FRANKLIN – With the game, the season, the sectional championship and a berth in the state championship game on the line, it was business as usual for Roselle Catholic junior guard Richie Greaves.
With the Lions barely clinging to a one-point lead, Greaves stepped up to the free throw line for the first time with just 29.2 seconds remaining. Gill St. Bernard’s had just committed its seventh foul – starter William Soucie fouling out – and Greaves was put in the first 1-and-1 situation of the second half.
What Greaves was about to do was going to play a big part in determining the outcome.
“I knew my team needed me to make both,” Greaves said.
Blocking out the increasing crowd noise that filled the gym at Franklin High, Greaves calmly sank the first free throw – straight on. He did the same with his second shot.
“We practice free throws as a team every day, it’s nothing new,” Greaves added.
Roselle Catholic’s Kentucky-bound senior guard Kahlil Whitney came up with a huge rebound just prior to the two Greaves free throws – when Gill had a chance to take its second lead of the game – and then afterwards came up with a big steal and – after getting fouled – he made two free throws to give the Lions the insurance they needed.
For the second time in two tries this year, both away from home, Roselle Catholic edged Gill by single digits, with both games played in the 40s.
Top-seeded and defending champion Roselle Catholic defeated second-seeded Gill St. Bernard’s 48-44 in Wednesday night’s Non-Public, North B sectional state championship game. At Gill on Jan. 25, RC came out on top 48-47.
In last year’s Non-Public, North B final at Rutgers, the Lions defeated the Knights 57-40 after also winning at Gill early in the season by a 65-58 count.
Roselle Catholic won its eighth straight to improve to 28-3 and will next take on repeat Non-Public, South B champ Ranney in Saturday’s 7 p.m. Non-Public, B state championship game at Toms River North. RC topped Ranney 63-61 in last year’s game at TRN.
Also 28-3, Ranney needed overtime to oust Wildwood Catholic 54-50 in their sectional state championship game played Wednesday night at Jackson Liberty.
The regular season matchup between RC and Ranney went to Ranney this time by the score of 61-49 on Jan. 30 at Brookdale Community College. RC’s only loss to a team from New Jersey this year was its defeat at the hands of Ranney, ranked No. 1 in the state. RC is ranked No. 2.
Gill, the Somerset County Tournament champion for the fifth straight year, had an eight-game winning streak snapped and finished at 26-5. The Knights also won the Skyland Conference’s Delaware Division title with a 9-1 league mark.
Roselle Catholic – which also captured its second straight Union County Tournament championship and repeated as undefeated Union County Conference-Watchung Division champions – won Non-Public, North B for the sixth time in the past seven seasons.
For Greaves making those highly-important free throws, there was never any doubt.
“I knew I was making them,” Greaves said.
“Richie is a great free throw shooter and tough as nails,” Roselle Catholic head coach Dave Boff said. “We always feel very confident when he’s at the line.”
After an RC turnover – a pass getting by Whitney – Gill came down with the ball and a chance to take the lead, behind only 44-43. Gill’s only lead of the game was 25-24 very early in the third quarter and for just a very brief time.
The third Gill pass went to Rutgers-bound senior guard Paul Mulcahy, who took a 3 from the top of the key. His shot bounced off the rim and into the arms of Whitney.
After Gill sophomore guard Tristan Jeffries made only one of three free throw attempts with 11.5 seconds left to make it a 46-44 game, Colby Rogers came down with the rebound for the Lions and was immediately fouled. However, Rogers missed his first free throw attempt.
Mulcahy came down with the ball and pushed past half court. However, he lost control of the ball before he could get a shot off, with Whitney falling to the ground to grab the ball away. Whitney was then quickly fouled.
With 2.3 seconds left Whitney – who was Roselle Catholic’s only scorer in double digits with a team-high 15 – made consecutive free throws for the game’s final points. His only other two free throw attempts came in the second quarter, both short of being successful.
“We had to make a play and Whitney did there, getting to a loose ball we needed,” Boff said. “Then he made two, huge free throws to ice the game.”
Soucie picked up a third foul in the first quarter and did not return until the second half. Meanwhile, following the game’s second and final tie at 8-8, a 3-point basket by Rogers – his second of three – began a 12-0 Roselle Catholic run that gave the Lions the first of their two 12-point leads at 20-8.
Roselle Catholic then led again by 12 at 22-10 before Gill answered with an 11-0 run to pull to within 22-21. It started with a 3-pointer by Jeffries and continued with eight straight points by junior center Zach Martini, who led all scorers with 19 points, 12 coming in the first half. He was also his team’s lone scorer with at least 10.
Martini followed making consecutive free throws by pouring in two straight 3s, the first one from the top of the key and the second one hitting only the bottom of the net, launched from the left side.
A layup off an RC steal by Greaves halted the run and managed to give the Lions a 24-21 advantage at the break. Those were the first points scored by Greaves, who finished with six.
So now for the second straight year we get RC vs. Ranney after the teams met in the regular season. In last year’s regular season matchup at Brookdale, the Lions came out on top 75-49.
“We’ll start to think about Ranney a bit later,” Boff said. “It seems that in New Jersey it works out (top two ranked teams facing each other) that way.”
“We made way too many turnovers the first time we played Ranney,” Greaves said. “We’re playing much better together – as a team – now.”
What it’s going to take for RC to get past Ranney for the first time this year is most likely what it took for the Lions to overcome Gill a second time.
“Both Gill games came down to a couple of guys making plays, shots and rebounds,” Boff said.
Mulcahy scored all seven of his points in the second half. Mulcahy, missing the second; and Jeffries, missing the second and third of three attempts, both had chances to knot the game late in the fourth quarter, but did not do so by missing free throws.
NON-PUBLIC, NORTH B SECTIONAL STATE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
2-Gill St. Bernard’s (26-5) 08 13 13 10 – 44
1-Roselle Catholic (28-3) 11 13 13 11 – 48
2-GILL ST. BERNARD’S KNIGHTS (44):
1-Tristan Jeffries, sophomore, 0-1-1-4
4-Paul Mulcahy, senior, 1-1-2-7
54-Zach Martini, junior, 4-3-2-19
2-Denver Anglin, freshman, 1-2-0-8
33-Connor Murphy, senior, 3-0-0-6
0-William Soucie, junior, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Soucie, Anglin,
Mulcahy, Murphy, Martini.
1-ROSELLE CATHOLIC LIONS (48):
2-Kahlil Whitney, senior, 5-1-2-15
22-Richie Greaves, junior, 2-0-2-6
10-Ahmand Robinson, junior, 0-1-2-5
3-Colby Rogers, senior, 0-3-0-9
11-Cliff Omoyuri, junior, 2-0-2-6
4-Josh Pierre-Louis, senior, 2-1-0-7
Starters: Whitney, Rogers,
Pierre-Louis, Omoyuri, Greaves.