5 Hoops Rankings: Gray Bees keep rolling

January, 24, 2012
1/24/12
5:01
PM ET
After games on Sunday, Jan. 22

On some days, St. Benedict's players and coaches must wonder what could have been. Despite catching defending national champ and rival St. Anthony on a "terrible" day (Bob Hurley's words; not mine), the Gray Bees fell one point short of the upset.

But with the way it's have played since then, St. Benedict's must be thinking of what could be. Having won their last seven games by an average of 54 points, the Gray Bees appear to be a strong contender for the state title, along with St. Anthony and Gill St. Bernard.

Nationally, both St. Benedict's and Gill St. Bernard's moved up two spots to Nos. 19 and 23, respectively, in the latest POWERADE FAB 50 rankings while St. Anthony still sits at No. 4.

Here are this week's rankings (last week's rankings in parentheses):

1. St. Anthony (Jersey City) 12-0 (1)
The Friars' scheduled game against CBA was cancelled due to the weather, making their next contest a Tuesday tilt versus East Orange.

2. Gill St. Bernard (Gladstone) 10-2 (2)
Cruised to 87-60 win against Hillsborough. Up next: at Hunterdon Central on Tuesday.

3. St. Benedict's (Newark) 15-1 (3)
After easy victories against Trent Internationale (Texas) and NIA Prep, the Gray Bees have won their last seven games by an average of 54 points.

Click here for the full POWERADE New Jersey weekly hoops rankings.

Cheserek shatters national junior class mark in the mile

January, 23, 2012
1/23/12
11:08
AM ET
Another race, another broken record for St. Benedict's star runner Edward Cheserek. This time, though, the junior didn't finish first, as he was running in the men's elite event the New Balance Invitational. But with a time of 4:02.21, Cheserek broke the national junior class record for the boys' mile and is now second in the record books behind Alan Webb for the fastest indoor mile by a high schooler.

Click here to read more on Cheserek's feat and results from the New Balance Invitational from DyeStat.

Brandon Parker covers high school sports for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHS.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.

Gill St. Bernard's downs Mater Dei, moves into POWERADE FAB 50

January, 10, 2012
1/10/12
2:07
PM ET
After games on Monday, Jan. 9

Before this season, Gill St. Bernard's coach Mergen Sina told me with plenty of conviction: "It's a good time to get to the top of the pack...this year, we honestly feel we can win a state title."

The Knights have backed up Sina's claim in the early going by holding their own against some of the nation's best. After posting a 2-2 mark at the prestigious City of Palms in Florida, the Knights earned a huge, 76-73 win in overtime this past Saturday by downing previous national No. 8 Mater Dei (Calif.). Dominic Hoffman led the way with 24 points and 13 rebounds and the Knights showed resolve, bouncing back in the extra period after Mater Dei forced overtime with a three at the buzzer.

The win moves the Knights into the No. 21 spot in the POWERADE FAB 50, seven spots ahead of St. Benedict's Prep and 17 slots behind St. Anthony, which pushed its win streak to 43 games in dominant fashion.

Here are this week's rankings (last week's rankings in parentheses):

1. St. Anthony (Jersey City) 10-0 (1)
Kyle Anderson had 21 points and eight boards in the Friars' 62-32 win against East Brunswick. They will face a big test Monday against national No. 34 Miller grove at the HoopHall Classic.

2. Gill St. Bernard's (Gladstone) 6-2 (3)
Big games from Dominic Hoffman (24 points, 13 boards), Alex Mitola (20 points) and Jaren Sina (19) pushed the Knights to a 76-73 overtime win against Mater Dei (Calif.) on Jan. 7.

3. St. Benedict's (Newark) 11-1 (2)
Miami recruit and Rice senior transfer Melvin Johnson has been huge for the Gray Bees, draining six 3-pointers in a win against Bergen Catholic to match his season average of 24 points.

Click here for the full POWERADE New Jersey hoops rankings.

Close calls highlight New Year's Jump Off and Week 2 NJ hoops rankings

January, 3, 2012
1/03/12
5:45
PM ET
After games ending Jan. 2

For years, two of the state's perennial powers in St. Anthony and St. Benedict's never faced off, as father and son preferred not to do battle on the court. But when Danny Hurley left St. Benedict's for the NCAA in 2010, the Friars became fair game.

The two made up for lost time with a classic contest during an eventful New Year's Jump Off Classic. St. Benedict's led most of the game, but the defending national champs wore down the Gray Bees behind Kyle Anderson's 13 points and 10 rebounds and pulled out a 51-50 win. The 7-0 Friars are now fourth in the POWERADE FAB 50.

Last year's state runner-up also engaged in a close battle, as No. 4 Plainfield held on for a 59-57 win against No. 8 Hudson Catholic. Ahmid Williams free throws in the final seconds proved to be the difference.

Here are this week's rankings (last week's rankings in parentheses):

1. St. Anthony (Jersey City) 7-0 (1)
Friars survived their first test of the season, overcoming a fourth-quarter deficit to beat No. 2 St. Benedict's Prep, 51-50.

