TRENTON – On the second Friday in February Roselle Catholic had them.
The Lions had the No. 1-ranked team in the nation – Montverde Academy, Fla. – on the brink of its first loss.
Roselle Catholic led by six with 29 seconds left before Duke commit R.J. Barrett took the game over by scoring six points in the final 24 seconds to lift Montverde to a stunning 60-59 triumph in the Metro Classic at Kean University.
“That was a big learning experience for us,” Roselle Catholic head coach Dave Boff said. “We had to learn to close games.”
As it turned out, lesson well taken for the Lions.
Forward to Sunday’s final game of the season. Underdog Don Bosco Prep scored the first two points of the fourth quarter to produce the game’s sixth and final deadlock. All even with just under eight minutes to go.
Roselle Catholic, after it saw two 11-point second quarter leads evaporate two periods later, this time had a bit more clock to regroup and prevent what happened against Montverde.
With McDonald’s All-America Nazreon Reid on the bench with four fouls and a team-leading 18 points, fellow senior Alanzo Frink made sure the Lions were going to close this one out.
After junior Josh Pierre-Louis scored inside off an offensive rebound to give Roselle Catholic its fifth lead and the advantage for good at 44-42, Frink produced a conventional 3-point play, followed up with consecutive free throws and then slammed home a convincing dunk to put the Lions ahead by eight with just over four minutes to go.
Frink went from entering the fourth quarter with seven points to finishing with 16 as his presence in the paint during the game’s final eight minutes quelled Don Bosco Prep’s final threat.
“With Naz in foul trouble we all had to play really hard in the fourth quarter,” Frink said.
Roselle Catholic’s final run of the season, an 18-4 stretch in the fourth, propelled the top-seeded Lions to a 61-54 win over second-seeded Don Bosco Prep in Sunday’s 30th annual NJSIAA boys’ basketball Tournament of Champions championship game at Cure Insurance Arena.
ROSELLE CATHOLIC WINS 5 CHAMPIONSHIPS
IN THE SAME SEASON FOR THE FIRST TIME:
Union County Conference-Watchung Division: (8-0, first place)
won division first time in 2012-2013 (9-1) and second time in 2014-2015 (7-1)
Union County Tournament: won for the first time
Non-Public, North B: previously won South B from 2013-2015
Non-Public, B: previously won B from 2013-2015
Tournament of Champions: previously won TOC in 2013 and 2015
Roselle Catholic captured the TOC for the third time and gave Union County its 10th championship in 30 years, with St. Patrick winning six and Elizabeth one.
The Lions have now won the third-most TOC titles, behind St. Anthony with 13 and St. Patrick with six. Their record in four TOCs is now 7-1.
Roselle Catholic finished 29-4 – winning the most games in head coach Dave Boff’s 11 seasons at the helm – and closed with a 12-game winning streak. The Lions also finished undefeated against in-state competition, with only four out-of-state losses to foes from Pennsylvania, Virginia and two from Florida.
Also, Roselle Catholic won these five championships in the same season for the first time: division, county, section, state and TOC.
Repeat Non-Public, A state champion Don Bosco Prep became the sixth team to lose consecutive TOC finals, joining Shawnee (1995, 1996), Seton Hall Prep (1997, 1998), Shabazz (2001, 2002), Science Park (2008, 2009) and Plainfield (2011, 2012).
The Ironmen – who hung tough, played hard until the end and represented their school well – had a 19-game winning streak snapped and closed with an outstanding 28-3 mark.
Rutgers commit Ronald Harper scored eight points in the game’s final minute to finish with a superb, game-high, 33-point performance. Senior point guard Michael Concannon finished with 10 and St. John’s commit Marcellus Earlington fouled out in the fourth quarter with five.
Reid, who will next play at LSU, came back off the bench in the fourth – he did not foul out – and led Roselle Catholic with 23 points. His final high school dunk put RC ahead 54-44 with 3:32 remaining. Reid went up high with one hand to slam home a basket off an alley-oop pass from Pierre-Louis.
“I learned a lot from Coach Boff and the staff,” Reid said. “To win the TOC shows how hard work pays off.
“This was tough, but we felt all along that this was our year.”
