For the first time Roselle Catholic is the king of boys’ basketball in New Jersey.
Hail to the Lions!
Top-seeded Roselle Catholic was more-than-decisive in downing second-seeded St. Joseph, Metuchen 65-49 Tuesday night in the 25th annual Tournament of Champions championship game at the Sun National Bank Center in Trenton.
Roselle Catholic became the third school from Union County – joining one-time champion Elizabeth and five-time champ Patrick School – to win the TOC. RC also became the second school from Union County to win its first TOC final, joining the Patrick School, which did so in 1998.
Roselle Catholic sophomore Malachi Richardson led all scorers with a 22-point performance that included him making all five of his 3-point field goal attempts.
RC senior Tyler Roberson, who will next play for Syracuse, added 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
Roselle Catholic, which finished 25-5 and on an eight-game winning streak since falling to Union in the quarterfinals of the Union County Tournament back on Feb. 16, won the second quarter 16-6 to lead 26-16 at the break.
The Lions won the all-important fourth quarter 23-14.
Senior Marques Towns paced the Falcons, who had a 13-game winning streak snapped and finished 27-5, with 17 points.
Sophomore sensation and Kentucky-bound 7-0 center Karl Towns was limited to seven points, although he did reach 1,000 for his two-year career.
ROSELLE CATHOLIC’S LOSS TO UNION WAS NOT THAT STUNNING
The more I think of it, the more Roselle Catholic’s loss to Union was not that stunning.
There are several reasons.
First of all, there was no team Union would have rather beat in a tournament setting than Roselle Catholic, especially since Union lost to RC both times they played in Union County Conference-Watchung Division play.
Secondly, RC had Tyler Roberson, the senior Syracuse-bound talent who left Union after his sophomore year to transfer to Roselle Catholic to play one-and-a-half seasons.
Third, it was the third time Union would face RC and this time on a neutral court – Johnson High School’s Louis J. Peragallo Gymnasium in Clark.
Fourth, Union head coach Kevin Feeley was an assistant coach on RC head coach Dave Boff’s staff during Boff’s first four seasons at the helm of the Lions. Feeley is an up-and-coming coach whose dedication to the sport and passion to his players will always be second-to-none.
Lastly, it turned out to be the last bump in the road for Roselle Catholic, which at the time had still not hit its stride yet, despite posting some impressive victories. In the game before, Roselle Catholic had to come back to survive beating conference-crossover foe Westfield by just three points on the road.
While the game unfolded and Union began to chip away from being down by 10 in the third quarter, I still didn’t believe Union was going to pull it out.
Roberson went to the bench with his fourth foul with exactly 5:00 to go in the third quarter. Union trailed by five.
When Roberson went back in the game – with 7:18 left – Union still trailed by five. Amazingly, Union did not close the deficit with Roberson on the bench, but then outscored RC by six points the rest of the way when Roberson was in the game.
RC defeated Union by more than 30 points at home and by 16 on the road in division play. The Lions, especially with Roberson, were still supposed to beat Union and beat the Farmers pretty good in the UCT quarterfinals.
Union was 10-12 that night.
And Roselle Catholic still did not beat the Farmers again.
Union was 10-12 for good reason. The Farmers compete in, arguably, the toughest league in the state – the Watchung Division.
As Union got closer, I said to myself, “man, if RC loses, Boff will get killed.”
One reason I said that to myself and to one other person was because last year RC reached the UCT final for only the second time and first time since 1963. Going backwards immediately by getting ousted in the quartefinals as the top seed to the eighth seed was not in the script for the Lions.
After reaching the final last season for the first time in 49 years, Roselle Catholic was supposed to get back to the final this year and this time win the UCT for the first time in program history.
It didn’t happen.
Then as I thought about it I said, “in order to make up for this, RC has to at least go out and win Non-Public, South B, which will mean either beating a team it lost to – Gill – or a team it already defeated twice in division play – The Patrick School – in the final. That was also if RC was good enough to get to the final.
Not only did the Lions win Non-Public, South B for the first time by posting a decisive third win over The Patrick School, but then Roselle Catholic went out and topped two-time defending champion St. Anthony in the Non-Public, B state championship game.
While Roselle Catholic is still in search of its first county championship, the Lions went out and captured their first sectional, state and TOC crowns.
Those three championships made up for losing to Union in the UCT quarterfinals. The loss to a grittly, scrappy and gutsy Farmers team was not that bad. Union needed a shot right before the buzzer by senior guard Erick Lofton-Harris to win the game by just one point.
Had Roselle Catholic won that game and gone on to have won the UCT for the first time would the Lions then have captured their first sectional, state and TOC crowns?
It’s a good question, perhaps one to ponder during a long off-season.
JR Parachini covered the Feb. 16 UCT quarterfinal on a Saturday night in Clark when Union came back to beat Roselle Catholic 64-63.