PATERSON, NJ - In a hard fought contest with Paramus Catholic the John F. Kennedy High School varsity boys’ basketball squad posted a 63-55 win Tuesday.  The teams were even throughout the entire contest until the Knights pulled away from the visiting Paladins late in the fourth quarter.

Prior to opening tipoff, JFK Head Coach Tommie Paterson and his staff honored the home team’s soon-to-graduate seniors.  One by one, the seven strode to midcourt, embraced family members, and received a beautifully framed plaque and small bronze statue.  

Honored before their final career contest were:  DeJoun Cook, Avante Gilbert, Nagee Jones, Germir Robinson, Jahmir Tyrell, Joshuel White, and Musa Yanes.  In addition two senior cheerleaders, Deja Edwards and Najanee Young, were also recognized.

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The Knights opened scoring as Cook tipped a Paladins’ pass into the paint to Tyrell who was off to the races for a coast-to-coast score.  However, visiting senior Joel Bernard answered with a 3-pointer from the right wing. Robinson then swiped a Paladins’ inbounds pass, drove the length of the court, was fouled, and completed a three-point play.  

Following a contact foul on Paterson, Paramus senior guard Cameron Burns knocked down a trey from well beyond the arc.  However, Jones snuck in behind several much taller Paladins’ defenders for an easy two off the glass. Paramus Catholic forward Joe Paulilo responded with a hard-hat score in the paint.  Bernard followed a Kennedy air ball with two free throws but Tyrell countered with a nice drive and pull-up, 10 foot jumper. A JFK travelling violation was atoned for by Yanes whose clean shot block on Bernard prevented a sure score.  Catholic’s Terry Fortune then wheeled in the lane for a baby hook, the first of a number of impressive post moves and scores by the senior center.

Yanes, recipient of a second JFK pass following a defensive rebound, converted an uncontested cherry-pick layup.  Soon thereafter, Tyrell contributed a sensational drive through the lane for a score. The cat-like quick guard then pulled up for a 20-foot swish from the right of the key.  It was then that Yoel Ramirez entered the contest for the Paladins. The senior guard would stage many fierce one-on-one battles in the forecourt with Kennedy guards, particularly junior Deishon Harrison, throughout the rest of the game.  

Paramus held a slim 17-16 lead to open the second frame.  Kennedy’s freshman sensation, Jayquann Briggs, drew a charging foul but the Paladins scored as Ramirez dropped off to Bernard for a three-point rainbow from the wing.  After Hargrove scored in the paint, Burns was fouled by Harrison while driving to the hoop and converted one of two freebies. Hargrove was then tagged for his second personal foul and replaced by Cook.

A shot which did not find the mark, but was perhaps the most entertaining play of the evening, saw Gilbert spy an opening in the lane and mount a furious drive to the rim for a dunk attempt.  As the capacity crowd stood to their feet in amazement, the windmill slam hit only iron but bounced directly upward, almost to the rafters.

After the dust had settled, Ramirez scored on a textbook fast break for the Paladins.  Following a lengthy time out called by the officials, Gilbert snatched a rebound and miraculously converted a banker while simultaneously falling down.  Cook then rejected a shot, the outcome of which was a coast-to-coast layup attempt and subsequent, successful two free throws by White. Paulilo answered by picking up a loose ball in the lane and scoring for the Paladins.  Burns followed with a nice drive for the same but Gilbert cashed in on another 3-point play, courtesy of a nice assist from Tyrell. Robinson and Jones then, similarly, connected with a handoff and three-point swish from the left wing.  Following an inside score by Bernard, Jones found Gilbert in the lane who dished off to Yanes for a bucket off the glass. A fast break layup attempt by the Knights as the second quarter buzzer sounded fell tantalizingly off the rim.

Ahead by a score of 35-29 to open the second half, the Knights continued to turn to their seasoned senior veterans.  Jones knocked down a 25-footer from left of the key and Tyrell picked a pocket in the Paramus paint. His length of the court journey was concluded with a missed dunk but one of two successful foul shots followed.  After Gilbert notched 15-footer from the right baseline, yet another nice move and score at low block by Fortune saw the Kennedy lead narrow to 41-40. After Cook drove from the free-throw line and converted one of two from the charity stripe, Fortune raced down court for a final shot attempt before the buzzer but was denied by a Kennedy shot block.

Kennedy’s senior center James Hargrove scored from inside to open the second frame.  A three-point swish by the Paladins was answered by Harrison and Gilbert who combined on a perfect lob pass into the paint and turnaround short jumper.  However, Fortune kicked out from the lane to Burns who was waiting in the wings for a 20-foot, successful jump shot.

As intensity mounted, ahead 55-51 with 2:20 left in the contest, sophomore Jaewaun Abrams took control at the point for JFK.  Aided with dribbling responsibilities by Harrison, Kennedy was able to gradually pull away to post the final winning margin.  The final moments were highlighted by a Gilbert tip-in, continued dominance of the defensive boards by Cook, and a successful trip to the free throw line by Harrsion.  A three-pointer by Paulilo was too little, too late, for Paramus Catholic as a defensive rebound by Paterson’s junior forward, Brequan Moore concluded the contest.

Gilbert dropped in 14 points, snatched 10 rebounds, and rejected four shots to lead Paterson.  Jones and Tyrell contributed eight tallies apiece, while White added six points and four steals.

Burns and Paulilo both notched 12 points for Paramus Catholic and Bernard added 11.  

The Knights face off against Clifton on Saturday, February 23, at Wayne Valley High School for the Passaic County championship.  Tip-off is at 12:00 p.m.


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