“Yeah, we played against each other a lot of times,” Richards said of the 7-1 Brown, who finished with 19 points. “Whenever we go against each other, it becomes a little crazy, the whole New York-New Jersey rivalry starts to come in, who’s trying to be the best big between the two [states]?”
He added: “It was obviously a slow start for me but I tried to play my best. Obviously, the foul trouble took me out of my groove.”
Minnesota-bound shooting guard Jamir Harris led the Celtics (19-4) with 24 points, including six three-pointers. Junior big man Valdir Manuel added 14 points, and Monmouth-bound guard Marcus McClary had 10 points. Senior point guard Jordan Walker dished 13 assists.
“So far this season that was one of my better games,” Harris said.
On Monday, USA Today ranked The Patrick school No. 22 in its Super 25, while MaxPreps ranked them at No. 10.
Molloy features three high-major prospects in Brown, junior wing Khalid Moore and sophomore point guard Cole Anthony, the son of former NBA point guard Greg Anthony. So this was a good test for the Celtics heading into the Union County Tournament and then the brutal Non-Public South B state tournament bracket.
“Coming into every game we want to play the same way,” Harris said. “We wanted to come in and give it our best effort on both sides of the floor and come out with a victory, so we were able to do that. So going into the playoffs, it’s a good sign.”
Entering the game, the Richards-Brown matchup was the focal point, but Richards has been battling the flu and said he wasn’t 100 percent.
“I thought Moses played well, I think Nick was in foul trouble so I don’t think we got to see the best of Nick Richards today,” Molloy coach Mike McCleary said.
After the game, Richards sat next to Calipari and Tony Barbee and chatted for a few minutes. Calipari was on hand to see several prospects besides Richards, including sophomore sensations Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis, who played in the last game of the day.
“I don’t really pay attention to when he’s in the crowd,” Richards said of Calipari. “I just try to bring my game whenever it’s time.”
Richards and his teammates now have a week off before the quarterfinals of the Union County Tournament on Saturday. They are the defending champs and have won three of four.
But their sites are set on bigger things than just the counties. Led by five Division 1-bound seniors, the Celtics are looking to win the school’s sixth New Jersey Tournament of Champions title and first since transitioning from St. Patrick’s to The Patrick School.
They will need a healthy and strong Richards leading the way to accomplish that feat in the coming weeks.
“Just try to take it one game at a time,” he said. “Hopefully we win everything. We can’t lose any more games from here on out.”
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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 whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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.