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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.
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Monday / April 22.
  • New Jersey Tournament of Champions Title As Wide Open as Ever

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    Karl Towns

    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    From Bob Hurley to Chris Chavannes to Dave Boff, the top high school coaches in New Jersey all agree on one thing as March Madness heats up.

    This year’s New Jersey Tournament of Champions will be as wide open as perhaps it’s ever been in the 25-year history of the event.

    Whereas in past years two or maybe three teams have been the heavy favorites to be the last team standing, as many as six or seven programs could win it all this year.

    The Tournament of Champions features New Jersey’s four public school winners and two private school winners in one six-team event.

    Several of the potential champs are in the Non-Public B bracket, which features defending champion Roselle Catholic, as well as St. Anthony, which has won the event 12 times under Hurley, and The Patrick School, which won it five times under former coach Kevin Boyle.

    St. Joe’s-Metuchen, which features Kentucky-bound big man Karl-Anthony Towns and plays in the Non-Public A bracket, is a contender after losing to Roselle Catholic in last year’s final.

    And public schools Newark East Side, Paterson Eastside and Linden are all contenders, too.

    “I definitely think that there’s a group of teams that can win it,” said Boff, who guided RC to its only TOC title last year. “Last year, I probably thought there was only maybe four that could. This year there’s probably a bunch more than that.”

    “It’s about as wide open as I’ve seen it since I’ve been at The Patrick School or St. Patrick High School,” said Chavannes, who succeeded Boyle and has been at the Elizabeth school for 28 years.

    In the 25-year history of the event, St. Anthony and St. Patrick have combined to win it 17 times, and both schools played in North Non-Public B.

    Once again this year, the Non-Public B bracket is the strongest overall, with St. Anthony and Hudson Catholic in the North, and Roselle Catholic, The Patrick School and Trenton Catholic in the South. But by the Non-Public Group Finals on March 15, only one of those teams will remain.

    “As happens, teams are going to knock each other off now and then some of the better teams in the state get eliminated in B,” Hurley said.

    Led by current UCLA guard Kyle Anderson, St. Anthony won back-to-back TOCs in 2011 and ’12, going 65-0 across those two seasons. Hurley’s teams also won three in a row from 1995-97 and two straight in 2001-2.

    Yet Hurley will be the first to admit that this St. Anthony team (23-4) — led by uncommited senior point guard Tarin Smith, BU-bound guard Cheddi Mosley and uncommitted junior forward Markis McDuffie — is not his strongest.

    “This is not one of St. Anthony’s better teams so we’re trying to keep ourselves relevant,” said Hurley, whose team plays Saddle River Day on Saturday and could face Hudson Catholic in the North B Final on Thursday at Rutgers. “When you’re in that situation, I’m not viewing the past, I’m totally dealing in the present right now. We have to practice  well every day and we have to listen to the scouting report every day. Our margin for error isn’t so good.

    “A lot of years we’ve had teams with no weaknesses and St. Pat’s has had teams with no weaknesses. St. Pat’s is very strong right now. They’re certainly a threat but we’re just taking it day-by-day.”

    As for St. Pat’s — now known as The Patrick School — –they beat Linden on Sunday to win their second straight Union County title and would appear to have as good a chance as anybody to win the school’s sixth TOC.

    The Celtics feature uncommitted senior guard Dupree McBrayer, who dropped 25 on Linden in the Union County final, sophomore point guard Bryce Aiken and Seton Hall-bound power forward Angel Delgado.

    “For us, it’s good to be in this situation but we remind our kids every day how wide open it is,” Chavannes sadi. “There’s no clearcut favorite.”

    The Patrick School meets Holy Spirit in one South B semifinal on Saturday, with Isaiah Briscoe , Asante Gist and Roselle Catholic meeting 2015 Syracuse pledge Malachi Richardson , Myles Powell and Trenton Catholic Academy in the other semi. The winners will face off Thursday for the South B title.

    “Obviously, if your best players don’t play well in these types of games, you’re not going to win,” Boff said. “So you expect your best kids to play well in these types of games. If you look at it that way and if everybody’s best kids play fairly well in these types of games, it really comes down to the supporting cast.

    “For example, the last time we played St. Pat’s in the [Union] semifinals, our top three scorers outscored their top three scorers, 50-44. They’re scorers 4-7 outscored our 4-7 guys 29-1. So that to me is as big a factor as anything else. In tomorrow’s game for us, everybody I’m sure is going to look at Isaiah and Asante and then Myles and Malachi. If all four of those guys play well, it’s going to come down to the supporting guys, how well do they play.”

    He added: “South B is just so brutal. Even if you win this game, you still have to play St. Pat’s or Holy Spirit, so its’ a long way away for all of us, getting to a TOC or anything like that.”

    In the Non-Public A bracket, the Kentucky-bound Towns is on a mission to close out his high school career with a TOC title, and is surrounded by Division 1 talent with Vanderbilt-bound guard Wade Baldwin and Canisius commit Raven Owen.

    “This is the biggest three weeks of Karl’s career,” his father, Karl Towns Sr., told Jerry Carino of Gannett New Jersey. “There’s only one thing left, and we all know what that is.”

    The 7-foot Towns and his teammates lost in last year’s final to Roselle Catholic and the year before lost to Plainfield in the semis.

    “These guys’ legacy is going to be, were they able to win the Tournament of Champions?” St. Joe’s coach Dave Turco told Carino. “That’s the bar that’s been set for them. As seniors now, I think they understand the finality of it.”

    Public powers Newark East Side, Paterson Eastside and Linden are all contenders, too.

    Newark East Side features Seton Hall-bound forward Ismael Sanogo, Linden has Cincinnati commit Quadri Moore and Paterson Eastside has Shakur Juiston.

    “In the other classifications, Paterson Eastside is a very strong team,” said Hurley, whose team knows because they lost to Eastside in January. “Newark East Side is extremely strong. Senior team, very physical, they play very good defense. Linden is excellent. So you’ve got those three in public school.”

    It’s up for grabs, and these next couple of weeks leading up to the start of the TOC on March 18 should be fascinating.

    LIST OF TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS WINNERS

    1989 – St. Anthony 62, Elizabeth 55

    1990 – Elizabeth 65, St. Anthony 62

    1991 – St. Anthony 63, Seton Hall Prep 39

    1992 – Shawnee 46, Marist 41

    1993 – St. Anthony 84, Middle Township 59

    1994 – Orange 64, Paterson Catholic 56

    1995 – St. Anthony 47, Shawnee 44

    1996 – St. Anthony 65, Shawnee 57 (OT)

    1997 – St. Anthony 69, Seton Hall Prep 63

    1998 – St. Patrick 62, Seton Hall Prep 49

    1999 – Seton Hall Prep 54, Teaneck 45

    2000 – Camden 50. Seton Hall Prep 46

    2001 – St. Anthony 48, Shabazz 47

    2002 – St. Anthony 69, Neptune 49

    2003 – St. Patrick 61, Camden Catholic 38

    2004 – St. Anthony 67, Bloomfield Tech 55

    2005 – Seton Hall Prep 63, St. Patrick 60

    2006 – St. Patrick 61, Linden 54

    2007 – St. Patrick 85, Bloomfield Tech 61

    2008 – St. Anthony 69, Science Park 36

    2009 – St. Patrick 59, Science Park 57

    2010 – Trenton Catholic 53, Camden Catholic 39

    2011 – St. Anthony 61, Plainfield 49

    2012 – St. Anthony 66, Plainfield 62

    2013 – Roselle Catholic 65, St. Joe’s-Metuchen 49

     

     

    Written by

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    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.

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