Winter winners close book on basketball season

  • George Washington’s John Creighton is the Boys Basketball Coach of the Year.

  • Northeast’s Lauren Willis is the Girls Public League Basketball Player of the Year.

  • Lincoln’s Blair Bowes is the Boys Public League Basketball Player of the Year.

  • St. Huberts’ Meghan Matthews (right) is the Girls Catholic League Basketball Player of the Year.

  • Father Judge junior point guard Will Brazukas was a crucial leader on and off the court for the Crusaders in 2013-14.

We’ve of­fi­cially entered the third week of March, and wouldn’t you know it: there’s still snow cov­er­ing lawns and car wind­shields throughout the Delaware Val­ley. While every­body is im­pa­tiently wait­ing for spring to ar­rive, the (hope­ful) fi­nal snowstorm of the year is a per­fect time to take a fi­nal look back on an ac­tion-packed bas­ket­ball sea­son in the North­east.

With most of the area boys and girls squads qual­i­fy­ing for the post­season, choos­ing the an­nu­al winter sea­son­al award win­ners wasn’t easy. Then again, it nev­er is. Win­ners will be form­ally re­cog­nized at the 29th an­nu­al North­east Sports Awards Ban­quet in May (more spe­cif­ic in­form­a­tion on the event is forth­com­ing):

Boys Bas­ket­ball Coach of the Year

John Creighton, George Wash­ing­ton

If high school ath­let­ics was show busi­ness, the second-year G.W. hoops coach would be one of the hard­est-work­ing men out there. In ad­di­tion to his hoops du­ties, Creighton as­sists Chris Re­id’s suc­cess­ful boys soc­cer pro­gram in the fall and leads the lacrosse team in the spring. 

Fol­low­ing a 14-win de­but sea­son (nine in Pub­lic League Di­vi­sion B), Creighton guided his team to a 15-7 over­all mark in 2013-14, in­clud­ing nine more Di­vi­sion B vic­tor­ies and a play­off win over Ol­ney. After los­ing his top two scorers from the pre­vi­ous year, Creighton mol­ded a team without much varsity ex­per­i­ence in­to a con­tender. In­stead of re­ly­ing on star play­ers, the Eagles were as good as the sum of their total parts, which in this in­stance was a very deep squad that could beat you any­where on the court. Creighton knows full well that win­ning in the Pub­lic League isn’t easy, so his 29 wins through two sea­sons make his coach­ing dossier even more im­press­ive.


Boys Pub­lic League Bas­ket­ball Play­er of the Year

Blair Bowes, Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln

Watch­ing Blair Bowes play bas­ket­ball is a rev­el­a­tion. He’s so quick and tech­nic­ally-skilled that you have to re­mind your­self that the Railsplit­ters’ ex­plos­ive point guard is only a sopho­more. 

In one of the more suc­cess­ful bas­ket­ball sea­sons at Lin­coln in re­cent memory, Bowes, the Railsplit­ters’ en­gine and floor gen­er­al, helped guide his team to a 12-8 over­all re­cord, in­clud­ing a 7-5 mark in a stacked Di­vi­sion C that in­cluded the likes of North­east and Cent­ral. After a 3-4 start to di­vi­sion play, Bowes, per­haps sens­ing dreams of the play­offs slip­ping away, took mat­ters in­to his own hands, lead­ing Lin­coln in­to the post­season with four straight wins in which he av­er­aged nearly 26 points per game. He scored 19 in Lin­coln’s open­ing-round play­off win over Kens­ing­ton, and it’s no sur­prise why team­mates, head coach Al Brown and op­pos­ing coaches around the league gush over his tal­ent and ma­tur­ity levels.


Boys Cath­ol­ic League Play­er of the Year

Will Brazu­kas, Fath­er Judge

In de­term­in­ing suc­cess on the bas­ket­ball court, one must some­times look bey­ond a play­er’s total point out­put. True, Judge’s ju­ni­or point guard was just the team’s third-lead­ing scorer in an ex­pec­ted trans­ition year in which the Cru­saders fin­ished tied for 10th in the Cath­ol­ic League; however, Brazu­kas’ value to his team went far bey­ond his 8.2 points-per-game av­er­age.

