HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - It was a game fitting the circumstances. 15-0 vs 14-1 in the last game of the regular season, with the Meadowlands Division boys basketball title on the line.
Paterson Charter captured the NJIC Meadowlands Division championship with a 59-55 victory over Hasbrouck Heights in Hasbrouck Heights Thursday evening behind a 20-13 second quarter that gave the Lions a 35-32 halftime lead. It was a game of mini-runs, with no team ever leading by more than seven in the game.
Hasbrouck Heights jumped out to a 5-0 lead on a rebound basket for Matteo Ochoa and a three-pointer for Jaden Castro. The Lions answered with 10 straight points on baskets from Zahire Robinson, Marquise Harris, Jamar Belfield and Troy Medlock’s three-point play for a 10-5 lead.
Hasbrouck Heights responded with a seven point run of their own, as Kunga Tsering scored down low, Will Koukoutsis hit a three-pointer to tie the score at 10-10, and a Steven Faussette basket gave the Aviators a 12-10 lead.
Sadiki Miller tied the score at 12-12 before Jadan Castro hit the first of four three pointers on the night, to give the Aviators 15-12 lead. Paterson Charter’s Caleb Ruffin hit one of two from the line, to make the score 15-13 Heights, before Tsering scored back-to-back baskets to give the Aviators a 19-13 lead. Belfield scored right before the quarter ended to cut the lead to 19-15 Hasbrouck Heights.
After Tsering opened the scoring to make the score 21-15, Paterson Charter began to chip away at the Aviators. Miller hit a three and Ruffin scored down low to cut the lead to one, before Castro made a lay up in transition for a 23-20 lead. Ruffin responded with two foul shots and Miller nailed a three for 25-23 Paterson Charter lead.
Faussette tied the game at 25 with two free throws with 4:23 remaining in the first half. Ruffin responded with four points down low for Paterson Charter to give the Lions a 29-25 lead. Faussette and Koukoutsis responded with a basket and three pointer respectively, as the Aviators snatched back the lead at 30-29.
Michael Ferguson gave Paterson Charter a 31-30 lead with 51.2 left in the half. Tsering was fouled scoring the basket, but missed the foul shot for the opportunity to go up two. But Paterson Charter was able to score four points in the final 23 seconds on baskets from Medlock and Jahar Pierce to take a three-point lead into the half, 35-32.
For the up-and-down pace of the first half, the third quarter slowed the scoring pace down as both teams upped the defensive play; An 11-11 quarter saw the Lions take a 46-43 lead into the fourth quarter.
Paterson Charter opened their largest lead of the night, seven points, at 50-43 on baskets by Miller and Robinson before Tsering finally got the Aviators on the board with 4.27 left in the game.
With the lead, and both teams having only three team fouls, Paterson Charter slowed the game down, trying to burn the clock. Running the clock down to 1:19, the Aviators were finally able to get the Lions to the foul line, trailing 53-48. Miller hit one of two make the score, 54-48.
Faussette scored with 30.9 second remaining to cut the lead to 54-50. After Harris nailed to key foul shots for the Lions to stretch the lead back to six, Faussette scored once to cut the lead to 56-52. The Aviators caught a break with 22.5 second remaining as their pressure defense forced a Paterson Charter turnover.
With 15 seconds remaining, Castro hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to 56-55. Miller sank both free throws at 13.2 seconds remaining, and the Lions were able to force a Hasbrouck Heights turnover with 10.3 seconds remaining. Robinson missed the first, but made the second sealing the Lions victory.
With the win, Paterson Charter will enter the NJIC playoffs next week to determine the NJIC Conference Champion with a perfect 16-0 record in the Meadowlands. Hasbrouck Heights will enter the crossover games having 14-2 in the Meadowlands.
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