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.
Kentucky-Bound Towns Jr. Wins Second Straight State Title
By ALEX SCHIFFERSpecial to ZAGSBLOGTOMS RIVER, N.J. — If opponents were stumped on how to shut down 7-foot-1 Karl Towns Jr. during the regular season, then they don’t even want to hear about how well he’s performing in the postseason.
The Kentucky-bound junior has been on fire throughout the playoffs this season, leading his St. Joe’s-Metuchen team to their fourth straight Middlesex County title and, on Saturday, their second straight New Jersey Non-Public A title by beating St. Peter’s Prep, 57-47, at Toms River High School North’s Pine Belt Arena.
St. Joe’s now expects to be among the top two or three seeds for next week’s New Jersey Tournament of Champions, which is now wide open after Roselle Catholic upset two-time defending TOC winner St. Anthony, 48-44, in the Non-Public B final behind 13 points and 11 boards from Syracuse-bound forward Tyler Roberson.
Towns Jr., Kentucky’s lone pledge for 2014, finished with just 12 points and 5 rebounds to help guide the Falcons to their second straight state crown. Towns averaged 27.3 points and 15.3 rebounds on his way to tournament MVP honors.
Many think Towns Jr.’s 34 point, 15 rebound performance against Spotswood with future coach John Calipari watching was has been his best game this season.
After an opening-night loss to East Brunswick to start the season, chemistry issues swirled around the Falcons. Many thought that the team’s “Big 3” of Towns, Wade Baldwin and Marques Townes couldn’t play as one cohesive unit, yet as the season continued the three were able to make the necessary adjustments and play as a team.
“We’ve come a really long way,” Towns Jr. said. “With our team we usually had one guy that goes over 30 points but now our scoring has started to balance out among all of us. I think we took one out of St. Anthony’s book because we don’t all have to score 30 in order to win.”
After reaching the TOC for the first time in school history last season, the Falcons lost in the semifinals to Plainfield.
This time around, Towns Jr. wants to send seniors Jimbo Long and James Ziemba off with a TOC title; the duo has already became the school’s winningest class by recording their 100th career win Saturday.
“You develop a bond with these guys on and off the court and you want to send them off into college as winners not as losers,” Towns Jr. said. “Right now we’re taking it one game at a time, but for us a lot of our motivation is sending the seniors off right.”
Towns Jr. currently sits at 969 career points, meaning he could get to 1,000 if the Falcons play two more games in the TOC. If Towns Jr. and St. Joe’s keeps playing the way they have been the past few games, he could reach the feat while sending the seniors off with the Falcons first TOC crown.
Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, 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.