ROSELLE PARK, N.J. –
Between Isaiah Briscoe
belying his freshman status each time he gets out on the break, Melvin Johnson
feeling it from beyond the 3-point arc and Tyler Ennis
orchestrating an efficient offense, St. Benedict's Prep (Newark, N.J.)
just might have the best backcourt trio from coast to coast.
And, much like Johnson when he had a hot hand throughout Sunday's 81-53 victory over St. Patrick (Elizabeth, N.J.)
in the Primetime Shootout at Roselle Catholic High School, none of them were shy about self promotion when asked if there was a better threesome of guards anywhere nationwide.
"Nobody's better than me, Melvin and Tyler," said Briscoe, who scored 17 points.
"Definitely not," said Johnson. "We all have our strengths."
After an opening-possession 3-pointer gave St. Patrick (11-8) a short-lived lead, Johnson (26 points) responded seconds later with the first of his six 3-balls. From there, St. Benedict's (26-1) forced turnovers on seven straight possessions against the Celtics, with Ennis (16 points) converting a pair of layups while Briscoe buried a trey and converted an impressive spinning layup in transition to seize a 16-3 lead less than 4 minutes into the game.
Before the game evolved into a blowout, the Gray Bees grew sloppy, allowing enough second-chance opportunities and transition baskets to help St. Patrick pull within 37-30 at the start of the third quarter.
"Coach chewed us out," Johnson said. "He just let us know they were more hungry than us."
After challenging his charges to tighten up defensively like they did in the first quarter, first-year coach Mark Taylor appealed their pride, reminding them, "This is why you're at St. Benedict's."
Over the next seven-plus minutes, the Gray Bees blitzed St. Patrick in every which way. Following Briscoe's breathtaking slashes to the basket that included a soaring one-handed, fast-break dunk, Johnson canned back-to-back corner trifectas to help cap a decisive 26-4 surge that gave St. Benedict's a 61-34 lead entering the last 8 minutes.
"That was just me feeling it," said Johnson, a University of Miami signee.
Although St. Patrick lost numerous stars and longtime coach Kevin Boyle from a squad that ascended to No. 1 nationally last winter, a 28-point loss in any matchup involving New Jersey's three primary non-public powers – a group also including No. 1-ranked St. Anthony, which eked out a 51-50 victory over St. Benedict's on Jan. 1 – is an eye-opener even in this, a down year for the Celtics.
"Our guys wanted to come out and send a message," Taylor said. "I thought our guys did a great job of doing that."Plainfield (N.J.) 78, Gill St. Bernard's (Gladstone, N.J.) 77 (OT)
Sunday's opening game at the Primetime Shootout provided a dizzying back-and-forth encounter between a rising non-public power in Gill St. Bernard's and a three-time New Jersey public-school sectional champion from Plainfield, decided after a turnover led to Dii'Jon Allen-Jordan's
layup with 4 seconds left that provided the winning points.
Before that, nearly 2,000 fans watched Gill St. Bernard's (19-3) battle back from a 62-53 deficit to seize a 68-63 lead late in regulation before Plainfield's Sekou Harris
converted a layup with 11 seconds left in regulation to ensure four more minutes of thrilling basketball.
Behind five points from senior sharpshooter Alex Mitola
, including one of his eight 3-pointers as part of his game-high 30 tallies, and four more from junior Jaren Sina
(22 points), the Knights claimed a 77-72 cushion with 1:05 remaining before the Cardinals (18-3) locked down the private school's two top scoring threats.
This was Plainfield's M.O. according to Harris (20 points): "Just stop them and make sure Alex and Jaren didn't get any shots."
In the final minute, Jahmal Lane
(20 points) recorded a putback to pull Plainfield within 77-74 and two free throws from Harris cut the deficit to a point before a turnover left Harris driving toward the hoop with time ticking down.
"Sekou was having a terrific game anyway. We basically told him to make a play," Plainfield coach Jeff Lubreski said.
"Sekou is like my brother," Allen-Jordan said. "We just have instincts. We do that everyday in practice where he either shoots it or he drops it off.
"If he dropped it off, (I thought) I'm going to catch it and go right to the rim."
With Allen-Jordan's decisive bucket, the Cardinals dealt the Knights their first loss against a New Jersey team since 2010.Roselle Catholic (N.J.) 65, East Brunswick (N.J.) 56Jameel Warney
scored 16 points and Hakim Saintil
canned four 3-pointers to account for 14 tallies as Roselle Catholic (14-6) won Sunday's third game. Joe Ross
led all players with 20 points for East Brunswick (15-5).St. Peter's Prep (Jersey City, N.J.) 71, Piscataway (N.J.) 62Tyrone O'Garro
(19 points) and Austin White
(18) led four St. Peter's Prep players in double digits in the final game Sunday. Trevis Wyche
added 12 points and Vic Jusino
dropped in 10 for the Marauders (17-5). Marcus Freeney
led all scorers with 24 tallies while Tajae Sharpe
netted 17 for Piscataway (10-12).