August 3, 2022

Sparked By Kovacevich’s Aggressive Inside Play, AEI Defeats Majeski in Championship Series Opener

JUSTIN TIME: Justin Kovacevich of Athlete Engineering Institute goes up for a shot last week in playoff action in the Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Last Monday, Kovacevich tallied a game-high 20 points to help third-seeded AEI defeat ninth-seeded Majeski Foundation 50-41 in the first game of the league’s best-of-three championship series. Game two is scheduled for August 3 at the Community Park courts with game three, if necessary, slated for August 5. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As Athletic Engineering Institute advanced to the best-of-three championship series in the Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League this year, Jalen Parham has sparked the squad.

Former Hillsborough High and Montclair State standout Parham led the league in scoring at 20.6 points per game and was named as the regular season MVP.

But when third-seeded AEI hit the Community Park courts last Monday night to face ninth-seeded Majeski Foundation in game one of the title series, Parham was missing, away on vacation.

While AEI’s Justin Kovacevich acknowledged that not having Parham on court was a challenge, he and his teammates were unfazed.

“He has definitely been carrying the scoring load for us throughout the season, but we knew we could step up and move the ball around,” said Kovacevich of Parham. “Everybody played their part tonight.”

Bruising 6’5 forward Kovacevich played a big part for AEI, scoring 13 points in the first half as it trailed Majeski, which is comprised of players from The College of New Jersey men’s hoops squad, 27-24.

“I was trying to be a little more aggressive inside,” said former Montgomery High star Kovacevich in assessing his first half effort. “I knew I had a little strength advantage on the guys and that someone was going to have to pick up the scoring.”

In the second half, AEI picked it up, rallying from a 31-25 deficit to go on a 22-6 run and pull away to a 50-41 win.

“I think we just settled in and played a little smarter,” said Kovacevich, reflecting on the victory which improved AEI to 9-2. “We locked up on defense and we were getting rebounds.”

Featuring some battle-tested players from the Montgomery-Hillsborough area, AEI utilized its maturity to outlast the Majeski squad.

“I think maybe that comes from a little experience,” said Kovacevich, who ended up with a game-high 20 points and added five rebounds and one blocked shot in the victory with Nigel Herbert chipping in 12 points and two rebounds and Kevin Johnson contributing eight points, seven rebounds, and two assists.

“Also, we are not playing basketball every day so every time we come out here, we are pretty hungry to play. A lot of us played with each other or against each other in high school and then just reconnected.”

With game two of the championship series scheduled for August 3 at the Community Park courts and game three, if necessary, slated for August 5, Kovacevich is confident that AEI can close the deal.

“They are going to come out aggressive and play physical on Wednesday,” said Kovacevich. “I think maybe we surprised them a little bit with that tonight. If we play our same game, I think it is going to go the same way.”