Monday night in the first round of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV Tournament, Marlboro High School senior Salomon Nachum traded in his shirt, tie and dress pants for a jersey, shorts and basketball sneakers.

Instead of high-fiving the players before the game, he jumped in the layup line with them.

And, most impressively, instead of filling up water cups, he filled up the basket in a varsity basketball game.

Nachum, a longtime team manager known endearingly among the Marlboro community as "Shlomo", played in his first varsity basketball game Monday against Princeton in the state tournament and scored the first two points of his high school career in the Mustangs' 63-41 win over the Little Tigers.

Nachum also happens to be a special needs student at Marlboro, one who has worn many hats as a member of the basketball team. In addition to serving the team Gatorade, he has tried his hand at pre-game pep talks, pumping up the "Stang Gang" cheering section and offered his post-game thoughts to the media.

He has even grabbed the microphone to belt out the Star-Spangled Banner at home games. (If there is a betting line on the length of his national anthem, take the over).

On Monday night - again, in a state tournament game - Nachum got his chance to try something new: playing in a varsity game. He entered in the fourth quarter with Marlboro in firm control against the Little Tigers and put up a shot from inside the three-point arc. The shot fell short, but Shlomo pounced on the rebound, fired it back up from in closer and buried the shot to send the Stang Gang and the Marlboro bench into a frenzy.

While his teammates celebrated, Shlomo hustled back on defense and picked up his man.

According to Marlboro athletic director Dave Ryden, he and head coach Mike Nausedas were looking into adding a game to the schedule to give Shlomo a chance to play in a live game scenario and maybe even get in the box score. The first thought was to schedule a game between the Shore Conference Tournament and the NJSIAA Tournament, but that went out the window when Marlboro advanced all the way to the Shore Conference Tournament final this past Saturday.

The Mustangs could have waited until after their season to add a ceremonial game, but the opportunity came calling against the Little Tigers - the No. 13 seed in the Central Group IV bracket.

Nachum's one shining moment was a payoff not just for him and the time he has put in with the team, but for the entire segment of the student body who follows the team and knows Shlomo - which is a lot of people, according to Ryden. He is so revered, in fact, that, according to Ryden, he ran unopposed in the contest to determine "Mr. Marlboro." Any other prospective candidate figured he had no shot.

Before Shlomo got his chance to shine, seniors P.J. Ringel (16 points) and Ryan LaRocca (14) combined for 30 points to spark the Mustangs to a big lead on Princeton and push them into the quarterfinal round against No. 5 Sayreville on Wednesday. The Bombers will visit Marlboro after scoring 100 points in a 27-point win over Hightstown on Monday.

Monday's moment was another chapter in a storybook year for Marlboro Athletics. From Ringel's tragedy-turned-triumph during soccer season to the Shore Conference Tournament run in basketball, and now a manager earning a chance to suit up, play and score - there has been no shortage of feel-good moments for the Mustangs this year.

The opportunity for Shlomo to step onto the floor as a player may not come again this season, but the next time he fills up the water cups, conjures up a pregame speech, or hits the high note on "o'er the land of the free," he'll do so as more than just a team manager. He'll do it as a varsity player, averaging two points per game.


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