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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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Wednesday / March 22.
  • Kentucky-Bound Nick Richards Leads The Patrick School Past Ranney and Into State Sectional Final

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    By DENNIS CHAMBERS

    RAHWAY, N.J. — The Patrick School continued its road towards the ultimate goal Monday night with a 66-56 victory over the Ranney School in the South Non-Public B semifinals at Rahway High School.

    The ultimate goal would be a victory in the New Jersey Tournament of Champions later this month.

    Ranked No. 1 in the state all season, the Celtics go in to each playoff matchup with the bigger picture in the back of their minds .

    “No question this team’s goals are to win a state championship and a ToC,” co-head coach Mike Rice said about his team’s ambitions. “When you’re at the top of the food chain for as many weeks as we’ve been your goal is to win. So, we’ll win. No doubt our goals are state championship and ToC.”

    The Celtics will now face rival Roselle Catholic for a fourth time this season in the South Non-Public B final on Wednesday night at Jackson Liberty (7 p.m.). The Lions beat Gill St. Bernard’s, 54-51, on Monday despite being without junior big man Naz Reid, whose status for Wednesday’s game is uncertain. The Patrick School is 3-0 against Roselle Catholic this season, including a win in the Union County semifinals.

    Reigning ToC champion St. Anthony’s will face Hudson Catholic in the North Non-Public B final on Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Rutgers. The winners of those two games will then play for the Non-Public B state title on Saturday in Toms River.

    On the back of their Kentucky-bound big man and McDonald’s All-American, Nick Richards, The Patrick School was able to out-muscle Ranney. Richards was guarded most of the night by Scottie Lewis — the No. 4-ranked player in the class of 2019, a small forward by nature — and while Lewis used his athleticism to hold his own, the 6-11 Richards was ultimately too much to handle. He scored 10 points, all on dunks.

    “I thought Scottie Lewis did an incredible job on him,” said Rice, who coaches Lewis with Team Rio. “But Nick’s hard. Nick’s 6-foot-11, he has tremendous physical tools. So we wanted to do everything we can to keep giving him the ball.”

    Lewis wasn’t worried about a size-advantage when preparing to face Richards. He welcomed the matchup with open arms.

    “All three practices before this St. Pat’s game, I asked for him,” Lewis said. “I asked to guard Nick. Coach was going to give him to me anyway because he knows my mentality, he knows the heart that I have and he knows the drive that I have. He knew I was going to do anything I had to to stop him. I think I did a pretty good job for someone who is 6-foot-10 going to Kentucky. I did my job. He did have like five dunks against us, but I did my best.”

    Even though Ranney came in as the underdog, losing a game that was 56-52 with four minutes to play doesn’t sit well with Lewis and his teammates.

    “As a team that normally wins, a team that loves to win, that hates losing any game that we lose is going to be hard,” Lewis said. “No matter who it’s to, no matter how hard we played. We gave it our best, we tried. The coaches did what they were supposed to do, we executed … We did not want our season to end.”

    Lewis and teammate Bryan Antoine — ranked No. 11 in the Class of 2019 — will enter next season in a position to hold the torch as New Jersey’s supreme leader with senior-heavy Patrick School headed to the next level of basketball.

    “We’re gonna have such a big chip on our shoulder, we have to,” Lewis said about contending for a state title next season.

    The Patrick School isn’t looking to next season however, they believe their time is right now.

    “This season is supposed to be ToC or bust,” point guard Jordan Walker said. “Literally, there is nothing else. If we don’t get a ToC, I feel like we failed ourselves.”

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