The Dayton boys’ basketball team, coming off a loss in last year’s final at home to University – a game that went to overtime – was more determined than ever to find a way to not let that happen again.
Sparked by a pretty balanced scoring attack that included 19 points from Jared Clayton, 13 from Isaiah Rogers, 10 from Joe Rogers, seven from Elijah Brown, six from Rutgers-football bound Anthony Cioffi and two from Jonathan Median, the top-seeded Bulldogs held off seconde-seeded University 63-58 in Tuesday night’s North 2, Group 1 championship game in Springfield.
Dayton lost at home to University in overtime in last year’s final and in the final two years ago the Bulldogs beat the Newark school by one point at home to capture their first sectional title in some time.
Including a semifinal matchup at University in 2010, this was the fourth straight year the teams clashed in state tournament competition.
Dayton will next play North 1, Group 1 champion Waldwick in Thursday’s 5 p.m. Group 1 semifinal at East Orange Campus. The game could be moved ahead if interrupted by predicted inclement weather.
Two years ag0, Dayton won its Group 1 semifinal at East Orange and then lost in the Group 1 final at Rutgers three days later.
The Group 1 championship game is scheduled to be played Sunday at Rutgers.
Once again – for the second time in three years – the Bulldogs are one win away from playing for a state championship and two wins away from winning one.
Dayton improved to 21-5 with the victory, its fourth straight. The Bulldogs were the last basketball team in Union County this season – boys’ and girls’ to lose. The Bulldogs were 13-0 before falling at Summit 46-41 on Jan. 29 in Union County Conference-Valley Division play.
The Bulldogs won the Valley Division championship with a 13-1 record, sweeping six division foes and splitting with second-place Summit, which finished 12-2 in the division and 18-6 overall after falling in the first round of the North 2, Group 3 playoffs.
– JR PARACHINI