GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — The Stockton University men’s basketball team won again Saturday, beating Kean University 76-56 in a New Jersey Athletic Conference game.
The Ospreys have been doing a lot of winning this season: They improved to 17-6 (12-4).
But this one, coming in the final home game of the regular season, was special. It was the 600th victory of Gerry Matthews’ career as Stockton’s coach.
Matthews, 74, has a 600-242 career record in 30 seasons.
He’s never had a losing season and is the winningest coach in New Jersey college basketball history.
“It’s kind of good that it happened now so we can concentrate on the next two weeks,” Matthews said, referring to the upcoming NJAC tournament. “I was going to let it slide on everybody, but The Press talked about it twice in the paper.”
Matthews became the 16th coach in NCAA Division III to reach 600 wins.
He is one of six in that group still coaching.
“I’ve been here a long time,” Matthews said. “We’ve been consistent and worked hard, and I’ve had a lot of great players and coaches to work with.”
The Ospreys delivered Matthews’ milestone on their second try. On Wednesday, Stockton stumbled in the second half and lost at New Jersey City 68-61.
Stockton finishes the regular season at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Montclair State University. The conference tournament begins next Saturday.
Kean fell to 4-17 (4-11). The Cougars survived a Stockton onslaught of eight 3-pointers in the first half to trail by 10 at 34-24 at intermission. But the Ospreys slowly pulled away in the second half.
“In the second half, we started to execute in terms of breaking the game open,” Matthews said. “We looked like we might do that a couple times in the first half, but then we made bad plays. In the first play of the second half, we ran a set from Marcus (Harmon) to Darius (Jerkins) for a (traditional) 3-point play, and that started us off well.”
Saturday was senior day at Stockton, and the only senior on the men’s team is Armin Cane, a Pleasantville High School graduate. Cane scored 12 points, including 10 in the first half. He also had a game-high four steals.
Immediately after the game, Matthews and Cane had their arms around each other.
“Getting his 600th win was very important,” said Cane, 22. “It’s been great to play for such a great coach. He taught me how to be a man. He taught me about basketball and life. He doesn’t cut you any slack. He pushes you to a level that you never thought you could get to before. He brings that out day by day.”
Matthews posed for photos with several people, including Harvey Kesselman, the president of Stockton.
“I’ve known Gerry all these years,” Kesselman said. “His getting to 600 wins is an incredible milestone. Not only is he a great coach, but he cares about every single ballplayer. His dedication to Stockton and to the program is phenomenal.”
Stockton’s starters, Cane, Jerkins (Mainland Regional), Harmon (Middle Township), Jaymere Hadden (Millville) and Tom Catanoso (Middle Township), were all former Cape-Atlantic League standouts.
Harmon led with 15 points and had five rebounds. Hadden had 14 points, and a team-high five assists and seven rebounds, plus three steals. Blake Rossell, a St. Augustine Prep graduate and Margate resident, added nine points and four rebounds. Catanoso finished with eight points, including six in the first half, and three assists.
“I’ll tell you what, we didn’t want to talk about it (600 wins), but it meant a lot to me,” said junior Catanoso, 20. “It was never our main focus. That’s to win the NJAC, but it’s nice to get a distraction out of the way. He just told us to play hard and execute on offense and defense. After the loss on Wednesday, we had to regroup. We talked about effort and then came out and executed.”
Matthews gave credit to all his former and present coaches. Currently, the associate head coach is Scott Bittner, and the assistants are Kevin Brooks and Bob Hutchings.
“Chris Crowley was with me more than 20 years, and Kevin has been with me more than 20 years,” Matthews said. “Scott has been with me since ’06-07. Bob’s been with me twice, and that’s more than 20 years. We’ve blended well together.”
Kean 24 32—56
Stockton 34 42—76
K—Pujols 2-7 13-16 18, Crismond 3-7 1-2 7, Watson 0-3 2-2 2, Thompson 2-3 0-2 4, Kerr 1-3 2-2 5, Williams 1-1 0-0 3, Grek 0-1 2-2 2, Pollick 2-4 0-1 4, Myers 4-7 0-0 8, Gomez 2-3 0-0 4. Totals—17-41 20-27 56.
S—Catanoso 2-2 2-2 8, Harmon 5-11 1-2 15, Hadden 5-9 1-2 14, Cane 5-12 0-0 12, Jerkins 1-3 5-7 7, Hart 1-2 0-0 2, Johnson 0-1 1-2 1, Merget 0-1 0-0 0, Barnes 1-4 0-2 3, Rossell 4-5 1-2 9, Allen 2-4 0-0 5, Parrish 0-1 0-0 0. Totals—26-55 11-19 76.
3-pointers—Pujols, Williams K. Harmon 4, Hadden 3, Catanoso 2, Cane 2, Barnes, Allen S.
Records—Kean 4-18, Stockton 18-6.