A season that began nearly four months ago with the beginning of official practice has come down to a game of 32 minutes.
This game will determine which of this year’s six state champions will be hoisting another championship trophy.
For a refreshing change we have two teams in the final game of the year for the first time.
On Tuesday night at the Sun National Bank Center in Trenton it will be second-seeded St. Joseph’s of Metuchen – the repeat Non-Public, A state champion – vs. top-seeded Roselle Catholic – the first-time Non-Public, B state champ – in the 25th annual Tournament of Champions boys’ basketball championship game.
For the first time in three years both parochial state champions reached the TOC final and also for the first time in three years it will be the top two seeds battling for the crown.
St. Joseph’s, which last year made its TOC debut, comes in with a 27-4 record and a 13-game winning streak. The Falcons, who also repeated as Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament champions, last loss on Feb. 2, which was a 72-65 decision to the Patrick School of Elizabeth in the Butch Kowal Scholarship Games at Rahway High School.
Roselle Catholic, which is making its TOC debut right now, is 24-5 and on a seven-game winning streak since falling to underdog Union 64-63 on Feb. 16 in a Union County Tournament quarterfinal at Johnson High School in Clark.
This will be the first meeting between the parochial powers this season. Roselle Catholic defeated the last team that beat St. Joseph’s – the Patrick School – three times in three tries, including in the Non-Public, South B final at Rahway.
After capturing the program’s first sectional championship since the early 1960s and its first state title, Roselle Catholic is now one win away from becoming the third school from Union County – Elizabeth was the first and the Patrick School the second – to capture a TOC championship.
Union County has now had a team in the TOC final for the third straight year, the fourth time in the past five seasons and for the seventh time since 2005 – the only exceptions being in 2008 and 2010.
Not only did St. Joseph’s and Roselle Catholic reach their first TOC final, but they also captured their first TOC wins in Friday night’s semifinals at Monmouth University in West Long Branch.
Both were very decisive in victory, with St. Joseph’s first taking out third-seeded Atlantic City 63-49 before Roselle Catholic ousted fifth-seeded Newark Tech 78-64.
Atlantic City, which repeated as Group 4 state champions for the first time, had a 19-game winning streak snapped and finished 30-2. Its only other loss – also by 14 points – was to St. Anthony 45-31 on Jan. 19 in the Dan Finn Classic at the Jersey City Armory.
Group 2 state champion Newark Tech, which appeared in its second TOC and first since 1991, finished 23-9.
More to come.
UNION COUNTY TEAMS IN TOC FINALS:
The Patrick School: (5-1) – won in 1998, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009;
lost in 2005.
Elizabeth: (1-1) – won in 1990; lost in 1989.
Plainfield: (0-2) – lost in 2011 and 2012.
Linden: (0-1) – lost in 2006.
Roselle Catholic: (0-0) – reached final in 2013.