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, N.J. -Two Silk City rivals will once again square off for the Passaic County boys basketball championship.
Top-seeded and defending champion Paterson Catholic will meet No. 2 Kennedy next Saturday at noon at Wayne Valley.
Junior guard Shondel Stewart scored a career-high 37 points and senior guard Asmar Edwards added 20 to lift the Knights to an emphatic 85-70 victory over No. 6 DePaul in the second game of a doubleheader at Kennedy.
In the first game, Jayon James scored a game-high 25 points to lead the Cougars over No. 4 Eastside, 63-55.
“It’s going to be really tough for us. We gotta come out there and play very hard from the door, just keep Fuquan Edwin off the boards and just keep pushing the ball up and down the court,” Stewart said of the final.
Kennedy (10) and Paterson Catholic (5) have combined to win 15 of the 38 tournaments played since its inception in 1971.
PC has appeared in five of the last seven finals, going 2-3 during that stretch.
Kennedy (20-4) last won in 2000 when it concluded a three-peat.
DePaul’s last lead came at 13-11 in the first quarter before Kennedy scored nine unanswered points to take a 20-13 lead. Stewart scored seven straight in the run.
“Coach Ring just told me to come out and play my game,” Stewart said. “Play very aggressive, play both ends of the court hard. And my teammates just kept finding the hot man, they kept giving me the ball.”
Playing an attacking, up-tempo style, Kennedy made numerous steals and led 44-26 at the half and 68-49 after three.
Antoine Alexander added 13 points for Kennedy, which played without speedy guard Daquere Hayes, who is out an injury to two bones in his left hand.
St. Joseph’s-bound combo guard Justin Crosgile struggled to score while being defended by Edwards and finished with 16 points for DePaul (16-7). Matt Miller led the Spartans with 18 points and Keith Ford added 11.
In the first game, the 6-5 James looked tremendous in earning MVP honors. He scored in transition. He scored on short jumpers. And he scored near the basket.
“That’s my highest for the season,” James said. “That’s probably my highest for my Paterson Catholic career. It’s good to have a career-high against a Paterson team if you’re a Paterson kid, so I just love it.”
PC head coach Damon Wright said the idea going in was to get James the basketball in the paint so he could utilize his post moves.
“That was the game plan. We wanted to get him the basketball inside and make him make plays,” Wright said. “Get him the basketball. He’s basically our best post player.”
Despite playing with a score back, the 6-5 Edwin added 12 points and seven rebounds for PC. The Cougars were without Fordham-bound senior wing Lance Brown and junior forward Trevor Clemmings, both out with knee injuries.
“[Edwin] is definitely not 100 percent. His back is still bothering him a little bit, but he gave what he had,” Wright said. “He missed some free throws but he did what he could do.”
David Robertson-West scored a team-high 24 points for Eastside (14-8), including 13 straight in the fourth quarter when the Ghosts cut 15-point second-half deficit to four on a 3-pointer byRobert Morris-bound guard Karon Abraham (11 points).
After Abraham’s bucket cut it to 59-55, PC closed the game on 4-0 run, getting two foul shots apiece from Myles Mack and two from James.
Paterson Catholic took a 28-17 halftime lead behind 14 points fromJames, who looks great, and five apiece from Edwin and sophomore point guard Mack.
***Seton Hall assistant Scott Adubato was on hand checking out Edwin and 6-5 freshman point Kyle Anderson. He’s going tonight to watch 6-11 big man Jarrid Famous of Westchester Community College.
***The Fordham-bound Brown did not play and could shut it down for the rest of the season because of soreness in his left knee. He had surgery in January on his meniscus and says it’s been weak and sore since then. He ices it several times a day and may try to play if the Cougars meet St. Anthony in the Non-Public B semifinals on March 9. “I really want to play in that game,” he said.
“He’s going to rehab for the next two weeks and we’ll see,” Wright said. “If the doctor says he’s fine, then he’s absolutely going to be out there.”
After losing to St. Anthony last year, the Cougars could face the Friars again in this year’s semis. And this year PC has a real shot at knocking off a St. Anthony team that is lacking a true point guard but is strong in the frontcourt.
“Time will tell,” Wright said. “Of course I would love to have Lance Brown back. We’re definitely going to make a push at it.”***Clemmings, a 6-6, 260-pound junior forward, is also out with a bruised knee but hopes to be back for Saturday’s championship game at Wayne Valley. He once received basketball scholarship offers from Seton Hall and Rutgers.
Now Clemmings, a defensive end on the PC football team with just one year of organized experience, has football offers from Rutgers, Notre Dame, Duke and Maryland. RU football coach Greg Schiano flew a helicopter from Rutgers to PC and landed on the football field just so he could talk with Clemmings one day.
“It was cool,” Clemmings said. “That never happened before in PC history.”
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.