2. St. Benedict's (Newark) 9-1 (2)
Gave top-ranked St. Anthony all it could handle in 51-50 loss at New Year's Jump Off.

3. Gill St. Bernard's (Gladstone) 3-2 (3)
Knights have been idle since City of Palms. Return to action this week against Bridgewater-Raritan.

Click here for the full POWERADE weekly New Jersey hoops rankings.

The Top 10 Stories of the Year in New Jersey

December, 29, 2011
12/29/11
10:10
AM ET
The year 2011 is winding down to a close and what a year it was in sports. Here are the top 10 stories from the New Jersey high school sports scene:

10. Pin 'Em Down
Andrew Campolattano epitomized dominance on the mat, capping his prep career with a fourth state wrestling title (215 pounds). The Brook Bound senior also set a state record in career wins (178) and pins (117) and lost just once in four years. He's now a freshman wrestler at Ohio State.

9. What a Farewell
Vincent Ascolese's final football game as coach on the North Bergen sidelines was one he'll never forget. Bruins wideout Debray Tavarez caught a 22-yard touchdown pass as time expired to stun previously undefeated Montclair, 14-13, in the North Jersey Section 1, Group 4 championship.

8. Gillie the Kidd
Michael Gilchrist may have fallen short of a perfect season and state title as a senior at St. Patrick, but one of the greatest players to come out of New Jersey still made his mark. Gilchrist earned Mr. Basketball USA honors before being named co-MVP at the McDonald's All-American Game in Chicago. Now known as Michael Gilchrist-Kidd in honor of his late uncle, he's holding his own as a freshman swingman for Kentucky.

7. California Love
Kyle Anderson could have gone anywhere in the country to play college basketball, but on the day before his birthday (Sept. 19), the St. Anthony senior committed to UCLA. Anderson's decision was huge for the Bruins, who snagged the nation's fifth-best senior recruit.

6. No Gray Area
Winning a state title is nothing new for St. Benedict's Prep — the Gray Bees copped their 23rd straight Prep A crown this past fall. But the Gray Bees ended a five-year drought atop the national standings by going 24-0 and finishing atop the POWERADE FAB 50. Christiano Francois led the way with 43 goals and 22 assists.

5. CBA Runs Away with State, National Titles
Christian Brothers Academy tore through the regular season before winning its record 17th Meet of Champions crown and extending their national-record dual-meet win streak to 315 (and counting). The Colts went on to finish first at the prestigious Nike Cross Nationals meet with a meet-record 91 points and a course-record average of 15:58.99.

4. Perfect Saint
St. Anthony entered the season with a couple new faces, as Kyle Anderson and Myles Mack joined the Friars after Paterson Catholic was forced to shut down. The duo turned out to be the biggest reasons behind the Friars' 33-0 season, state title and top ranking in the final POWERADE FAB 50.

3. King Edward
With the Rosa twins and Lukas Verzbicas gone, Edward Cheserek wasted little time picking up the baton as the nation's best cross country runner. The St. Benedict's junior harrier won all eight of his races this season, setting course records in the first seven before winning the prestigious Foot Locker Nationals meet.

2. The Don
After beginning the year at No. 1 and with a bevy of tough opponents on the schedule, Don Bosco Prep's football team passed the test with flying colors. Led by a suffocating defense, the Ironmen went 11-0 en route to their sixth straight Non-Public Group 4 title and second national crown in three years.

1. Who's No. 1?
Perhaps it's fitting the top story was the epic battle for the state and nation's top spot on the hardwood when No. 2 St. Anthony and No. 1 St. Patrick met in the Non-Public North B championship. The Celtics led for most of the way, but the Friars put together a late run in the fourth quarter to take control and win, 62-45, at the RAC.


Brandon Parker covers New Jersey for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHS.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.

After games ending Dec. 27

St. Anthony picked up right where it left off last year as POWERADE FAB 50 champs by winning its first four games by an average of 48.5 points. The Friars have now won 37 straight games and sit at No. 9 in the most recent POWERADE FAB 50.

Perennial power and rival St. Benedict's is also off to its typically good start, winning its first seven games. Melvin Johnson has fit in nicely with his new team and Tyler Ennis has also played well to move the Gray Bees up to the No. 2 spot.

Here's how the first rankings shake out:

1. St. Anthony 4-0
Friars look scary good (again), beginning the season with four wins by an average of 48.5 points. Kyle Anderson surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career along the way.

2. St. Benedict's 7-0
Gray Bees are off to a solid start with big wins against Wilbraham & Monson (Mass.) and Plainfield.

3. Gill St. Bernard 3-2
Knights put together a respectable showing against very tough competition at the City of Palms, going 2-2 behind sharpshooting of Alex Mitola.

Click here for the full POWERADE weekly New Jersey basketball rankings.

SPONSORED HEADLINES