UPDATED, BORDENTOWN, NJ - For the first time in program history, the No. 3 seeded Arthur L. Johnson High School Crusaders boys varsity basketball team will play in the NJSIAA Central, Group 2 State Sectional Final. They punched their ticket following an 80-68 win over the No. 2 seeded Bordentown High School Scotties Friday night in Bordentown.
“It’s kind of unrealistic,” ALJ senior Ray Williamson said of the win over last year’s NJSIAA Central, Group 2 state champions. “We knew from the start that it was going to be a hard game. We just matched it and we just kept it going throughout the whole game, it’s awesome.”
“We’re playing great,” senior Brendan Stanzione said. “We’re putting so much into practices and it’s fun to see how it’s all going on right now.”
The storyline for the Crusaders was their three-point shooting. They connected on 11 three-point baskets to stun the higher-seed Scotties and continuously build on their lead. The Crusaders were led by junior Joe DiProfio, who scored a game-high 32 points, including six three-point baskets.
“We took advantage of their defense on the drives,” DiProfio said. “George [Visconti], Brandon Hund and Brenden Kelly driving, we took advantage on a lot of double-teams in the paint to kick three-pointers, which were wide-open. We did a great job taking advantage of that down the stretch.”
With the gym packed and full of fired-up fans from both schools, the Crusaders battled the Scotties for the first eight minutes of the game, with Bordentown holding an early 10-5 lead. The Crusaders fought back with two straight baskets by junior George Visconti. The teams traded baskets back-and-forth.
Johnson sophomore Brandon Hund sank a buzzer-beating three-pointer to put his team ahead 21-20 after the first quarter. Hund finished the night with eight points.
The Crusaders offense exploded in the entire second quarter, and they outscored the Scotties 26-9. DiProfio added ten points in the dominating effort. Johnson would increase their lead to 36-26 with 3:27 left. Next was an 11-3 scoring run, with the Crusaders holding the Scotties to only three baskets and three free-throw shots.
Johnson took a commanding 47-29 lead over Bordentown into halftime, leaving the fans of the defending state champions visibly stunned and in disbelief.
The Crusaders showed no mercy in the third quarter, as they buckled down on their lead, nailing three 3-point baskets and responding to every basket the Scotties mad. They built a lead as high as 57-35 with 4:24 left in the quarter. They outscored the Scotties 15-12, to take a 62-41 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Johnson held Bordentown in check, while the Crusaders fans chanted loudly. The clock ran out, securing the victory for the Johnson Crusaders, who are energized and ready to go in the NJSIAA Central, Group 2 State Sectional Final.
“We competed, we made a lot of shots and that triggered our defense,” Johnson head coach Dave Kennedy said. “We beat a very, very good Bordentown team. We were happy we were able to get through it.”
Visconti scored 17 points for the Crusaders, while sophomore Brenden Kelly added 13 points in the win for the Crusaders.
“We knew that if we made the extra pass and we looked for a good shot, the better shot, we were going to have a lot of success,” Visconti said. “And that’s what we did. Our three-point baskets were falling heavy and it was just awesome and fun to watch.”
The Bordentown Scotties couldn’t match the intensity of the Crusaders’ offense. After falling behind in the second quarter, they were unable to recover as their season ended in the loss.
For Bordentown, junior Jacquey Mendez scored 25 points to lead his team in the loss, while senior Darnill Brown added 22 points.
The Johnson Crusaders (22-4) advance to the NJSIAA Central, Group 2 State Sectional Final, where they will face off at No. 1 seeded Rumson-Fair Haven HS Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m.
“We just have to keep getting better, go over some things, tighten up a little, just play our game and we’ll be fine,” Stanzione added.
“The key is playing together,” Kennedy added. “It’s not just one guy, it’s all of us contributing and doing what’s necessary play-to-play.”
The Bordentown Scotties finish their 2016-17 season with a 20-9 record.
Editor' Note: The ALJ team that played in the 1981 NJSIAA Central, Group 2 state sectional semi-final did not advance to the finals as originally reported. The 2017 team is Johnson's first to compete in the final round of the NJSIAA Central, Group 2 state sectional tournament.
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