Pierre-Louis, one of the state’s top 6th men, finished with eight points.
Roselle Catholic ended the first quarter on an 8-0 run to take an 18-9 lead.
Don Bosco Prep closed the second on 14-6 surge to pull to within 30-27 at intermission. Concannon drilled a 3 from the left side right before the buzzer to send the Ironmen into the locker room at halftime feeling good about themselves.
“They played well, fought hard and gave us everything they had,” Reid said.
Don Bosco Prep can also say that it produced three leads in the third quarter, first going ahead by the score of 31-30 on an inside basket by Earlington after he grabbed an offensive rebound.
A free throw by Harper put the Ironmen ahead again at 32-31 and then two more free throws by Harper gave DBP its final lead of 35-33 midway through the period.
Roselle Catholic scored the game’s first six points before Harper scored six straight to forge the game’s first tie at 6-6.
Roselle Catholic’s 11-point leads in the second quarter were 22-11 and 24-13. RC’s biggest lead of 14 was 60-46 with less than two minutes to go.
Roselle Catholic senior guard Ithiel Horton finished with six points.
“Our toughness spurred us on in the fourth quarter,” Horton said. “Don Bosco Prep is a good team, but they didn’t face the kind of teams we did and that helped us.”
Boff guided Roselle Catholic to the Union County Conference’s Valley Division title in 2010 and then the Mountain Division crown in 2011 before the Lions moved up to join the big boys in the Watchung Division in 2012.
“I couldn’t be more proud of a team,” Boff said. “The No. 1 goal on our mind all season long was to win the TOC.
“We became the first RC team to win five championships in the same season and we’ve now started to separate ourselves and put ourselves in elite company with three TOC titles.
“Frink was outstanding again and has been the last few weeks and really all season long. However, everyone really contributed. It was never just one guy.”
Roselle Catholic lost four times in four tries to last year’s eventual TOC champion, The Patrick School of Elizabeth.
Although the Celtics were quite a different team this year minus three outstanding players lost to graduation that are now playing in college, RC and TPS games were still barnburners.
This time RC went 3-0 vs. TPS, which went a long way toward the Lions reaching their goals of accumulating five championships.
“We talked about having bouts of selfishness last year,” Boff said. “We had none of that this year.”
“It was an honor to play for this team,” Reid said. “My teammates never quit.”
Roselle Catholic has now captured four state championships and three TOC titles since 2013.
30TH ANNUAL BOYS’ BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS FINAL
2-Don Bosco Prep (28-3) 09 18 13 14 – 54
1-Roselle Catholic (29-4) 18 12 12 19 – 61
2-DON BOSCO PREP IRONMEN (54):
1-Marcellus Earlington, senior, 2-0-1-5
24-Ronald Harper, senior, 5-3-14-33
5-Matt Herasme, senior, 2-0-0-4
2-Michael Concannon, senior, 2-2-0-10
23-Victor Konopka, junior, 0-0-0-0
25-Jordan Cooke-Harper, senior, 1-0-0-2
10-Owen McGlashan, junior, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Earlington, Harper,
Herasme, Concannon, Konopka.
1-ROSELLE CATHOLIC LIONS (61):
4-Jason Battle, senior, 0-0-3-3
20-Alanzo Frink, senior, 5-0-6-16
12-Ithiel Horton, senior, 2-0-2-6
2-Kahlil Whitney, junior, 2-0-2-6
5-Naz Reid, senior, 8-1-3-22
22-Josh Pierre-Louis, junior, 2-1-1-8
3-Colby Rogers, junior, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Battle, Frink,
Horton, Whitney, Reid.
ROSELLE CATHOLIC CHAMPIONSHIPS UNDER HEAD COACH DAVE BOFF
BEFORE HISTORIC UCT QUARTERFINAL UPSET BY UNION
IN 2013 QUARTERFINALS:
Union County Conference-Valley Division: 2010
Union County Conference-Mountain Division: 2011
Union County Conference-Watchung Division: 2013, 2015, 2018
Union County Tournament: 2018
Non-Public, South B: 2013, 2014, 2015
Non-Public, North B: 2018
Non-Public, B: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2018
Tournament of Champions: 2013, 2015, 2018