TRENTON, N.J. — The much-anticipated battle between Syracuse commit Tyler Roberson and Kentucky pledge Karl Towns Jr. did not live up to the hype after all.
Roberson outscored Towns Jr. 19-7 as head coach Dave Boff and Roselle Catholic won their first-ever New Jersey Tournament of Champions title, 65-49, over St. Joe’s-Metuchen before a crowd of 6,084 at Sun National Bank Center.
“It’s a good feeling,” the 6-foot-9 Roberson, who had a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds to go with two blocks, told SNY.tv. “I always wanted one [a state title] when I was in middle school and high school. It was like a dream and now it’s come true. So it’s just amazing.”
Roselle Catholic had previously knocked off two-time defending TOC winner St. Anthony, led by Hall of Famer Bob Hurley, in the Non-Public B title game.
Roberson, part of a heralded five-man recruiting class at Syracuse that also includes St. Benedict’s Prep point guard Tyler Ennis, scored 17 points in the second half after St. Joe’s (27-4) closed to within 28-27.
RC (25-5) outscored St. Joe’s, 39-33 after the break, but then managed to accidentally break the trophy in the interview room.
“I think [Roberson] saved us almost in the second half,” said Roberson’s teammate, Malachi Richardson.
A sophomore wing, Richardson carried the Lions in the first half, scoring 14 of his game-best 22 points. He was a perfect 5-of-5 from the arc on the night.
“I just go it going and tried to keep it going,” Richardson said.
Richardson’s performance came in his hometown of Trenton, making it all that more special. He has since moved to East Orange.
“That’s great, that’s the best feeling in the world, knowing I came here and did it,” Richardson told SNY.tv. “It’s perfect, watching LeBron and Carmelo go here and play and kill, it’s just a great feeling to be here and win it.”
Richardson holds offers from some of the top programs in the nation, including Indiana, Ohio State and Georgetown, as well as Rutgers, Seton Hall and others.
“He’s a pro,” one high-major coach who attended the game told SNY.tv.
On a night when his future school lost at Robert Morris, 59-57, in the first round of the NIT, Towns Jr. also came up short.
The 7-foot-1 1/2 Kentucky commit managed just seven points on 3-of-12 shooting to go with five rebounds and three blocks.
Marques Townes led St. Joe’s with 17 points and Wade Baldwin added 13 on 5-of-11 shooting.
Towns Jr. did not touch the ball in the paint often and his teammates weren’t looking to feed him the ball there, either. No pick-and-roll, no pick-and-pop, not much to get the big guy going.
“They had defensive intensity against me,” Towns Jr. said. “Every time I turned around there were three people around me, three people around me. So I had to get my teammates open. And they did a good job of taking outlet passes away.”
On this night, Roberson and his teammates got the better of him and the Syracuse pledge ended his career with a state title.
“Karl’s a great player,” Roberson said. “I think he played a great game. I think defensively we did a good job on him.”
Rutgers coach Mike Rice, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard and former Rutgers coach Freddie Hill were in attendance. Rice and Willard were scouting Wade Baldwin of St. Joe’s and Malachi Richardson and freshman PG Asante Gist of RC….RC coach Dave Boff and Gill St. Bernard’s coach Mergin Sina will coach the Jersey team in the Jordan Regional Game April 13 at Barclays Center.
Photo: Tony Kurdzuk/Star-Ledger