PATERSON, NJ - With the final outcome in doubt until the last moments of play the Paterson Charter School for Science and Technology boys’ basketball squad suffered a heartbreaking 52-47 loss to Wood Ridge in Group NJSIAA North I, Group I state tournament action on their home court Tuesday.
Played before a capacity crowd student bodies of both teams, sitting on bleachers opposite one another, were boisterous from tipoff to final buzzer of the frenzied match.
The first frame saw both teams battle evenly. The Lions’ junior guard tandem, Sadiki Miller and Marquise Harris, both directed offensive traffic. Wood Ridge countered with point guard and floor leader, junior Ryan Sarver. The latter drove into the paint and dished off for an easy Blue Demons’ score and soon followed with a long three-pointer from the right corner.
However, the Lions answered with a successful drive and bucket from the left baseline by senior Raja Cameron. After Paterson Charter misfired on two free throws, Wood Ridge did not, and narrowed their deficit to four points, 21-17. Miller then drove into the lane but was called for throwing an elbow. However, immediately following, Wood Ridge’s Caleb Ruffin was whistled for the same only to quickly atone for his miscue with a nice move and basket off the low post.
With 28 seconds left in the second quarter, the Lions cashed in on a spectacular drive to the bucket and basket by Bashir Byrd yet the score was nullified by a charging call, much to the loud dismay of Paterson fans. A steal by Miller was followed by a desperation heave from near midcourt which barely missed the mark as the buzzer sounded.
Second half action intensified as both teams found their offensive groove. In addition, on two occasions during the pressure packed, final sixteen minutes, a game official awarded the ball to one team on an out of bounds call only to have another referee reverse the judgement. Despite one call favoring Paterson and the other Wood Ridge, in both instances the temporary confusion and reversal of fortunes served to only ignite the already vociferous crowd to a frenetic crescendo.
The opening scenario saw Ruffin, temporarily utilized at the point by Wood Ridge, presented with a fierce battle against Cameron while bringing the ball up the court which resulted in a turnover. PC’s senior forward Joseph Collazo followed with a 15-foot successful jump shot. However, a free throw and fast break layup by the Blue Demons came soon thereafter. Following a furious tangle of arms and legs in the Lions’ lane, the ball scooted out toward the left wing and was picked up by Cameron who knocked down a short jumper.
Later in the third quarter, Wood Ridge was frustrated with the swarming Lions’ defense and forced to call a timeout to avoid a five second call. With 2:28 left, the two squads traded turnovers before a Wood Ridge wheel from the high post and subsequent banker off the glass procured the Blue Demons a 30-28 lead.
Two more successful offerings from the charity stripe by Wood Ridge proved to be prophetic as clutch marksmanship from the free throw line, down the stretch, proved to be the difference.
Several furious trips up and down the court by both squads yielded no fruit but Paterson scored on a 12-foot jumper by Byrd. Cameron then jetted coast-to-coast for a spectacular scoring layup but was hammered, knocked to floor, and temporarily lay writing in pain. However, to warm applause by fans from both sides, the courageous senior was eventually able to hobble to the bench and later return to the game.
In what could be called the signature play of the contest, the subsequent foul shot was missed by Paterson and as auditorium noise reached a feverish pitch, Ruffin grabbed the rebound and dribbled the length of the court for a spectacular fast break layup. However, after the dust had settled, Paterson answered by connecting on a 15-foot swish.
As the time clock wound down, both squads slapped on full court pressure. Following a clutch three-pointer by Sarver which narrowed the slim Paterson lead, the Blue Demons turned to junior Liam Wilson for a score. Late foul shots by Winslow, Wilson, and Sarver sealed the victory for the Blue Demons.
Byrd led Paterson in scoring with 14 points while Miller contributed nine and Ruffin added eight. The Blue Demons were topped by Wilson with 17 tallies and Sarver with 11.
Wood Ridge moves on in state tournament play by facing New Providence Thursday.
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