Jersey Mike’s Week 1 Boys Basketball Team of the Week: Raritan
Coming off its best season in a decade, the Raritan boys basketball team graduated its best player from 2021-22 and has still, somehow, been even better through the first three-plus weeks of the 2022-23 campaign.
Last week, the Rockets got their toughest challenges of the current season to date and the team whose 2021-22 season ended with heartbreak in the final seconds of an NJSIAA sectional semifinal game showed it won't shy away from crunch time.
Raritan traveled to play two hungry opponents in a span of three days, went down to the wire with both, and still finished off a 3-0 week than ran the Rockets' record to 8-0. Now 9-0 heading into Thursday's action, Raritan is one of the three remaining undefeated teams in the Shore Conference and the first Jersey Mike's Team of the Week in 2023.
Last week started off with a win for Raritan -- a 49-34 victory at home over Long Branch. The following day, the Rockets traveled to Central Regional to play the Class B South division leaders and fell behind, 25-15, early in the third quarter. Raritan erased the deficit with a 10-0 run that tied the game by the early part of the fourth quarter and the defensive struggled moved into overtime.
One overtime was not enough to decide the game, nor was two. With seniors Jack O'Leary and Mike Diller leading the way with 38 of the 49 combined points, the Rockets finally prevailed with a 49-48, road win over Central in triple overtime. O'Leary led the way with 24 points and 14 rebounds and Diller chipped in 14 points for Raritan.
The Rockets found themselves in another tight game on Friday of last week, this time at Montgomery High School in a Coaches vs. Cancer event against Hillsborough. With O'Leary scoring 23 points -- his third game of the week with 23 or more -- the Rockets pulled out a 44-39 win over the Raiders. Senior Billy Tigar also added 10 points and Jack Coleman knocked down a pair of free throws in the final seconds to put the game on ice.
Raritan finds itself leading the Class A Central division standings with a 9-0 overall record and, over the course of the next three weeks, will look to finish off its first outright division championship since 2011-12.