Having already established itself as the No. 1 team in America after routing St. Patrick in last Wednesday's NJSIAA North Non-Public B title game, St. Anthony (Jersey City)
is only two victories from securing its 11th Tournament of Champions crown.
Question is: Will any of the other five teams in the TOC challenge the Friars before they officially earn the unofficial fourth national championship in the career of Naismith Hall of Famer Bob Hurley, Sr.?
Of all the state tournaments still being staged across the country, New Jersey's just might be the most anticlimactic. St. Anthony's players are blessed with blue-chip talent, but also possess a clear-eyed focus ingrained in them by their legendary bench boss.
Consider this: Less than 72 hours after their 62-45 victory over St. Patrick before more than 8,000 at the Rutgers Athletic Center, the Friars easily secured their 26th group state championship last Saturday with a 75-28 victory over Cardinal McCarrick.
"(St. Patrick coach) Kevin (Boyle) and I talked about this, it's really the responsibility of the team that wins the game today to continue to play well and not have this be the highest point of your season," Hurley said.
Although the Friars' roster is best known for Rutgers-bound floor leader Myles Mack
and highly touted 6-8 junior Kyle Anderson
, 6-6 senior Lucious Jones
and 6-4 junior Jerome Frink
have played terrific ball throughout one of the seasons in their school's long and distinguished history. Guards Josh Brown
and Jordan Quick
have also been steady, as has 6-6 junior Jimmy Hall
St. Anthony faces its first challenge Friday night at Monmouth University when, after a first-round bye, it will face either No. 4 Eastside (Paterson)
(Group 4 champion) or No. 5 Central (Newark)
(Group 2). The other half of the draw has No. 3 Plainfield
(Group 3) facing No. 6 Asbury Park
(Group 1), with the winner getting No. 2 St. Augustine Prep (Richland)
(Non-Public A) on Friday at Monmouth.
Of the potential challengers, Plainfield did extend St. Anthony before falling 59-47 on Jan. 2. And Eastside, a potential semifinal opponent, is one of the state's hottest squads and offers the possibility of an intriguing one-on-one matchup for Mack in junior David Burgos.MaxPreps New Jersey boys basketball playoff bracketsSETON HALL PREP'S FARRELL RETIRES
Right after Seton Hall Prep (West Orange)
fell in the Non-Public A title game last Saturday against St. Augustine Prep, Bob Farrell called it a career after 34 seasons, 777 victories (third-most in state history), 12 state titles, 10 Essex County Tournament championships and Tournament of Champions crowns in 1999 and 2005.
"It's the right time. The wear and tear; I live it 24-7,'' Farrell told nj.com. "It just got to me a little bit and there are some other things I need to do."
Longtime assistant coach Kevin Williams will take over for one of the classiest coaches in state history. Other than losing Maryland-bound guard Sterling Gibbs, the Poly Pirates could return their entire roster after going 26-4 and winning the North Non-Public A title last Wednesday.GIRLS TOC POINTS TOWARD NEPTUNE-SHABAZZ SEQUEL
After Shabazz (Newark)
scored a shockingly easy 62-47 victory over Neptune
at the Newark National Invitational on Jan. 28, we got the feeling we would see a rematch in the girls basketball Tournament of Champions.
Sure enough, those are the top two seeds in the TOC, which puts No. 1 Shabazz (Group 2 champion) and No. 2 Neptune (Group 3) on a course for a championship-game rematch next Monday at East Rutherford's Izod Center should they survive their semifinal challenges against likely familiar foes.
However, defending TOC champion Neptune will likely need to stave off Shore Conference rival and fellow 2010 finalist St. John-Vianney (Holmdel)
(Non-Public A) again Thursday at Poland Spring Arena in Toms River. The Scarlet Fliers pulled away in the fourth quarter of the Shore Conference Tournament title game Feb. 25 for a 57-48 victory.
But first, St. John Vianney must eliminate No. 6 New Providence
(Group 1) in Tuesday's first round.
In the other half of the bracket, Shabazz figures to face No. 4 Trenton Catholic Academy
(Non-Public B) unless No. 5 Rancocas Valley (Mt. Holly)
(Group 4) springs a big upset. The top-seeded Bulldogs, the lone undefeated team in this bracket, dealt Trenton Catholic a 55-46 defeat in Trenton on Jan. 9.MaxPreps New Jersey girls basketball playoff bracketsTOP PERFORMANCES* Kyle Anderson, St. Anthony boys basketball:
The 6-8 junior averaged 16.5 points and displayed a great all-around game in victories over St. Patrick and Cardinal McCarrick, helping the Friars reach the Tournament of Champions.* Syessence Davis, Neptune girls basketball:
The Rutgers-bound senior scored a game-high 23 points as the Scarlet Fliers overcame a 14-point deficit to down Teaneck and repeat as Group 3 champs Sunday.* Ky're Jackson, Eastside boys basketball:
The senior's double-double (14 points, 12 rebounds) helped the Ghosts overcome a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Rancocas Valley for the program's first Group 4 championship.* Ramon Johnson, Newark Central boys basketball:
The 6-8 senior scored a game-high 23 tallies in a 66-58 victory over Ewing in the Group 1 title game Sunday.* Natalya Lee, Rancocas Valley girls basketball:
The junior's 14 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists helped the Burlington County school turn back Kennedy (Paterson) for its first Group 4 crown Sunday.