It’s the Non-Public Group A final. That’s what the game is called.
But it’s really about a trip to the last-ever Tournament of Champions, an event that began in 1989, but will be played for the last time this year, scrapped by the NJSIAA to add extra weeks onto the season for the vast majority of teams, not just the last six to stay alive.
The Rutgers Prep boys’ basketball team is in uncharted territory. Since the tiny school on Easton Avenue in Somerset joined the NJSIAA for the 2012-13 school years, the Argonauts had never won a sectional final.
Until this year.
And they’ve done it in large part to Jadin Collins. He was already the team’s leading scorer, averaging about 17 points a game heading into the Non-Public South A semifinals against St. Thomas Aquinas. There, in North Edison, he scored a career high 30 points – and actually finished with a double-double – knocking off the second-seed in their own gymnasium.
What to do for an encore? How about 33 points – a new career high – and solid defense such that he took a key charge late in a comeback that Matt Bloom still hasn’t figured out how it happened.
That’s ok. It happened, and Bloom and Company are moving forward Saturday afternoon as South A champion Rutgers Prep (26-3) takes on North A Champion Bergen Catholic (21-8), which is certainly better than its record would indicate – and it’s not a bad one, at that.
The Crusaders have a tough national schedule, and have lot to the likes of Roselle Catholic, Cardinal Hayes (NY) and Kevin Boyle’s Montverde (FL). They also lost twice to Don Bosco Prep in the regular year, then beat them in the Bergen County Jamboree – their county tournament – and in the North A final.
The Crusaders are led by Fordham-bound Will Richardson and Wagner-bound Julian Brown, as well as a talented surrounding cast.
Click below to hear Mike Pavlichko talk with both head coaches to preview the Non-Public Group A championship game: