TOMS RIVER – Christian Brothers Academy junior Pat Andree knew his team was going up against a Pope John XXIII squad with taller players across the board, led by Syracuse recruit and 6-foot-9 senior Moustapha Diagne, but based on the way the Lions looked in their 2-3 zone Saturday in the NJSIAA Non-Public A championship game, Andree felt like he was actually playing against Syracuse.

The Lions hounded CBA’s hot shooters and mounted a relentless attack on the glass en route to a dominant, 71-35 performance that secured the program its first Non-Public A championship.

Diagne was one of four Pope John players in double-figure scoring with 10 points, while fellow 6-8 senior Jeromy Rodriguez led the Lions' effort on both ends with 16 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals, including 8-for-11 shooting and three dunks.

Pat Andree and CBA had to fight for every inch in a 71-35 loss to Pope John on Saturday in the Non-Public A Final. (Photo by Larry Murphy, Sports Pix NJ)

“They were a lot bigger than we thought they were going to be,” Andree said. “They had depth, they made shots and they played well tonight. They did everything they had to do to win. They’ve been waiting for a long time to win one up there, they’ve got a great group of guys and you’ve got to be happy for them and use this as motivation for next year.”

Pope John dominated the game from start to finish, starting with the first six points of the game and stretching the lead to 21-3 by the early part of the second quarter with a 15-0 run. CBA never got closer than 15 points the rest of the way and Pope John built its lead as high as 39.

Junior James Scott also scored 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting for Pope John, while 6-8 swingman Damien Rance added 10 points and seven rebounds for the Lions. Diagne also pulled in five rebounds and anchored the middle of the zone, deterring CBA players from driving to the basket while Rodriguez and Rance extended out to contest shots.

“They were a lot bigger and a lot tougher than I assumed,” CBA senior Jack Laffey said. “I knew they were big and tough, but I thought we would be able to control the game a little bit better and they definitely got the better of us.”

Coming off a South Jersey Non-Public A championship game Tuesday night in which it shot 28-for-44 (64 percent) as a team and 13-for-17 from three-point range, CBA shot 1-for-11 in the first quarter in falling behind 19-3.

Pope John made the most of its height advantage by outrebounding CBA 41-22 overall and 14-7 on the offensive glass.

“We wanted to eventually go with some zone and eventually trap in the post, but everything just happened so quickly that we never got a chance,” CBA coach Geoff Billet said. “It’s also hard to account for how big they were and how tough they were on the offensive boards. With 14 offensive rebounds, there was only so much we could do.”

After combining for 66 points on 21-for-26 shooting from the field and 11-for-12 from three-point range on Tuesday, Laffey and Andree combined for 21 points on 9-for-25 shooting against the Pope John defense. CBA hit three 3-pointers as a team on Saturday, none by either Andree or Laffey. Andree finished with a team-high 14 points and Laffey added seven.

“We didn’t see them (on film) but I know (Andree) from playing AAU and I know he’s a great shooter,” Diagne said. “I knew I was going to have to guard him some of the time and whenever I did, I wanted to make sure he didn’t get any easy shots. Overall, I thought we played great team defense.”

Pope John’s first state championship comes with an international flavor, as its three starters who are 6-8 or taller all hail from a foreign country. Rodriguez is from the Dominican Republic, Diagne is a native of Senegal and Rance arrived in Sparta by way of Australia. In addition to the three international standouts and Scott in the starting lineup, Pope John brought Fordham recruit Matt Zignorski (six points) off the bench.

Pope John senior and Syracuse recruit Moustapha Diagne throws down two of his 10 points Saturday against CBA. (Photo by Larry Murphy, Sports Pix NJ)

“It’s great to have so many different people from all over and to see us come together like this,” Diagne said. “I’m from Senegal in Africa, Jeromy is from the Dominican, Damien is from Australia and then you have kids from different places near the school. It’s been a great experience for us and for me. I’m just happy to be a part of it and glad I could help the organization.”

Saturday’s loss ends a season in which CBA reached the Shore Conference Tournament final for the second straight year and made it back to the Non-Public A final for the first time since 2009. While Billet acknowledged losing the SCT final was a disappointment, he and the Colts players also made light of a big step in the right direction in winning a sectional title and getting back to Pine Belt Arena to play for a Group championship.

“To get to the Shore Conference finals back-to-back years and win a sectional title is a great way to end,” Laffey said. “Going back to my sophomore year, we wanted to put CBA back on the map and I think we did that. We would have liked for it to end differently, but I’m walking out of here with my head held high.”


Box Score

Pope John 71, CBA 35






CBA (24-6)






Pope John (29-3)







CBA (35): Shaun Belbey 1 0-0 4, John Salcedo 1 0-0 3, Pat Andree 6 2-2 14, Jack McGuire 2 0-0 5, Jack Laffey 3 1-1 7, Connor Aldridge 0 0-0 0, Derek Leohner 0 0-0 0, Jack Boyan 0 0-0 0, Luke Chece 1 0-0 2, Nick Mugaverna 0 0-0 0, Sam Houston 0 0-0 0, Joe Siegle 0 0-2 0. Totals: 14 4-7 35

Three-pointers: Belbey, Salcedo, McGuire

Pope John (71): James Scott 7 1-2 16, Ray Montilus 2 0-0 5, Moustapha Diagne 5 0-0 10, Jeromy Rodriguez 8 0-0 16, Damien Rance 4 0-0 10, Matt Zignorski 2 2-2 6, Mike Zignorski 0 0-0 0, Sime Lisica 2 0-0 6, Funot Waldenstia 1 0-0 2, Ruben Montilus 0 0-0 0, Brian Dolan 0 0-0 0, Shane Plokhoy 0 0-0 0, Kyle Frey 0 0-0 0, Matt Dengler 0 0-0 0, Tanner Depuyt 0 0-0 0, Andre Ward 0 0-0 0. Totals: 31 3-4 71

Three-pointers: Scott, Montilus, Rance 2, Lisica 2