On a team full of sopho­mores, fresh­men and trans­fers with little to no varsity ex­per­i­ence, Brazu­kas was the most im­port­ant play­er on head coach Sean Tait’s roster if for no oth­er reas­on than he showed the new­comers how to ap­proach the daunt­ing Cath­ol­ic League com­pet­i­tion. As the sea­son pro­gressed, Brazu­kas helped guide play­ers such as sopho­mores Quincy Reed and Justin Flem­ing and fresh­man Marc Rodrig­uez, all of whom be­came cap­able, more con­fid­ent scorers. Al­though Judge fell in a pre-play­off tiebreak­er game to Bish­op McDe­vitt, the Cru­saders will be much more seasoned in 2014-15, something Brazu­kas should be re­cog­nized for.


Girls Bas­ket­ball Coach of the Year

Phil Mon­as­tra, North­east

It’s not easy to ac­com­plish a “first” for a school that’s been around as long as North­east, but second-year head coach Phil Mon­as­tra found a way. In the rig­or­ous Pub­lic League, Mon­as­tra guided a vet­er­an group to the school’s first Class AAAA title over an­cient rival Cent­ral, which had beaten the Vik­ings at home dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son. After North­east thrashed the Lan­cers by 22 in the play­offs, the Vik­ings won an­oth­er post­season game, ad­van­cing all the way to the league’s cham­pi­on­ship con­test against Im­hotep Charter. 

Though North­east lost a nail-biter to Im­hotep, the dif­fi­culty of the jour­ney the team took get­ting there can­not be over­stated. The Vik­ings had tal­ent, sure, but Mon­as­tra was the team’s ar­chi­tect who mol­ded a group of in­di­vidu­als in­to one co­hes­ive unit that had a sin­gu­lar goal in mind: win enough to be­come a North­east girls bas­ket­ball team that people won’t soon for­get. 


Girls Pub­lic League Bas­ket­ball Play­er of the Year

Lauren Wil­lis, North­east

Of course, no coach can win the games by him­self, and Mon­as­tra is no dif­fer­ent. While there’s no ‘I’ in team, there are two of them in ‘Wil­lis,’ North­east’s most tal­en­ted, ex­per­i­enced scorer. When Mon­as­tra stepped in for long­time head coach Rich Kirk two sea­sons ago, Wil­lis re­mained his rock; when the Vik­ings fell short Wil­lis’ ju­ni­or year, she re­turned de­term­ined to carry her team to new heights. She did just that. 

Her tor­rid 28-point per­form­ance in the Class AAAA win over Cent­ral helped her team ad­vance, and 20-point out­bursts from Wil­lis had be­came routine. However, per­haps Wil­lis’ most un­der­rated con­tri­bu­tion to the team was help­ing con­vince friend Ci­era Nim­mons to trans­fer from Prep Charter to North­east for her seni­or year. It must have worked, as Nim­mons be­came North­east’s second-lead­ing scorer, in­clud­ing match­ing her friend Wil­lis for 28 in the win over Cent­ral.


Girls Cath­ol­ic League Bas­ket­ball Play­er of the Year

Meghan Mat­thews, St. Hubert

On a team with six battle-tested seni­ors, sopho­more Meghan Mat­thews con­tin­ued to make a name for her­self. After emer­ging as an im­me­di­ate con­trib­ut­or as a fresh­man, Mat­thews fol­lowed it up with an­oth­er strong cam­paign, help­ing St. Hubert to a sixth-place fin­ish in the Cath­ol­ic League. She was named an All-Cath­ol­ic Third Team se­lec­tion.

Per­haps most prom­ising about Mat­thews is her fu­ture. After carving out a niche on a team full of ex­per­i­enced lead­ers, head coach Bri­an Kuzmick singled Mat­thews out after the sea­son, say­ing she could be the play­er who gets the Bam­bies to the post­season’s semi­finals some­time in the next two years if she re­mains ded­ic­ated to her craft in the off­season. Say­ing Mat­thews “could be the best play­er to come through here in a long time” leaves only more ex­cite­ment ahead for the St. Hubert for­ward. ••

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