Rutgers Prep boys’ basketball coach Matt Bloom wants his team to remember that they made history in 2021-22, something no one can ever erase: they won a sectional championship that had eluded them in the prior nine seasons as a member of the NJSIAA.
But they will not make the Tournament of Champions in the final year of the event, as the South champion Argonauts fell to North winner Bergen Catholic in the Non-Public Group A Championship game at Jersey Mike’s Arena in Piscataway, 66-54, as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio.
Rutgers Prep had brief leads of 2-0 and 4-2, but never lead again, as the Crusaders slowly built out to a double digit lead, which went back-and-forth to single digits on a number of occasions throughout the night. But most of the second half was spend with a double-digit deficit, though the Argonauts only trailed by seven at the break, 32-25.
Part of the problem was Prep wasn’t hitting its good looks, which it normally does. Junior Jadin Collins – who had back-to-back career highs in the sectional semis (30 against St. Thomas Aquinas) and finals (33 versus Red Bank Catholic) – came back to Earth with a 21-point night, to lead all scorers in the game.
Prep was active on defense. Senior Ryan Pettit had a handful of quick baskets off inbound turnovers by Bergen Catholic, all forced by the Argos being active on the trigger.
But Rutgers Prep only connected on one three-point bucket all night, a triple by Collins in the fourth quarter for his last three points of the game.
Prep – which ends its season at 26-4 – will graduate two key parts of its starting five, in 6-7 forward Ryan Zan, as well as Pettit. Senior swing Donovan Long, who didn’t get in Saturday’s final, also will graduate. Late in the game, Bloom got two other seniors some time on the Rutgers floor – Ryan Kokoszka and Kridshna Lekhi.
Looking like a college kid plucked from the stands with a chance to win a free tuition, Lekhi chucked a three from just inside half court with the game out of reach and 15-seconds left. There was no hurry, he just wanted to take the shot. He banked it off the glass, but it narrowly missed, bringing a chuckle and some smiles from the bench and Prep fans in attendance.
Click here for postgame reacton as Mike Pavblichko talks to Rutgers Prep head coach Matt Bloom: