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February 1, 2010

Big weekend for No. 17 St. Benedict's

MORE: Check out the latest RivalsHigh Top 100 boys basketball rankings

Not a bad weekend for Newark (N.J.) St. Benedict's: Two wins over out-of-state teams and one plug for the coach to move up to Rutgers. By his famous father, no less.

First, the on-court action.

"We talked about this weekend being a two-game tournament," head coach Dan Hurley told The Star-Ledger at the Newark Invitational on Saturday. "Today's the semis, tomorrow's the championship."

The title game was worthy of its description as St. Benedict's was forced to rally - then hold on - for a 52-50 victory against a Plymouth Meeting (Pa.) Whitemarsh team that may have earned more in its first defeat then its opening 17 victories.

Plymouth Whitmarsh is ranked No. 47 in the previous RivalsHigh Top 100 boys basketball rankings, but it was a ranking based more on wins than quality wins.

Sunday afternoon at the Lehigh Valley Hoop Group Showcase, Plymouth Whitemarsh ran out to a 16-5 lead. St. Benedict's recovered, using a 21-10 run to even the score. St. Benedict's pulled ahead by as much as seven, but this game came down to the final seconds.

Down by two, Plymouth Whitemarsh tried to throw the ball inside to C.J. Aiken but the pass was knocked away in a scramble.

"There was a lot of jostling inside," Whitemarsh assistant coach George Wadling told The Times Herald (read its game story here), "and we felt like C.J. was held on the play. But nothing was called. There was a scramble for the ball and it would up loose on the floor."

Saturday's game against Chicago (Ill.) De La Salle wasn't as close as St. Benedict's won overwhelming, 80-50.

Texas commit Myck Kabongo had 19 points, five assists and five steals, behind 15 points and five rebounds, but it was the play of 6-8 forward Gilvydas Biruta of Lithuania (15 points, five rebounds in 15 minutes) that turned heads.

"The emergence of Gil Biruta has made our season," Hurley told The Star-Ledger (read its game story here). "He plays really hard, especially without the ball. He brings a lot of energy."

Coincidentally, the 6-8 senior, is headed to Rutgers. Who will coach him there remains to be seen. Could it be Hurley?

Speaking at the New Jersey Sportswriters annual awards dinner, Jersey City (N.J.) St. Anthony head coach Bob Hurley said Dan - and his other son, Bobby, as an assistant - would be a perfect at Rutgers, should the job open.

"It's very difficult to sit down on a bench and coach before if you haven't done it, and Danny got the experience of four years as an assistant at Rutgers with Kevin Bannon," Hurley Sr. told Ed Barmakian of The Star-Ledger. "He also has the international contacts you need from coaching one of the top prep teams in the country. He's played in the Big East and coached there as an assistant. Bobby would jump at the chance to get back into basketball and he's still involved in the game working camps. His name in Jersey is very good and he'd be a good set of eyes in regard to recruiting guards."

That being said, Hurley was quick to note he wasn't pushing for a change at Rutgers.

"First of all, I think they should stick with Freddy (Rutgers coach Fred Hill Jr.)," Hurley said. "I hope they keep Freddy."

That remains to be seen, one thing clear though: St. Benedict's weekend wins - in addition to its victory over No. 4 Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick earlier this month - should help the No. 17 team move up in the next RivalsHigh rankings, out later this week.

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