Special to ZAGSBLOG
TOMS RIVER, N.J. — With a resounding 98-80 win over Newark Tech in the quarterfinal round of the Tournament of Champions at Pine Belt Arena, Roselle Catholic is focused hard on attaining a second consecutive TOC title and their lead guard, Isaiah Briscoe, will do anything on the court to achieve that goal.
For Briscoe, it would be his first TOC title after transferring last summer from St. Benedict’s Prep, which does not compete in the state tournament.
“I think we’ve been playing like this since it’s been win or go home,” Briscoe said. “You know, I think everybody, well, the core group [of our team] wants to repeat and I want to get my first [TOC title]. I just think that everybody just clicked. Win or go home, nobody wants to go home, we want to win the TOC just like everybody else so we have to do whatever it takes.”
Roselle Catholic coach Dave Boff’s squad began to pull away quickly behind Briscoe, Matt Bullock and Asante Gist. Briscoe finished with 22 points and six assists while Gist provided 21 points and Bullock added in 18 points and eight rebounds. For Newark Tech, they were led by R.J. Cole with 26 points and CJ Webb with 16 points.
Roselle Catholic will play Seton Hall commit Ismael Sanogo and Newark East Side in the semifinals of the TOC at Monmouth University on Thursday. Cincinnati pledge Quadri Moore will lead Linden against Kentucky-bound Karl-Anthony Towns and St. Joe’s-Metuchen in the other semifinal.
The finals are on Monday at Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton.
Briscoe and Gist worked hard early on to get Newark Tech sophomore Mustafa Lawrence and his teammates in foul trouble and once that occurred, Newark Tech was very limited with what they were able to do against a very talented RC squad.
Boff talked about what kind of team his Roselle Catholic squad could be if they were at full strength or close to it.
“I certainly spent some time thinking about how good we could be if it all came together,” he said. “But I also spent a lot of days wondering if this was just going to be one of those years where it didn’t work out for us. I’m really proud of the kids, that they stuck together and hung in there through the adversity. Now, they’ve seen the benefits of that belief and so I’m really proud of them for that.”
He also discussed his team’s prospects for the potentially winning the final two rounds of the TOC.
“I mean, at this point, it’s so difficult to win games,” Boff said. “You’ve got to play well. You’ve got to make shots. You need a break here or there probably. Are we capable of winning? Absolutely, but so are the other teams that are left so you know, we’ll have to come out and play well on Thursday for sure.”
Briscoe and his team will get a chance to face the Seton Hall-bound Sanogo. Seton Hall is recruiting Briscoe and Briscoe is from Newark.
“You know, it’s great,” he said. Ismael’s a great competitor. Every time we play against each other, it’s just great to compete with guys like that. I’m from Newark, so is everybody from East Side, it’s just great. We’re just going to go out there, have fun, but most of all, just compete.”
Briscoe said he rooted for East Side to win last year.
“Like I said, last year when I wasn’t playing, I wanted East Side to win it,” Briscoe said. “I’m cool with the assistant coach, that core group and things like that. This year, they’re just playing tremendous. I give big ups to East Side and things like that, but on Thursday, you know, we’ve got to tune in at practice and we’ve got to go out there and play basketball.”
Both Briscoe and RC forward Chris Silva -- who will have Miami coach Jim Larranaga watching him on Thursday – are also keeping an eye on the NCAA Tournament.
“I’m not favoring any schools,” Briscoe said. “I mean, of course, one of my best friends is [Syracuse freshman] Tyler [Ennis] so of course I want Tyler to win. Another one of my best friends, [Pitt's] Mike [Young] so of course I want Pittsburgh to win. I want to see both of them do well.”
Said Silva: “It’s only one year and a half that I’ve been here. I’m not really watching too much. I am watching a couple college basketball teams, but not that much. I’m trying to stay focused on school because it’s difficult for me. Even with the tournament, I’m trying to be a lot more focused on school. I’ll just take the games in when I can, but I’m not really focused on one team.”
LINDEN DEFEATS PITMAN IN BIZARRE FINISH
For such a thrilling contest, the ending turned out to be very anticlimactic in a game that saw Linden defeat Pitman, 64-60.
With the game tied at 60, Linden called a timeout to draw up one last play to try and win the game, but the problem with getting that play to work was the illegal advantage Pitman had on the court: six defenders.
A technical foul was called and Linden junior guard Otis Livingston stepped up to knock down two free throws with two seconds remaining in the game. Quinton Dixon was then fouled as his Linden team tried to inbound the ball and made both free throws to seal the victory for the Tigers.
Linden withstood a furious rally from Pitman in the fourth quarter as their eight-point lead disintegrated over the final five minutes. Pitman even had a chance to take a lead with 13 seconds left, but a missed foul shot by Eric Stafford allowed Linden to call a timeout and set up the final play. From there, a wild sequence took place that allowed Linden to take their place in the TOC semifinals with some very poised free throw shooting in the final seconds.
Linden was led by Cincinnati commit Quadri Moore, who had 14 of his 19 points in the second half and grabbed 9 rebounds. Aiding Moore’s efforts were Juwan Jones with 11 points and Rick’Keem Mixon who chipped in with 11 points off the bench.
Photo: (Andrew Mills/The Star-Ledger)