Meeting for the third time this season, the Bergen Catholic Crusaders (19-6) and St. Joseph (Montvale) Green Knights (20-5) were playing for higher stakes on Friday night at the Rothman Center (Fairleigh Dickinson, Hackensack). Entering the contest as the number one seed in the Bergen County Jamboree Tournament, the Crusaders having swiped the first two games against St. Joe’s while looking to capture an 11th Jamboree title and one within the record held by Teaneck. Meanwhile, the Green Knights coming in at number two, searching for its first championship since 2016 and fifth overall.
Early on the packed house at the Rothman Center witnessed a dazzling scoring duel between Bergen Catholic sophomore Julian Brown and St. Joe’s senior Nazir Williams. Brown tallying 15 points while Williams poured in 12 points. With the Green Knights leading by a single point after the first quarter, the Crusaders managed to gain control in the second quarter by knocking down three trifectas including back-to-back three’s that led to a 33-25 advantage with three and half minutes remaining. However, the Green Knights answered back with a 5-0 run to close out the half.
St. Joe’s Head Coach Michael Doherty on the first half, “We talked to the kids there are going to be runs both ways and stay even about that. It was good timing and tied in with halftime we were down three and late in the second quarter by eight. The kids felt we took a shot to the hip and bounced back. The previous two times we were down by 13 at the half.”
Contributing eight points in the first half, Green Knights junior, Daniel Lans, served as the catalyst in the third quarter netting a quick five points. Williams followed burying a trey that made it a 10-0 run. St. Joe’s continued to sizzle from beyond the arc as senior, Ansley Almonor, drained two triples that led to the Green Knights holding a 48-42 lead at the end of the quarter.
“Danny is truly a special player, he is an elite athlete and does so much,“ Doherty remarked. “He really is an X-factor when he is playing at his best and our team goes up to a whole different level. The other thing that is pretty special about Danny is he comes ready to play in the big games. You look back at all our key wins, Danny brings it, and no surprise he got us going and he did that with three fouls. A steal, assist and hits the big three.”
With St. Joe’s up 52-44 with six minutes to go, Bergen Catholic responded with a 5-0 burst to trim the deficit. Down the stretch the stretch the Crusaders had opportunities to further cut into the lead but there were costly turnovers and missed shots. On the other hand, the Green Knights were able to withstand the flurry by hitting their free throws in the closing two minutes of the contest sinking 9 of 12 from the charity stripe line to hang on for the 67-61 victory. Williams finished with a game high 26 points while Lans added 16 points. For Bergen Catholic, Brown dropped 26 points while Matt Zona chipped in 13 points and Raejon Figures delivered 12 points.
Nazir Williams on the championship victory, “I really don’t look at the numbers,” the win feels the best. “We all put up numbers and all can be the guy on different nights and tonight it was just me and a team effort. We practice free throws every day, if we miss, we run, so that was just my mindset. I never got to a county championship and never won and to win this in my final year is really good. To sell out a college arena it feels surreal to me and I will never forget this moment.”
Head Coach Michael Doherty on the title, “You talk about getting to the big stage and kids understood they deserve to be here and make the most out of it. Certainly, in the semi’s and final today the kids really showed great trust and belief in each other, knocked down shots, great composure and very proud of them. Nazir is the guy we want on the free throw line at the end, he made big shots and his defense was great as well. You talk about a three-year varsity starter and all the lumps you are taking as a sophomore and junior will pay off down the road and he has definitely earned his stripes and happy for him and really is special.”
“The Jamboree is a such a great tournament. I grew up in Bergen County and this is the tournament you want in Bergen County with 60 different high schools and like the NCAA. The kids know that, it’s tough to win it and couldn’t be prouder for St. Joe’s, these guys and growth we had during the course of this year. This is a tremendously mentally tough group and they deserve every bit of what they got tonight.”