Boys Basketball – Linden, St. Anthony Advance to T of C Final
It has been 10 years since Linden reached the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions final and Thursday at Pine Belt Arena, the Tigers earned the program another crack at the top prize in N.J. and a showdown with the top program in the state to earn it.
Linden - the No. 3 seed in the tournament - outlasted No. 2 St. Augustine, 59-56, to reach the T of C championship game for the second time ever and the first time since 2006. Linden lost to St. Patrick's in 2006 and will face top-seeded and unbeaten St. Anthony on Monday at Sun National Bank Arena in Trenton.
The frontcourt duo of William Phelps and Tafari Lowe led Linden on Thursday, with Phelps scoring a game-high 21 points to go with eight rebounds and Lowe posting 16 points and 10 boards. Sophomore Tavon Jones scored all 10 of his points in the second half and also grabbed nine rebounds for Linden.
The Tigers (5-5) led wire-to-wire, but the Hermits (30-2) held within striking distance and had a chance to tie the game on the final possession. Senior guard Sa'eed Nelson missed a potential tying three-pointer and fired up a desperation three after the ball came back to him, but it hit the front rim to secure the Linden win.
Nelson finished with a team-high 20 points and five assists in the final game of his accomplished career at St. Augustine. Junior Justyn Mutts added 13 points and eight rebounds junior Walt Harvey had 11 points and four blocks in the loss.
Both of St. Augustine's losses this season are to the two T of C finalists. The Hermits dropped their first game of the season on Feb. 20 - a 52-41 loss to St. Anthony.
St. Anthony (31-0) will oppose the Tigers in the championship game after rolling through Group III champion Teaneck in the first game of the double-header on Thursday.
Senior Georgetown recruit and Morganville resident Jagan Moseley scored 14 points, including the 1,000th of his high school career on a second-quarter layup. Junior Daniel Mading led St. Anthony with 16 points and senior Idris Joyner finished with 12.
Teaneck trimmed the St. Anthony lead to 23-21 early in the second quarter before the Friers blitzed the Highwaymen (28-5) with a 40-5 run that pushed into the fourth quarter.
St. Anthony will seek its record 13th Tournament of Champions crown on Monday night against Linden at 8 p.m. in Trenton, which would also mark the eighth undefeated season during the Hall of Fame career of coach Bob Hurley.
The Friars last won the T of C in 2012, which was the second of back-to-back undefeated, National Championship seasons. St. Anthony is 12-1 all-time in the T of C final, with the only loss coming in the 1990 championship game against Elizabeth - Linden's neighbor to the north.
The last public school team to win the T of C was Camden in 2000, when Dajuan Wagner led the Panthers to a championship victory over Seton Hall Prep after helping to take down St. Patrick's in the previous round. Wagner graduated in 2001 as the state's all-time leading scorer before playing at Memphis and in the NBA, and still holds the all-time record.
Linden is seeking to become the fifth public school team to ever win the T of C. In addition to Camden and Elizabeth, Orange and Shawnee have each won a T of C title.
Neptune remains the only Shore Conference team to ever reach a Tournament of Champions final, losing to St. Anthony in 2002.