SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - The South Orange 8th grade boys basketball team went from "worst to first," winning the Suburban Essex League championship on March 9, according to an update from the South Orange Department of Recreation and Cultural Affairs (SODRCA).
The update from SODRCA stated, "For a team that went winless (0-14) last season, winning the Suburban League Boys 8th grade Basketball Championship was just a dream for this year's South Orange team."
The South Orange team went 10-4 during the regular season, defeating some of the top teams along the way and finishing as the 3rd seed in the playoffs, according to the SODRCA. The South Orange team defeating the then-undefeated West Essex team. The update stated that as a result, "West Essex was out to avenge that only loss in the championship game."
Before meeting West Essex in the final, South Orange showed "amazing skill and fortitude grinding out playoff wins against their cross-town rivals Maplewood and avenging a loss to the bigger and stronger Montclair team," according to the SODRCA.
The update stated that in the championship game, South Orange got off to a very slow start, trailing by 10 at halftime. However, "the grit and resolve that they showed all season returned in the 2nd half, slowly chipping away at the lead until they went ahead with just minutes remaining," according to SODRCA.
West Essex fought back to tie the game at 50-50 with less than 10 seconds remaining, and with 0:00 left on the clock, "the stunned crowd watched as a long and high 3-pointer from South Orange guard Hunter Arnott hit nothing but net... and the dream had come true," stated the update from SODRCA.
The update also added that the South Orange 8th grades boys championship win was the result of hard work and determination by the entire team, and that "along the way the boys had a lot of fun. Classic win-win."
PHOTO: First row: Mark Armstrong, Kojo Agbe-Laee, Jarrett Nelson, Hunter Arnott, Dylan Sullivan, Enoch Urbina; Second row: Matthew Motiwalla, Jalen Hardy, Tyler Lingham, Emanuel LaCon, KJ Cook, Ryan Donaty; Coaches: Jerry Donaty, Michael Sullivan, Emmett Hardy