Boys basketball: Alter, CJ advance to set up third meeting this season

Chaminade Julienne junior Justin Morah scores during the first half of the Eagles' victory over Ben Logan in a Division II sectional game Wednesday night at Trent Arena. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED
Caption
Chaminade Julienne junior Justin Morah scores during the first half of the Eagles' victory over Ben Logan in a Division II sectional game Wednesday night at Trent Arena. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

GCL Co-ed rivals will face off Friday in district semifinals

KETTERING – The head coaches aren’t afraid to say it.

“If you ask me, ‘Do you look forward to going against a team that you’re familiar with?’” said Alter coach Eric Coulter. “I never want to play a GCL team. Because even though I’m familiar with it I know what I’m getting.”

Well, coach, you’re going to recognize the guys in green Friday night in your Division II district semifinal. GCL Co-ed and backyard rival Chaminade Julienne will face the Knights one more time at 8 p.m. at Trent Arena.

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Coulter, who has been Alter’s head coach since 2013, and CJ coach Charlie Szabo, in his second year as head coach at his alma mater, have been part of the rivalry since the 1990s. Szabo wasn’t wishing for a GCL opponent either with a district final berth at stake.

“You don’t, because I think this league is so competitive,” Szabo said. “And the coaches in this league are so good. Would I rather play Alter at this point? No.”

On Wednesday night, Alter thumped Valley View 58-30 behind a spark ignited by the 3-point shooting of sophomore Gavin Geisel. CJ got balanced scoring and 13 of the 14 who played scored in a 74-29 romp over Benjamin Logan.

The fourth-seeded Knights (15-7) and the fifth-seeded Eagles (11-5) split two meetings this season.

“It’s Alter-CJ,” Coulter said. “You can throw records out. I say this every time we play.”

Alter sophomore Gavin Geisel led Alter with 17 points on a career-high five 3-pointers in the Knights' 58-30 victory in a Division II sectional game Wednesday night at Trent Arena. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED
Caption
Alter sophomore Gavin Geisel led Alter with 17 points on a career-high five 3-pointers in the Knights' 58-30 victory in a Division II sectional game Wednesday night at Trent Arena. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

The last time they played in the tournament was in the second round in 2019. The Eagles were seeded No. 1 and favored. But No. 7 Alter blew them out 61-35 in longtime Eagles coach Joe Staley’s last game.

CJ senior Dan Nauseef was on the bench for most of that game. His brother Jack, who was a senior, and Milton Gage, who was that team’s leading scorer, were on Nauseef’s mind as he left the locker room.

“Very excited to play them, and I want to redeem Jack and Milton and get a win for them,” he said. “Ever since I was young it’s always been CJ and Alter. We want to beat those guys because we know them.”

Alter starts only one senior and three sophomores. Geisel, who scored a game-high 17 points, made four 3-pointers in the first half from the left corner, including three late in the half to break open a tight game for 28-13 halftime lead. Geisel made his fifth 3-pointer to start the second half and the Knights were off and running to a 21-point quarter and 44-20 lead.

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“I like when teams zone us because we’re a good shooting team,” Coulter said. “I know the percentages are deceiving sometimes because we didn’t shoot the ball well when we first started playing.”

Alter is shooting 31.4 percent from 3-point range and Geisel came in shooting 24.6 percent. But he’s had two hot games, this one and the night he made four in an upset of Roger Bacon.

“Emotionally and mentally at the beginning of the year it was tough for me because I was in a big slump,” Geisel said. “It just felt good to hit shots.”

AJ Leen added 15 points for the Knights and Jacob Conner scored nine.

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CJ also got a 3-point boost to build and early lead. Freshman Jonathan Powell made three 3-pointers as the Eagles ran out to a 46-17 halftime lead. Powell finished with 13 points, Luke Chandler had 11, AJ Solomon nine and Nauseef and Kylan Tucker eight apiece.

Szabo was pleased with his team’s pressure defense. Ben Logan hit nine 3-pointers in the first half of their first-round victory over Ponitz.

“As a coach you’re always fearful of what a team can do to beat you,” Szabo said.

Both coaches will have those fears Friday night. The scouting reports will be discussed, but those talks will only be review.

“It doesn’t matter what I write on the board,” Coulter said. “They know them better than what the coaches do sometimes. I’m sure Charlie feels the same.”