LINDEN – After Newark East Side came all the way back to tie the game with 39.8 seconds to go, Linden sophomore Tavon Jones had a chance to give the Tigers back the lead with 13.4 seconds left.
However, the Linden starter missed both of his free throw attempts after previously making eight of his first 10.
Then – after East Side missed a layup that would have given it the lead, with Linden’s Fritz Moncion grabbing the rebound – Jones missed a 3-point shot from just inside half court at the buzzer.
Determined to make up for his misses, Jones was a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line in overtime, while his final points – which came on Linden’s first field goal in some six minutes – gave the Tigers a four-point lead with less than a minute left in the extra session.
Linden then survived a 3-point basket from the right side hit by Newark East Side sophomore Jahid Jenkins that pulled the visiting Raiders to one point. The Tigers came back at their end by – after four passes – senior William Phelps found junior Khalief Crawford under the basket for the game’s final points.
Newark East Side sophomore Shamir Johnson’s game-tying 3-point attempt was rebounded by Phelps, but then the ball was ruled on the line, giving possession back to the Red Raiders with 16.7 seconds left.
From there, sophomore Hassan Ceesay missed a 3-pointer right before the buzzer as host Linden survived to play another day, holding off Newark East Side 62-59 in overtime in Monday night’s thrilling, packed gymnasium, North 2, Group 4 championship game.
Jones, despite not scoring in the first and third quarters, led all players with 17 points. He finished 12-of-16 from the line and also hit a big 3-pointer right before the half to build Linden’s lead back up to eight after it reached a game-high 14 earlier in the period.
“We had to continue to make plays and execute,” Jones said just moments after the gut-wrenching triumph. “We’ve had many games like this in the past.”
Jones was ready to bounce back at the free throw line in overtime, not letting it affect him at all that he missed twice at the end of the fourth quarter.
“I spend extra time in practice on my free throws and it paid off,” Jones said.
“He’s only a sophomore, but I’ll go to war with him any time,” Linden head coach Phil Colicchio said.
Jones made one of two free throws in the second quarter, seven of 10 in the fourth and all four of his in OT.
“Even though he missed a couple, he (Jones) made a lot of free throws and that was big for them,” East Side co-coach Anthony Taveras said.
For top-seeded Linden, the Tigers captured North 2, Group 4 for the fourth straight year and for the fifth time in the past six. Under Colicchio – this being his 19th season at the helm of the Tigers – Linden has won the section eight times in 12 tries. That’s 12 trips to the final in 19 seasons under Colicchio.
Linden also became just the second team to win the section four years in a row. The first was Elizabeth, which captured the section five straight years from 1987-1991.
Back in the section after winning North 2, Group 3, East Side was seeking to win North 2, Group 4 for the first time since present NBA player Randy Foye’s senior season in 2002.
“This is exactly what I expected, the game to come down to the last shot,” Colicchio said. “They’re Newark kids and they’re well-coached. Both programs are similar.”
Newark East Side junior Tyrese Jenkins, who finished tied with Ceesay for team-high scoring honors with 14 points, scored his team’s and the game’s final five points in the fourth quarter to tie the game and send it to OT. The first four of those points came on a rare four-point play in which he sank a 3-pointer from the right side and was fouled.
Jenkins then made the ensuing free throw to pull his team to within one at 52-51 with 52.2 seconds left. He then tied the game at 52-52 by making one of two free throws with 39.8 seconds to go in the fourth.
It was the game’s third tie and first since 7-7 in the first quarter.
Jenkins scored the first basket in OT, giving Newark East Side a 54-52 lead and its first advantage since its third lead of 7-6 late in the first quarter. At that point, Jenkins had scored the game’s next seven points after his team trailed 52-47 in the fourth.
“They hit some big shots, kept coming back with them, including the four-point play,” Colicchio said. “Give our kids credit too. On our last possession we switched it up to find guys open.”
Linden went on a 9-0 run that bridged the first and second quarters and then after a Newark East Side basket the Tigers went on an 8-0 run to go up 23-9 in the second quarter for the game’s biggest lead of 14 points.
“There’s no way we’re 14 points better than them,” Colicchio said.
Newark East Side responded with a 9-0 run of its own to pull to within five at 23-18. Linden led 26-18 at intermission.
