Duke, Carolina commits Mgbako, Wilcher team up one last time for NJ state championship | Zagsblog
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Monday / July 15.
  • Duke, Carolina commits Mgbako, Wilcher team up one last time for NJ state championship

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    PISCATAWAY, N.J. — A year from now, Mackenzie Mgbako and Simeon Wilcher will be Tobacco Road rivals, Mgbako at Duke and Wilcher at North Carolina.

    But on the eve of another season-ending showdown between their future ACC schools, the duo teamed up as Roselle Catholic playied St. Rose in the New Jersey Non-Public B state title game at Jersey Mike’s Arena.

    Despite being armed with high-major prospects, Roselle Catholic, ranked No. 1 in New Jersey, found themselves down by 4 points in the third quarter to a disciplined No. 11 St. Rose team featuring 6-foot-8 junior forward Matt Hodge and coached by former Villanova guard Brian Lynch.

    It was then, when it mattered most, that Wilcher and Mgbako — along with Arizona State commit Akil Watson — took over. The 6-8 Mgbako threw down a dunk in transition to put the Lions up by 1 at the end of the third and then drained a 3-pointer early in the fourth that triggered a 9-0 run.

    He scored 9 of his 13 in the second half and Wilcher relentlessly attacked the basket down the stretch as Roselle Catholic won yet another state title, 68-59. Watson finished with a game-high 23 points as he dominated in the paint and near the basket.

    “I was just trying to win the game, honestly,” Mgbako said in the Rutgers locker room after celebrating with his teammates. “We were down 4 in the third quarter so we had take over a little bit and get what the defense gave us.”

    “He was just doing what Mackenzie does, that’s what Mackenzie does,” Wilcher said. “It just happened to be at the right time.”

    Mgbako, who transferred into Roselle Catholic from Gill St. Bernard’s before the season, was playing in his just his third game back after missing 10 with a bad ankle sprain suffered in late January.

    Asked how frustrating it was to sit out, Mgbako said, “It got to me a little bit but you gotta push through the adversity and come out and state chip like we just did.”

    The 6-5 Wilcher, meantime, has never lost a postseason game during his four years at Roselle Catholic, winning three sectional titles and one Tournament of Champions crown while going 17-0.

    “It’s amazing,” Wilcher said. “I feel accomplished. Not many people can say [that] so I’m excited and I’m happy about it.”

    As for playing with Mgbako one more time, Wilcher said, “It feels amazing, just playing with all of my guys. I’m going to miss it when I’m gone.”

    New Jersey opted to discontinue to TOC — which pits the six group winners of public and non-public categories — after Roselle Catholic beat D.J. Wagner and Camden last season so this was the final game of Roselle Catholic’s state tournament run.

    Head coach Dave Boff said the Lions (25-4) could still opt to compete in a new national event, the State Champions Invitation, which is run by Paragon, the sponsor of GEICO Nationals. The Lions are not allowed to compete in GEICOs because that event features teams they can’t compete against.

    “The State Champions Invitational is something that we’re excited about potentially having the opportunity to go if we get invited,” RC coach Dave Boff said. “The players and the RC administration will get together on what we’re going to do.”

    On this night, Boff was celebrating the program’s seventh state title in 10 years and thought it was cool that he had two Tobacco Road players helping to make it happen.

    “I just am so happy for those guys, that they had a goal, they came together to accomplish something and they did it,” Boff said. “That doesn’t always happen. I think people just assume you get a bunch of good players, you throw them together and you just win a lot of games. And the reality is sometimes it doesn’t work like that, but these guys did an unbelievable job and our two-year run is something that I’m extremely proud of right now.”

    Boff may fly down to Tobacco Road next season to see his guys compete in a Duke-Carolina game.

    Mgbako and Wilcher say they’ll remain friends off the court, but fierce rivals on it.

    “Of course,” Wilcher said. “The relationship is going to be there but we both have that competitive nature so when we get between the lines it’s a different story than when we’re off the court.”

    Said Mgbako with a smile: “It’s amazing. I’m going to see him next year for sure, though. He won’t be winning, I’ll be winning.”

    Photo: NJ.com

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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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