ALLENDALE, NJ - It is hard enough for a small school to advance in the Bergen County Jamboree, playing against bigger schools and the Parochials. Getting to the second round means you draw one of the top eight schools in the draw, depending on what your preliminary round game is. When you win, the 16-17 game, as Hasbrouck Heights did last week over Bogota, you draw the number 1 seed in the tournament.
So few people had expectations of Hasbrouck Heights advancing to the next round, particularly facing top-seeded Bergen Catholic. Imagine their surprise Jaden Castro’s three-pointer with three seconds left in the first quarter gave the Aviators a 16-15 lead.
Bigger, with more depth, Bergen Catholic outscored Hasbrouck Heights, 22-7 in the second quarter, en route to a 83-44 victory Saturday at Northern Highlands High School. For a quarter, the Aviators held their own against the 7th ranked team in the state.
Bergen Catholic jumped out to a 5-0 lead on baskets by Julian Brown and Matt Zona, a 6-9 center who is headed to Notre Dame next season. But the Aviators bounced back, with Will Koukoutsis scoring to cut the lead to 5-2, and Castro hitting a three to tie the score at five, much to the delight of the Hasbrouck Heights crowd who traveled to the game.
Raejon Figures nailed a three to give Bergen an 8-5 lead, but Kunga Tsering bounced back with a pair of baskets, to give Hasbrouck Heights a 9-8 lead with 2:56 in the first. The teams traded baskets the rest of the quarter, with Will Richardson hitting a three-pointer with 21 seconds remaining in the first for a 15-13 lead. Castro hit a triple with three seconds left as the Aviators left court, up one after one quarter.
Bergen Catholic scored the first six of the second quarter, but it could have been worse, as the Crusaders missed four foul shots during the span. Steven Faussette got the Aviators on the board, to cut the lead to 22-18, but the Crusaders went on another 7-0 lead to open the game up to a double digit lead. Koukoutsis hit a three, but Bergen scored eight of the final 10 points to take a commanding 37-23 lead in to the half.
The second half was all Bergen Catholic, as they extended their lead to 61- 36 at the end of the three quarters.
Tsering has 22 points for the Aviators, while Castro had 15.
Sophomore guard Julian Brown has 21 for Bergen Catholic, while another sophomore guard, Will Richardson had 17. Zona finished with 18 points.
"We may not have won the game," said Hasbrouck Heights head coach Mike Cebula, "But we won the respect of every person in the gym by how hard we competed for the entire game. I love my team, and how they battle for each other."
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