FREEHOLD TWP. – Freehold Township guard Jason Czajkowski is rather forgiving of people who mistake him for his brother, Kyle – probably because that is the norm in the case of most identical twins.

Monday night against Brick Memorial in the opening round of the NJSIAA Tournament, Jason went out of his way to look as much like his brother as he could, right down to wearing his jersey and borrowing some of his game.

Jason Czajkowski scored a team-high 19 points and the Patriots – the No. 2 seed in the Central Jersey Group IV section – upended No. 15 Brick Memorial, 71-62, with his brother and senior starter Kyle Czajkowski sidelined by a season-ending fracture in his right wrist.

Freehold Township will host No. 7 Trenton on Wednesday in the sectional quarterfinals after the Tornadoes edged Old Bridge, 62-60, in their opening game of the tournament.

Freehold Township players wore this warm-up jersey in support of senior Kyle Czajkowski, who suffered a season-ending fracture in his wrist on Feb. 22. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Kyle Czajkowski began the season sidelined by an unrelated injury in the same hand and suffered his latest injury late in Freehold Township’s Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinal loss to Rumson-Fair Haven on Feb. 22.

“Obviously there is a special connection and a special relationship there because he’s my twin and I certainly wanted to be vocal before the game and during the game,” Jason Czajkowski said. “I just told the guys, ‘Yes, let’s do this for Kyle, but more importantly, let’s do this for ourselves.' A lot of us are seniors and we have a great opportunity to finish off this year in a big way.”

The Patriots wore warm-up tops that read “Play for Kyle” on the front and had “K. Czajkowski” on the back, with Kyle’s No. 20 underneath. Not only did the entire team don a makeshift Kyle Czajkowski jersey in warm-ups, but Jason gave up his usual No. 10 jersey in favor of his brother’s No. 20 jersey.

“I thought it would be a nice idea and I ran it by coach (Brian) Golub and he said it was okay as long as it was written down in the (official) book,” Jason said. “It was a good decision to wear it because I finally started knocking down some shots.”

Jason Czajkowski played like he took the words on the warm-ups to heart, particularly during the second quarter, when he scored 10 of his 19 points and helped the Patriots stake claim to a 31-25 halftime lead.

“Jason is very unselfish most of the time and then when we’re not going so well is when he will kind of press and take the shots we don’t want as much,” Golub said. “When he’s aggressive, playing with energy and knocking down his shot on top of that, he’s tough to guard.

“I teased him a little bit before the game. I told him, ‘The better shooter is not going to be able to play today, so you better step up.’”

Senior Tyree Wilson helped the Patriots lock down the win by scoring all 18 of his points in the second half and keying two different runs after Brick Memorial made the game close. The Mustangs pulled even at 38 early in the third quarter, but Wilson responded with five straight points and six overall in an 11-2 run that pushed the Patriots' lead back to five.

Brick Memorial again drew even at 51 in the fourth quarter, and Wilson once again answered with a 3-pointer to put Freehold Township ahead for good. He later hit a floater to push a one-point Patriots lead to three, and after stealing a pass near mid-court, fired a bullet to Brandon Tajfel for a lay-up to put Freehold Township ahead, 61-55. Wilson also had six rebounds and five steals in the game.

“I played a bad first half and I felt like I had to make up for it a little bit,” Wilson said. “We just didn’t have the energy early on and I wasn’t doing enough to help us on both ends, so I tried to come out and be more aggressive in the second half.”

Senior Tyree Wilson scored all 18 of his points Monday against Brick Memorial in the second half. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Prior to the Tajfel lay-up, Nick Facendo gave Freehold Township some breathing room by hitting a three to put the Patriots up 59-55. Facendo finished with 14 points and hit three 3-pointers in the game while also handing out five assists.

Brick Memorial stormed out to an early lead thanks to a 10-0 run that put the Mustangs ahead, 10-2. Facendo helped snap Freehold Township out of its funk with a lay-up off a steal, a three and an assist on a basket-and-foul by Mike Staklinski. On the first possession of the second quarter, Freehold Township took a 15-14 lead on the first of five second-quarter baskets by Jason Czajkowski and the Patriots would not trail the rest of the way.

“The difference was our defense,” Jason Czajkowski said. “We just didn’t have any intensity in those first few minutes and we knew we needed to defend better if we were going to beat a team like that.”

Mustangs senior Scott White scored a game-high 21 points in the loss, while senior Aaron Scheiderman added 16 points and senior R.J. Hernandez contributed 12 points and 12 rebounds for Brick Memorial.

Golub played 14 players on Monday night, eight of whom scored at least two points. Thirteen Patriots players played in the first quarter alone.

“I just wanted to make sure I got some of the guys’ feet wet in case we ran into any foul trouble,” Golub said. “(Brick Memorial) came out hard. They missed some open looks in the first quarter that, if they went in, could have put us in a serious hole that I’m not sure we would have been able to get out of.”

Next up is Trenton as the Patriots try to make a push for their first sectional title in program history.

“We learned we can’t take anyone lightly,” Wilson said. “We’re going to be playing good teams the rest of the way and if we want to win, we need to be our best every single day. When we play focused for a full game, we can be very tough to beat, so that’s what we’re looking to do for the rest of the tournament.”

 

Box Score

Freehold Twp. 71, Brick Memorial 62

1

2

3

4

F

Brick Memorial (10-14)

14

11

21

16

62

Freehold Twp. (19-6)

13

18

20

20

71

 

Brick Memorial (62): Mike Manso 3 0-1 7, Aaron Scheiderman 6 4-4 16, R.J. Hernandez 4 4-4 12, Joe Hans 2 0-0 4, Scott White 8 2-5 21, Kevin Swider 1 0-0 2, Darius Richards 0 0-0 0, Everton Ramsey 0 0-0 0. Totals: 24 10-14 62

Three-pointers: Manso, White 3

Freehold Twp. (71): Nick Facendo 4 3-4 14, Jason Czajkowski 9 1-2 19, A.J. Hardy 0 0-0 0, Dan Saunders 2 0-0 6, Tyree Wilson 5 6-8 18, Mike Staklinski 1 0-3 2, C.J. Stenftennagel 0 0-0 0, Brandon Tajfel 2 0-0 4, John Carroll 2 2-2 6, Austin Ramos 0 0-0 0, Terrence Burdge 1 0-0 2, Tyler Von Nessen 0 0-0 0, Bobby Wiese 0 0-0 0, Stefen Williams 0 0-0 0. Totals: 26 12-19 71

Three-pointers: Facendo 3, Saunders 2, Wilson 2