Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Paterson Catholic proved it was good enough to knock off one national power this year.
But downing a second proved to be too much to ask.
Behind North Carolina-bound guard Dexter Strickland’s 18 points and George Mason-commit Paris Bennett’s 17, St. Patrick beat Paterson Catholic 79-54 in the North Non-Public B title game at the Rutgers Athletic Center.
The two-time Passaic County champion Cougars were coming off just their second victory ever over Bob Hurley’s St. Anthony program Monday night in the semifinals. The Friars were the reigning Tournament of Champion winners.
St. Patrick will face Trenton Catholic for the Non-Public B state crown Saturday in Toms River.
“I think we’re going to keep it up and I think we’re going to keep winning,” Strickland said. “I don’t think any team is going to beat us. Hopefully, we get the TOC.”
Kyrie Irving added 14 points and Michael Gilchrist (pictured) had 10 for the Celtics, who are the prohibitive favorite to win their fifth Tournament of Champions crown. Gilchrist was initially diagnosed with a broken foot that would have kept him out the entire season, but it turned out to bone chips in his ankle.
Junior forward Fuquan Edwin paced the Cougars with 22 points but nobody else reached double-figures. Kyle Anderson and Myles Mack scored seven apiece.
The Cougars raced out to an 11-2 lead but the Celtics answered with a 16-4 spurt to take an 18-15 lead. The Celtics led 33-23 at the half and then outscored the Cougars 23-13 in the third quarter, when Irving scored nine points.
With three more wins, the Celtics would capture their third TOC title in four years.
“It would mean a lot,” Strickland said. “I don’t think anybody [at St. Patrick] won three state and county titles. It would mean a lot.”
EASTSIDE DOWNS PLAINFIELDWhile one Paterson team lost, another came out on top when Paterson Eastside downed Isaiah Epps and Plainfield, 70-67, in the North 1, Group 4 final at the Dunn Center.
Read Stefan Bondy’s game story linked above for the controversy surrounding Plainfield guard Tyrone Johnson , who nearly went into the stands before a game-changing technical was called.
Congrats to the Ghosts, who will play in the state final for the first time since 1975.
(Thanks to Alex Schwartz of Northstar Basketball for his coverage of the Paterson Catholic-St. Patrick game; Photos courtesy Star-Ledger, Bergen Record)
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.