UNION – When Linden – which battled back from a 13-point first-half deficit – took its biggest lead of three with less than four minutes to go, there was a new sense of urgency for the Patrick School Celtics.
“We were a little scared,” said the game’s best player, PatrickSchool senior guard Dupree McBrayer.
It was McBrayer – who paced all scorers with an outstanding season-high 25-point performance – that restored order.
Following Quadri Moore’s third conventional 3-point play with 3:53 to go, McBrayer produced his second, banking a shot in the lane, getting fouled and hitting the ensuing free throw to tie the contest for the ninth and final time.
After Moore made one of two free throws to give Linden a one-point advantage for its fourth and final lead, four different Patrick School players scored – including McBrayer in the lane with 1:22 to go – which added up to a game ending nine-point run.
Fellow senior transfer Angel Delgado began the surge by scoring inside off an offensive rebound with 2:30 to go to put the Celtics back up for the sixth time and by one point.
While Linden called a timeout with 2:24 left, little did a full house at Harwood Arena realize that the Tigers would not score again.
Second-seededPatrickSchool dominated the final two minutes of the contest en route to a come-from-behind 62-54 triumph over top-seeded Linden in Saturday night’s 78th annual Frank J. Cicarell boys’ basketball Union County Tournament championship game at KeanUniversity.
In order to beat Linden again in a UCT final – the Celtics topped the Tigers in last year’s title game as well – the PatrickSchool had to be more aggressive in the final moments.
“We had to get stops and everyone had to play defense,” McBrayer said.
While Linden swept the PatrickSchool en route to capturing the Union County Conference’s Watchung Division championship, the Celtics ended up winning the UCT for the 16th time since 1993. Linden was seeking its first UCT crown since 2007. The Tigers have lost the last four times they reached the final.
The PatrickSchool won its 10th straight to improve to 20-5, while Linden had a five-game winning streak snapped and slipped to 20-4.
We could possibly see a rematch – a fourth game between the foes this year – in this month’s season-ending Tournament of Champions.
Saturday’s back-and-forth fourth quarter provided high drama until the PatrickSchool pulled away. Linden had the ball stolen away and then the Tigers missed their final four shots during the Celtics’ game-ending 9-0 run.
The PatrickSchool scored their final five points from the free throw line, making five of its last six attempts from the charity stripe.
Linden was led offensively by Moore with 14 points, although he did not score or even get off a field goal attempt in the third quarter.
“A lot of our game was containing Quadri Moore,” McBrayer said.
Next for Linden offensively was junior Quinton Dixon with four 3-pointers – he hit them from the left and right sides – for 12 points. Dixon connected on two in each half and made four-of-six attempts.
His last long-range basket – which bounced off the rim and fell in – gave Linden a 50-47 lead with 4:30 to go.
Fellow junior Juwan Dolbrice poured in 11 points.
Sophomore Bryce Aiken was the only other PatrickSchool player to score in double digits, finishing with 12 points, including two 3-pointers.
Linden went on an 11-0 run in the second quarter and ended the first half on a 14-3 surge to get to intermission down only by two at 30-28.
McBrayer – who opened the second-half scoring by hitting his third and final 3-pointer from the top of the key – displayed a game that saw him hit from outside, dunk his first basket and regularly go to the basket when he saw the slightest opening.
He made a team-high three 3-pointers, with the PatrickSchool totaling eight altogether.
McBrayer made back-to-back 3s – the first from the top of the key and the second from the right side – late in the first quarter to put the Celtics up 16-9.
The biggest PatrickSchool lead of 13 was 27-14 midway through the second period. Following the game’s third tie of 6-6, the Celtics went on a 21-8 run.
“I didn’t want to give stupid fouls,” McBrayer said. “My goal today was not to get into foul trouble.”
He didn’t and the PatrickSchool was the beneficiary, winning another county championship.
“It was all about preparation that got us here,” McBrayer said.
NOTES:Linden is now 10-18 in UCT finals and head coach Phil Colicchio 2-7 – all against Patrick School/St. Patrick.
Patrick School/St. Patrick is now 18-6 in UCT finals and head coach Chris Chevannes is 2-0.
The last year two public school teams played in the UCT final was 1992 when Ben Candelino-coached Elizabeth defeated Wilber Aikens-coached Linden 69-57.
That Linden team was sparked by the play of senior Waliyy Dixon, father of Linden junior Quinton Dixon.
UNION COUNTY TOURNAMENT FINAL AT KEAN
2-PATRICK SCHOOL (20-5) 18 12 13 19 – 62
1-LINDEN (20-4) 9 19 14 12 – 54
PATRICK SCHOOL CELTICS (62):
4- Jamir Harris, freshman, 0-2-2-8
12-Angel Delgado, senior, 2-0-1-5
11-Bryce Aiken, sophomore, 2-2-2-12
33-Dupree McBrayer, senior, 6-3-4-25
13-Cyril Langevine, sophomore, 1-0-1-3
0-Daniel Knight, senior, 0-0-4-4
1-Marcus McClary, freshman, 0-1-2-5
Starters: Harris, Delgado,
Aiken, McBrayer, Knight.
LINDEN TIGERS (54):
30-Quadri Moore, senior, 4-0-6-14
35-Quinton Dixon, junior, 0-4-0-12
3-Otis Livingston, junior, 1-0-4-6
23-Alonzo Hamilton, senior, 2-0-2-6
1-Juwan Dolbrice, junior, 3-1-2-11
12-Rick’Keem Mixson, sophomore, 1-0-0-2
2-Josh Carter, junior, 1-0-1-3
10-Juwan Jones, 0-0-0-0
Starters: Dolbrice, Jones,
Hamilton, Moore, Carter.
UNION COUNTY CONFERENCE-WATCHUNG DIVISION GAMES:
Jan. 9 at Patrick School:Linden 66, PatrickSchool 56
Jan. 30 at Linden:Linden 68, PatrickSchool 64
PatrickSchool’s last loss was at Linden on Jan. 30.