State championship seasons – campaigns to certainly remember and cherish for a long time – came to a conclusion last Thursday for the Linden and Roselle Catholic boys’ basketball teams.
In the Tournament of Champions semifinals at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, third-seeded Roselle Catholic was first edged by second-seeded Newark East Side 46-45 on a last second free throw by Ismael Sanogo (his only free throw of the game) and then fourth-seeded Linden’s double-digit fourth quarter comeback (the Tigers trailed by 16 heading into the final eight minutes) vs. top-seeded St. Joseph’s of Metuchen fell just short in a 63-59 setback.
Linden, which also captured the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division championship with an 8-1 league record in addition to a second straight North 2, Group 4 title and first Group 4 state championship since 2007, finished a fine season at 27-5. The Tigers won the most games since concluding the 2006-2007 season at 30-2, which was also a year that they lost in the TOC semifinals.
Roselle Catholic, which also repeated as Non-Public, South B and Non-Public, B state champions, produced another 20-win campaign, finishing at 21-10.
Linden received a game-high 19-point performance from senior center Quadri Moore, the four-year starter to next play at Cincinnati. He went up against Kentucky-bound center KarlTowns, who – along with teammates Wade Baldwin and Marques Townes – led his team in scoring with 15.
The Tigers also received a 16-point effort from junior guard Otis Livingston, who last year played at the PatrickSchool of Elizabeth. Livingston will be considered one of the top senior players in the state next season.
Linden trailed 48-32 after three quarters before winning the fourth period 27-15.
St. Joe’s, which last year lost to Roselle Catholic 65-49 in the final at Sun National Bank Center in Trenton after getting beaten in the semifinals two years ago, improved to 29-2. The Falcons have won the last three Non-Public, A state championships.
Roselle Catholic received 14 points from Matt Bullock and 13 from Asante Gist in its game vs. East Side, which improved to 30-1 and sought to become only the fifth public school team to win the TOC and the first since Camden in 2000.
Roselle Catholic will also return one of the top seniors in the state next year in Isaiah Briscoe. The St. Benedict’s Prep transfer – with one website listing Union as his hometown – concluded his junior campaign with a game that included six points, three assists and 10 rebounds.
Roselle Catholic, which now has an overall TOC record of 3-1, led 39-32 heading into the fourth quarter before East Side – the Essex County Tournament; North 2, Group 3 and Group 3 state champion – won the final eight minutes 14-6.
Linden entered February with only two losses, both to out-of-state opponents. The Tigers were 15-2 heading into their Feb. 4 league game at Roselle Catholic, with losses only to Imhotep Charter, Pa. 48-45 on Dec. 28 and at Long Island Lutheran 64-58 Jan. 20. In between, Linden won 10 straight.
Linden lost at Roselle Catholic 67-53 for its only league loss. Five more wins followed before the Tigers, for the second straight season, fell to the PatrickSchool in the Union County Tournament championship game at Kean, this time by a 62-54 count. Linden defeated Roselle Catholic 78-56 at home on Jan. 16 in the first of their two league games.
The PatrickSchool, which for the second straight season was defeated by Roselle Catholic in the Non-Public, South B final, ended the UCT final against Linden on runs of 12-1 and 9-0. The Celtics, sparked by senior transfers Dupree McBrayer – one of the top guards in the state – and Seton Hall-bound center Angel Delgado, had a 13-game winning streak before falling to Roselle Catholic in the states and finishing 23-6.
Roselle Catholic began the season 5-0, including an opening 74-44 home win over the PatrickSchool. The Lions then lost to the PatrickSchool in the second league game against each other and later in the UCT semifinals.
Roselle Catholic will attempt again next season to win the UCT for the first time.
After the UCT the Lions reeled off six straight state tournament wins, similar to what they achieved last year after getting upset by Union in the UCT quarterfinals.
Again, Roselle Catholic toppled St. Anthony, defeating the Jersey City school for the second straight season in the Non-Public, B final at TomsRiverNorthHigh School’s Pine Belt Arena, this time by a 60-57 score. Roselle Catholic lost to St. Anthony 80-57 at St. Peter’s College on Jan. 29.
Roselle Catholic’s final win was a 98-80 triumph over sixth-seeded and repeat Group 2 state champion Newark Tech in the TOC quarterfinals. In last year’s semifinals, the Lions downed Newark Tech 78-64 at Monmouth en route to a 25-5 finish that included a season-ending eight-game winning streak.
Linden, led by Moore, won North 2, Group 4 three of the last four years and the last two seasons; captured two of three Group 4 semifinal games; one of two Group 4 state championship contests and appeared in the TOC for the fourth time overall and initial time in seven years.
Including last year’s 22-8 record, the Tigers are 49-13 the last two seasons.
Roselle Catholic made the TOC for the second straight season and is a combined 46-15 the last two years, including two Non-Public, South B sectional titles; two Non-Public, B state championships and one TOC crown.