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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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Thursday / March 23.
  • Hudson Catholic Could End St. Anthony’s Season, But Coach Wants Storied Opponent to Survive

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    Hudson Catholic coach Nick Mariniello has never beaten St. Anthony’s and legendary coach Bob Hurley.

    The two Catholic schools are Jersey City rivals and will meet Wednesday night in the highly anticipated North Non-Public B final at 8 p.m. at the Rutgers Athletic Center. The Friars are the No. 1 seed in the bracket and the defending New Jersey Tournament of Champions, while the Hawks are the No. 2 seed.

    Because of the school’s dire financial situation, the next game St. Anthony’s loses could be the final game ever played by the school’s basketball team. The potential final season is being documented by SHOWTIME Sports.

    “You know what, I don’t want them to close,” Mariniello said Tuesday by phone. “We don’t want to see any Catholic schools close, and especially them because it’s a storied institution with a storied coach and we want to be able to compete against that.

    “If they were to close then that doesn’t exist anymore. They set the gold standard on this stuff, so I don’t want St. Anthony’s to close.”

    Still, Mariniello and his players want to win this game.

    And they could.

    Hudson Catholic features a “Big Three” of high-level Division 1 juniors in point guard Jahvon Quinerly, shooting guard Luther Muhammad and small forward Louis King. The 6-foot-1 Quinerly is ranked No. 22 in the 2018 ESPN 60, while the 6-8 King is ranked No. 38. Both are being recruited at the highest levels, as is the 6-4 Muhammad.

    The Hawks have won their first two state tournament games — over Queen of Peace and Dwight Englewood — by a combined 85 points.

    The Friars won their first two — over Montclair Immaculate and Morristown-Beard– by a combined 54.

    “I think it’s a great opportunity,” Mariniello said. “We’re excited to get back to the RAC and compete at the highest level….I think we’re doing some good things right now.”

    Hurley knows full well the challenge that Hudson Catholic’s “Big Three” present.

    “They have three players who are putting up some significant numbers, so that’s unusual,” Hurley, 69, said Tuesday by phone. “Usually, unless you’re playing like a Patrick School or somebody, most of the time during the season you’re facing a team that’s got a good guard.

    “So this is unusual that you’ve got three different guys that you’ve got to guard. And their other players are not bad players. You can’t leave the other kids in trying to help.”

    Even though St. Anthony’s faces an uncertain future — again — Hurley, as usual at this time of year, is so caught up in the survive-and-advance mentality that he cannot even think about the fate of St. Anthony’s at this point.

    “We have a fundraiser in a couple weeks on the 23rd and we have a meeting at the beginning of April with the Archdiocese,” he said. “There’s a couple steps, we’ll see what comes.

    “It’s funny, as much as I care, when you’re playing in the state tournament, even all conversations about stuff like that takes a back seat to the nerves of just being a single elimination at this time of year.”

    ROSELLE CATHOLIC TO FACE PATRICK SCHOOL WITHOUT NAZ REID

    Roselle Catholic will face The Patrick School for a fourth time this season in the South Non-Public B final on Wednesday at Jackson Liberty High School, and will do so without 6-10 junior Naz Reid.

    Reid was ejected from the Lions win over St. Mary’s-Elizabeth because of an “unsportsmanlike act” that triggered a two-game suspension.

    Still, Roselle Catholic knocked off Gill St. Bernard’s, 54-41, on Monday night thanks to a Barry Brown three-pointer at the buzzer.

    The Celtics are 3-0 against the Lions this season — including a meeting in the Union County Tournament semifinals — and are the favorites to win the TOC.

    “The challenges of playing anybody the fourth time is that there’s so much knowledge of the other team, there’s so much familiarity, that the game becomes very difficult,” RC coach Dave Boff said by phone. “You have the question of whether you change what you did in the previous game and how much of the stuff that you feel you had success with do you try to stick with.

    “But this is something that us and The Patrick School have dealt with the past several years having played each other three or four times each of the last bunch of years. So we’re used to getting to this point in the state tournament and we’ll try to go there and have the best game plan that we can.”

    The Celtics, meantime, are coming off a 66-56 win over Bryan Antoine, Scottie Lewis and the Ranney School on Monday.

    “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.”

    Should St. Anthony’s and The Patrick School both win on Wednesday, they would stage a rematch of their Dan Finn Classic game in which the Celtics snapped the Friars’ 41-game winning streak, 51-47, on Jan. 14. That game will take place on Saturday in Toms River.

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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.