Boys Basketball – Mater Dei Wins Battle of Top 20 Teams in N.J.
TOMS RIVER - For a program already swimming in uncharted waters, the Mater Dei Prep High School boys basketball team has not taken much time to relish any one of its 13 victories heading into Sunday's Valerie Fund Showcase game against St. Joseph of Montvale at the Pine Belt Arena.
After finishing off another team ranked in the top 20 in the state according to NJ.com Sunday, the Seraphs took a second to appreciate where they are at and get excited about where they could go.
Junior Elijah Barnes hit three second-half three-pointers and finished with a team-high 15 points and Mater Dei - the No. 2 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and the No. 18 team in the latest NJ.com Top 20 - used a fourth-quarter push to upend the No. 15 ranked Green Knights, 57-49.
Senior NyQuan McCombs added 10 points in the balanced scoring effort and also held St. Joseph leading scorer Nate Garvey to 12 points on 4-for-13 shooting.
Sophomore Kenny Jones chipped in nine points, while senior Kyle Elliot scored six of his eight points in the fourth quarter. Senior Bryan Harris also chipped in seven points off the bench.
St. Joseph led Mater Dei 34-30 late in the third quarter, but the Seraphs closed the gap to 37-36 by the end of the quarter. Mater Dei then took control by scoring the first seven points of the fourth, capped by a three and a dunk by Harris on consecutive possessions.
Barnes the hit a pair of three that bookended a thunderous one-handed dunk by junior Elijah Mitchell (six points). A pair of free throws by Elliot gave Mater Dei its largest lead of the game, 53-42.
Barnes also threw down a highlight worthy dunk in the first quarter, when he rose up over Knights junior Isaac Hippolyte for a two-handed slam off a dish from McCombs.
Since a 38-35 loss to Pope John on Jan. 3, Mater Dei has won 11 straight games and now has its full roster since Jones, senior Marvin Pierre and junior Maleek McKnight became eligible on Jan. 19.