“This was two great public schools playing a game that went right down to the wire,” Tavares said. “We have the utmost respect for each other’s program.
“It came down to them making a few more plays than us.”
Linden senior William Phelps, who came up with critical rebounds late and a big block in the fourth quarter, netted 16 points. He scored 14 – including two 3-pointers – when there was still 4:40 to go in the second quarter. Phelps did not score again until his fina basket – a layup – gave Linden a 48-43 lead with two-and-a-half minutes to go in the fourth.
Linden made three 3s in the first quarter-and-a-half, which was a big part of the Tigers building their double-digit advantage. Newark East Side also turned the ball over nine times in the first half.
“I think they might have turned the ball over five times in a row,” Colicchio said.
“They shot the ball well early on,” Tavares said. “We had to do a better job of keying on Phelps and prevent him from getting good looks, which was part of our game plan.”
Linden will next seek to get back to Rutgers for its third Group 4 state championship game in four years. The Tigers will face North 1, Group 4 champion Hackensack in Wednesday’s 7 p.m. Group 4 semifinal at the Dunn Sport Center in Elizabeth.
Linden lost to Paterson Eastside 58-51 at Dunn in last year’s Group 4 semifinals after capturing the Group 4 state championship for the fourth time under Colicchio in 2014. All four of Linden’s group state championships have come under Colicchio’s guidance, including the first three in 2000, 2006 and 2007.
Colicchio has now guided Linden to three Union County Tournament championships, eight North 2, Group 4 state sectional titles and four Group 4 state crowns.
“We’ve won the section four years in a row, so this group wants to get to the RAC now and make their own mark,” Colicchio said.
Third-seeded Newark East Side finished its 2015-2016 season at 24-8. The Red Raiders finished second three times, including twice to Seton Hall Prep in the American Division of the Super Essex Conference and the Essex County Tournament and once to Linden in North 2, Group 4.
NORTH 2, GROUP 4 FINAL AT LINDEN
3-Newark East Side (24-8) 07 11 16 18 07 – 59
1-Linden (21-5) 10 16 14 12 10 – 62
NEWARK EAST SIDE RED RAIDERS (59):
4-Jahid Jenkins, sophomore, 4-1-3-14
30-Tyrese Jenkins, junior, 4-1-5-16
11-Hassan Ceesay, sophomore, 5-1-1-14
1-Elijah Olaniyi, junior, 1-0-0-2
34-DeAndre Speight, sophomore, 1-0-1-3
2-Amadu Benbow, junior, 1-0-0-2
10-Shamir Johnson, sophomore, 2-1-0-7
13-Anas Amos, freshman, 0-0-1-1
Starters: Amos, Ceesay,
- Jenkins, T. Jenkins, Olaniyi.
LINDEN TIGERS (62):
1-Khalief Crawford, junior, 2-1-2-9
13-Tavon Jones, sophomore, 1-1-12-17
4-Marcellus Livingston, junior, 2-0-2-6
20-William Phelps, senior, 5-2-0-16
2-Fritz Moncion, senior, 2-0-0-4
12-Abraham Kromah, junior, 0-1-0-3
3-Joey Krempa, junior, 0-1-2-5
10-Tafari Lowe, junior, 1-0-0-2
Starters: Crawford, Lowe,
Phelps, Krempa, Jones.
NORTH 2, GROUP 4
THE LAST 41 SEASONS:
2016 – Linden
2015 – Linden
2014 – Linden
2013 – Linden
2012 – Elizabeth
2011 – Linden
2010 – Plainfield
2009 – Plainfield
2008 – Piscataway
2007 – Linden
2006 – Linden
2005 – Bridgewater-Raritan
2004 – Plainfield
2003 – Elizabeth
2002 – Newark East Side
2001 – Newark East Side
2000 – Linden
1999 – Union
1998 – Newark East Side
1997 – Union
1996 – Linden
1995 – Elizabeth
1994 – Montclair
1993 – Irvington
1992 – Irvington
1991 – Elizabeth
1990 – Elizabeth
1989 – Elizabeth
1988 – Elizabeth
1987 – Elizabeth
1986 – Montclair
1985 – Elizabeth
1984 – East Orange
1983 – Plainfield
1982 – Montclair
1981 – Shabazz
1980 – Barringer
1979 – Union
1978 – Linden
1977 – Bloomfield
1976 – Plainfield