And then there were three: what happened, what’s ahead, and a breakdown on the CJSR-area teams still alive in the state tournament

Well, we’re down to just three: one public, two non-publics.

That’s who’s left in the NJSIAA state tournament from the Central Jersey Sports Radio coverage area.

Both the Rutgers Prep girls and boys won sectional titles just a couple of hours apart Wednesday night, about 24 hours after Colonia won its second in three playoff seasons.

But they’re not done yet. Here’s a look at each team, where they stand, and what’s next.

North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 Boys’ Champion Colonia:

The Patriots (25-4) may not be division or GMC Tournament champions, but they’re a state champion, and that’s saying something. It’s another banner to hang from the rafters, and this team deserves it. Saivon Pressley gets all the ink (and airtime) and right fully so, but none of it happens without Billy Anderson, Noah Taylor, Jaeden Jones, and others.

They’re up against a tough, but young, Ramapo team tonight in the Group 3 semifinals, and Colonia’s experience in playoff games will help. Of course, the Raiders (22-6) didn’t get here on a fluke, but the Patriots have a legitimate shot to get to their first-ever group title game with a win out in Phillipsburg Thursday night, in a game you can hear on Central Jersey Sports Radio, starting with the pregame at 6:45.

Click here to listen live, for free, with no paywall.

The North 2, Group 3 title is Colonia’s seventh sectional championship overall. Jose Rodriguez’ Patriots have never missed a sectional final, beating West Morris for the crown in 2019, falling to Irvington in 2020, and beating South Plainfield in double-OT back on Tuesday night.

READ MORE: Colonia needs double-OT to stave off South Plainfield as Pats take North 2, Group 3 title

The Patriots also beat Chatham for the title in 2015, and Union Hill (now merged with Emerson into Union City) in 2007, in a game that went to double overtime. Each year, Colonia was eliminated in the group semifinals.

They also won Central Jersey Group 3 titles in 1994 and 1985, and a CJ4 championship in 1972, but again, all three times were eliminated before getting to the Group Final.

So, Thursday night is a chance for Colonia to do something it’s never done before. This crew is as capable as any.

Waiting on the other side are Central Jersey Group 3 champion Manasquan (25-5) and South Jersey Group 3 champion Woodrow Wilson (20-6). They play at 7 pm tonight in the other Group 3 semifinal at Brick Memorial.

Non-Public South B Girls’ Champion Rutgers Prep:

We keep harping on it, but that’s because it bears repeating.

Rutgers Prep has been playing at another level since their eye-opening loss to St. John Vianney, the No. 1 team in the state. There’s still some basketball left to play for them to prove it, in the last-ever Tournament of Champions, and the Argonauts could very well get another crack at them if this keeps up.

What’s “this,” you ask?

Since the Super Bowl Sunday defeat to the Lady Lancers up at Kean, they have won every game by at least 24 points. In the Somerset County Tournament, that includes wins of 60, 30 and 31 points for an average margin of victory of 40.3.

That’s really all you need to know about a team that’s still pretty young – the biggest senior contributor is Rutgers-bound Antonia Bates – but has been immensely balanced all year and upped its game.

They will play at noon Saturday in the Group B title game at RWJ Barnabas Arena at Toms River North, with a trip to the Tournament of Champions on the line. You can hear the contest on Central Jersey Sports Radio beginning with pregame at 11:45 am. Click here to listen.

Prep has been to the TOC twice before, in 2016 and 2017, and both times they lost in the semifinals to the eventual champion: Manasquan in 2016 and Franklin the year after.

Here’s a look at Rutgers Prep’s title history in the tournament, since it began NJSIAA play in the 2013 postseason. All are in Non-Public South B:

  • 2020: lost in the sectional final to Trenton Catholic, 53-48
  • 2019: lost in the sectional semifinals to Gloucester Catholic, 54-47
  • 2018: Non-Public South B champions, beat Trenton Catholic, 58-54; lost in Non-Public B final to Saddle River Day, 73-49
  • 2017: Non-Public South B champions, beat Patrick School, 79-60; Non-Public B champions, beat Queen of Peace, 58-46; lost in Tournament of Champions semifinals to Franklin, 66-57
  • 2016: Non-Public South B champions, bear St. Rose, 65-47; Non-Public B champions, beat Saddle River Day, 69-40; lost in Tournament of Champions semifinals to Manasquan, 59-50
  • 2015: lost in the sectional semifinals to St. Rose, 67-59
  • 2014: lost in the sectional quarterfinals to Roselle Catholic, 50-34
  • 2013: lost in the sectional first round to St. Rose, 63-42

Non-Public South A Boys’ Champion Rutgers Prep:

What a finish Wednesday night down at Lenape for the Rutgers Prep boys’ team, in winning their first-ever sectional title with a 63-60 victory over top-seed Red Bank Catholic.

Matt Bloom, head coach of the third-seeded Argonauts, stresses team defense was how they succeeded in limiting Adam Silas in a thriller of a sectional semifinal game against St. Thomas Aquinas. Sounds like coach-speak, but he’s not wrong. Not by a longshot.

Team defense was the name of the game on Wednesday night, as well, going on a 4-0 run in the final minute to erase a 60-59 deficit and win 63-60, to clinch the title.

Next up is North A champion Bergen Catholic, as the top-seeded Crusaders beat Don Bosco Prep 69-57 Wednesday night. That Group A title game is set for 4 pm Saturday at Jersey Mike’s Arena at Rutgers University.

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