By Jim Hintelmann
LITTLE SILVER – Going into the annual Buc Holiday Classic, Middletown North basketball coach Mike Iasparro elected to insert junior guard Cody Thompson into the starting lineup and the move has paid off big time.
Thompson scored 13 points, including 10 in a big third quarter as the Lions handed Roselle (4-1) its first loss in winning the tournament for the second year in a row with a 74-56 victory Friday.
“We started several different lineups to begin the season in order to find our fifth starter,” said Iasparro. “When we played Freehold Township (a 77-41 North rout) we decided to go with four guards. The chemistry was very good and it was nice to have another ball handler (Thompson) in there.”
The two teams used similar up tempo styles but that was to North’s advantage.
“We like to play against that type of team,” said Iasparro. “A team that presses and runs with us plays to our strength. We felt that it was a good match-up coming in.”
Leading just 34-32 at halftime, North (5-1) wasted no time in taking control, scoring the first eight points of the third quarter, four of them by Thompson, to open up a 42-32 lead.
“I was just attacking the basket and no one was in front of me,” said Thompson, who is also the quarterback on the North football team. “This feels great. I’m just working hard to help the team.”
After a free throw by Roselle’s Corey Winston, Jr., Tim Frawley (15 points) added a lay up and Thompson dropped in two more baskets to build the lead to 48-33 with 2:43 left in the quarter.
Keeping them off the glass was a big problem for us in the first half,” said Iasparro, “but we did a nice job of that in the second half.”
Roselle made a comeback in the final quarter, closing the score to 54-46 on a drive by Winston, with six minutes remaining, but North answered with a nine -point run on a free throw and lay up by Justin Heulbig, Frawley’s three point play, another drive by Huelbig and a free toss by Thompson for a 63-46 spread and that setteld the issue
Roselle never led in the game, and the only time it was tied was at 7-7, but Huelbig, the game’s Most Valuable Player with 21 points, drilled a trey to give North the lead for good.
“This was a little better than last year because I’m a senior,” said Huelbig. “This is the first time that the school has won a basketball tournament back-to-back. Everyone contributed because we wanted it so much.”
By co-incidence, last Friday were the birthdays for both Huelbig (18) and Iasparro (34) to make the night complete.
Huelbig will be playing basketball at Assumption College in Worcester (Mass.) next season.
“I enjoyed the official visit,” said Huelbig. “Everyone treated me well and it is the perfect fit for me.”