CT 91 vs. NJ 89
Sunday afternoon was bittersweet for the New Jersey basketball community. Only hours after the loss of Armoni Sexton, a freshman standout from Patterson Catholic, the state’s top players traveled across the George Washington Bridge to Bridgeport, Connecticut for the 54th annual JCC Schoolboy Classic.
Both teams came into the gym with heavy hearts Sunday afternoon, as expressed by Elijah Pemberton from Masters School, “I didn't get the chance to meet him, but my friends knew him. He was going to be a great player and my condolences go out to all those effected by this loss.”
As the gym filled with spectators, both teams showed off their athleticism with dunk after dunk in layup lines. As the referees silently watched the display, it was easy to see that their presence would be strictly rudimentary.
The real storyline was of future South Carolina Gamecock, Chris Silva, and his head to head matchup with Connecticut’s Gatorade Player of the Year, Steven Enoch (UConn). As the only two players committed to high major programs, they were expected to be the show within the show.
Neither player disappointed the sold out Cardinal Sheehan Center as they threw down multiple rim-rattling dunks throughout the game. Silva finished with 11 points and Enoch recorded 4 points in limited minutes.
As expected, the pace was fast and erratic, with transition scoring being the sole emphasis for both sides. New Jersey went to the halftime break with a four point lead, but the end was nowhere in sight. Arkel Ager-Lamar (St. Thomas More) led the way with 13 points after two quarters, while Pierfrancesco Oliva had 8 for NJ.
Both teams shot low percentages early and didn’t heat up much in the 2nd half. With points being scored inside, the slashing wing players continued to shine. The highlight of the day came in the 3rd Quarter when high-flying Isaiah Still (Union Catholic) threw down a posterizing dunk that brought the gymnasium to a roar.
As the final quarter of the season commenced, NJ and CT were back and forth as neither team was able to take control. With the score tied in the closing seconds, EJ Crawford was fouled and made two anticlimactic free throws to give CT a 91-89 victory. He finished with 13 points and told us afterwards, “We had to finish it out, play defense and get a bucket.”
The MVP of the game, Arkel Ager-Lamar (21 points) put it in even simpler terms for us, “We had to do it for Connecticut.”
By: Brent Pelella