As 2016 gets going, optimism abounds for the local basketball teams.
The Warren Hills boys are 4-0. The Blue Streaks are 3-1 in girls’ basketball and the Hackettstown boys are 4-1. The teams all had strong showings in holiday tournaments.
The Warren Hills girls won the Merchants Bank Holiday Classic in Nazareth, Pa., behind a career high 17 points from sophomore guard Devyn Gara in the final against Bangor, on Dec. 29. Senior backcourt mate Hana Cicerelle added 12 points to the cause.
The Blue Streaks defeated Bangor 48-42 a day after knocking off the host Nazareth Blue Eagles in the semifinal, led by 11 points from Gara, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
The team also got solid defensive play from Shawnn Flaherty, Olasu-bomi Ajayi, Stephanie Veneziano, Nicole Mallard, Jenna Smith, Rylie Howey, and Marissa Ciardi.
The Blue Streaks’ boys squad captured the championship of the Dodger Tournament in Madison on Dec. 30, winning the final 54-41 over Newton.
Anthony Veneziano led the Blue Streaks with 29 points and 15 rebounds. Buster and Johnny Bamford scored eight and six points, respectively, for Warren Hills.
Warren Hills’ defense dominated Parsippany Hills 55-26 in the semifinal.
Three players scored in double figures for the Streaks. Veneziano and James Jordan each scored 11 points and point guard Johnny Bamford added 10.
Anthony Lea, Jack Melquist, Jake Turner, Corey Smith, Buster Bamford, and Matt Dufner all played outstanding defense.
After finishing third in the Jonathan Dayton Tournament in Union County, the Hackettstown boys’ basketball team stood at 4-1.
Tyler Akers finished with 24 points to lead Hackettstown to a 49-46 win over CSI/McCown (from New York) to finish in third place in the Joe Pepe Tournament at Dayton Regional in Union County. The Tiger boys trailed after three periods, but roared back with an intense man-to-man defense and a 20-point explosion in the fourth period, to gain the win.
James Britt added 16 points for Hackettstown.
John Goles Wrestling Tournament
The Warren Hills wrestlers finished second in a 10-team field, behind Pope John, at the 58th annual John Goles Tournament in Washington, on Dec. 28.
Matt Valli (126 pounds) won an individual championship for host Warren Hills. He won a 4-3 decision over North Hunterdon’s Andrew Gapas in the final.
“It’s a great feeling to come back and win here. This was one of the goals since this time last season,” said Valli, who won a John Goles championship as a freshman but missed the tournament last year with a knee injury.
Blue Streak runner ups were Cody Harrison at 106, Zach Nauta at 138, Nick Galka at 182, Kurt Nemeth at 195, and Brody Oberly at 220.
“The only way a loss in December is bad is if you don’t learn from it,” said Warren Hills coach Jarrett Hosbach. “As much as you want to win tournaments like today’s, people really don’t remember what you’ve won in December.”
Codey O’Rourke (120) won a third place medal.
Cross Country Honors
Congratulations to senior Warren Hills cross country runner Ethan Wimmer for leading the Blue Streaks to a number six ranking in the Express-Times area final top 10. Voorhees and North Hunterdon were the only other teams from the New Jersey side of their circulation area to make the cut.
Individually, Wimmer finished fifth at the Nike Northeast Regional meet, sixth at the North 2 Group 3 sectional meet in 16:33, 11th at the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex meet, and 15th at the Skyland Conference meet, where he improved his time by better than two minutes from his junior season.
He qualified for the state Group 3 meet at Holmdel Park and finished 17th with a 16:56 time on a very challenging course.
Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building.