Sparked by Montano’s Leadership, Shooting, Majeski Survives in Summer Hoops Quarters
JOE COOL: Joe Montano of Majeski Foundation dribbles the ball in playoff action last year in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Last Monday, Montano helped fourth-seeded Majeski edge fifth-seeded Apex Sport 51-48 in the playoff quarterfinals. In other quarterfinal action, second-seeded NJ Spiritwear defeated seventh-seeded Gomo Health 77-49 while third-seeded Packer Hall All-Stars beat sixth-seeded Cure Insurance 58-41. In the semifinals on Wednesday at the Community Park courts, Majeski will face top-seeded Loyaltees while Packer Hall plays NJ Spiritwear. The victors will advance to the league’s best-of-three championship series starting on July 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
Over the previous two summers, the Majeski Foundation has emerged as a dominant force in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League.In 2016, the team, comprised of players from The College of New Jersey men’s basketball program, lost once in regular season play on the way to winning the league championship series.
Last summer, Majeski posted an undefeated regular season and advanced to the title series where it fell to Packer Hall All-Stars.
This year, things have been much rockier for Majeski as it went 4-4 in regular season play, working some new players into its rotation.
“It has definitely been an up-and-down season. I think my first two years combined, we had one or two losses in the whole regular season,” said Majeski star guard and team manager Joe Montano.
“We have a lot of new guys, so getting that chemistry before the season and before we come back to school is something we love doing out here.”
As fourth-seeded Majeski faced fifth-seeded Apex Sport in the quarterfinals last Monday at the Community Park courts, it struggled in the early going, falling behind 22-19.
But the tide turned when Mike Walley hit five straight free throws for Majeski after Apex was hit with a personal foul and a technical.
“With a shooter like Mike Walley, he gets in a rhythm and the rest is history,” said the 5’10, 168-pound Montano, a native of Eatontown, N.J. who averaged 4.7 points and 1.5 assists in his junior season with TCNJ last winter.
“He is a great shooter. You give him five like that, we will take that every day. You felt it turn around like there and our defense kicked in. It dialed us in because we came out a little slow to start.”
Majeski built a 30-22 lead at halftime and stretched its advantage to 46-33 midway through the second half. Apex, though, responded with a 15-4 run to narrow the gap to 50-48. Majeski added a free throw in the waning moments of the contest and was able to hold on for a 51-48 win.
“They are a good team; they have got some shooters,” said Montano, in assessing the nail-biting win.
“If you leave them open for a second, they are going to knock it down. We knew they were going to fight back; it is somebody’s last game. We were ready to weather it and luckily we held on.”
Down the stretch, rising senior Montano and classmate Jordan Glover led the way, taking matters into their hands as Montano handled the ball and Glover controlled the paint.
“We have been through a lot of wins; we have been through some losses last year,” said Montano, reflecting on his connection with Glover.
“We have been around longer so we know how to play together. You get to lead your guys; we don’t have a coach out here. Jordan and I do it by committee. We want to motivate everyone and just show them how we want to play the game.”
In addition to his ballhandling, Montano drained a three-pointer and a key mid-range jumper in crunch time.
“I am looking for my shot more and shoot with confidence, that has always been half the battle for me,” said Montano, who tallied 10 points in the contest with Walley scoring 16 and Glover chipping in 15.
In Montano’s view, Majeski will be a tough team in the playoffs after pulling out the win over Apex.
“Being the fourth seed, a lot of people are sleeping on us; especially a team that comes in as a one seed back-to-back years with some new guys,” said Montano, whose team will face top-seeded Loyaltees in one semifinal on Wednesday while Packer Hall plays NJ Spiritwear in the other semi.
“We get one, we get rolling, who knows. That was a very good team we played. I am really happy, we only had six guys here tonight so it was good to see a team win like that.”