TCA, Holy Cross, SJV bring home championship trophies for the holidays

The Trenton Catholic Academy boys were all smiles as they display their trophy after winning the Jo Jo O’Gorman Division of the ESCIT Tournament. It was the Mikes’ first title in their own tourney since 2017, and only their second since 2011. Rich Fisher photo


By Rich Fisher | Contributing Editor

It was a happy Yuletide season for the Trenton Catholic Academy, St. John Vianney and Holy Cross Preparatory Academy boys basketball teams, as each claimed a championship trophy from their respective holiday tournaments.

TCA hosted and won the JoJo O’Gorman bracket of the ESCIT Tournament, while SJV claimed the McCann Classic at St. Rose High School and Holy Cross took the Audubon Tournament title.

For the Iron Mikes (3-1), it was the first time they won a tourney title in their Iron Palace since 2017, and just their second ESCIT crown since 2011.

“It was good to win it. We really played as a team,” said Jamir Watkins, who took tournament Most Valuable Player honors.

Watkins scored 19 points in the opener to get TCA going with a 67-60 over Solebury Prep of Pennsylvania. Braxton Jones chipped in with 16 points and seven assists.

That set up the title game with ADICT Academy of Toronto, Canada, which looked solid in its first-round win. But the Mikes roared to a 34-11 lead after one quarter on 13-for-19 shooting, and never looked back. TCA hit 12 3-pointers in the game and got 24 points from Watkins. Donavin Crawford added 18 points and Jones had 14.

Naji Wright, Freddie Young, Joshua Coulanges and Brandon Hendryx all contributed, as the Iron Mikes begin to round into shape for another run at the Mercer County Tournament and what they hope will be a deep state run. 

“It’s still early in the season,” coach Eric Elliott said. “We kind of have an idea what our better lineups are,  but with what our better defensive lineups are, we’re still working on it. The guys off the bench are really starting to play well and give us good minutes. I think it was a great team win.”

St. John Vianney opened the McCann Tournament with a tough, 50-47 victory over Notre Dame as Brian Stuart scored 16 points and Nat Williams added 14. That offset 15 from the Irish’s Nick Feretic and 10 from Christian Anderson.

That set up a championship game with St. Rose of Belmar, which turned into a classic that SJV won in overtime, 53-49. Kevin Greene tallied 20 points while Stuart added 15. St. Rose got 21 points from Tom Turnbach and 16 from Kevin Tombs.

The Purple Roses reached the title game by defeating Moore Catholic of New York. St. Rose put four players in double figures, including Fred Bang-Anderson (15 points), John Beattie (14), Frank DiNatale (14) and Turnbach (10). Bang-Anderson had five of St. Rose’s 15 3-pointers.

Moore Catholic also lost the consolation game, as Notre Dame got its first win of the season with a 70-49 victory. Quentin Autrey led the attack with 17 points, followed by Steven Graver (15), Anderson (14) and Feretic (12).

Holy Cross cruised through the Audubon Tournament by nearly identical scores, taking a 55-38 victory over Audubon and a 53-39 win over Haddon Township.

Gianmarco Arletti had 20 points and eight rebounds against the hosts, while Giovanni Cessel collected 14 points and 11 rebounds and Aiden Nesemeier had eight points and 11 boards. Arletti was at it again in the title game with 23 points against Haddon, while Cessel collected 10 rebounds. Stefano Faloppa had eight points and four rebounds.

In the WOBM Classic in Toms River, Donovan Catholic and Red Bank Catholic each won first-round games before falling in the quarterfinals.

Donovan Catholic opened with a 61-56 victory over Freehold Township as Matt Weeden had 13 points and Dallas Weisse added 11. That was followed by a 67-43 setback to Wall in which Amari Ayala-Petty had 15 points. The Griffins dropped their consolation game to Toms River North, 82-31.

RBC opened with a 67-41 win over Jackson Memorial behind 23 points from Charlie Gordinier and 12 from Kevin Bauman. Middletown South won the quarterfinal, 71-52, despite 15 from Cyril Arvanitis and 10 from Gordinier. In the consolation game, Bauman scored 18, Arvanitis had 17 and Gordinier tallied 16 in an 81-64 win over Toms River East.

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