PISCATAWAY, NJ — At times on Thursday, it looked as though Gill-St. Bernard’s was going to be the first New Jersey boys basketball team to tame the Lions of Roselle Catholic.

Despite being relegated to virtually a six-man rotation, the Knights’ zone defense was stymieing a potent Roselle Catholic squad, and Gill entered halftime trailing by just a point, 23-22.

In the end, though, foul trouble and top-seeded Roselle Catholic’s deadly combination of size and athleticism proved too much for the second-seeded and slightly shorthanded Knights. Roselle Catholic claimed a North Jersey Non-Public B sectional title with its 57-40 win over Gill-St. Bernard’s Thursday night at the Rutgers Athletic Center.

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Roselle Catholic, which never trailed, advances to face national powerhouse Ranney School in the Non-Public B state championship Saturday in Toms River.

“We battled for three quarters, and we kind of lost a little steam at the end,” Gill-St. Bernard’s head coach Mergin Sina told TAPinto.net. “I knew that would be the case if we couldn’t go up a little bit.

“Overall, I’m really happy for the kids,” he added. “I thought they really fought.”

While battling foul trouble, Paul Mulcahy, one of the state’s most coveted recruits in the class of 2019, posted team-highs of 15 points and seven rebounds for Gill. Alex Schachne added nine points for the depleted Knights, who received a collective total of just 14 minutes from their bench, and only four during the first three quarters.

Gill was without center Brad Bundschuh and senior John Yoss, both standouts currently suffering injury. The team also lost starter Will Yarbrough after he fouled out with 6:35 left in the fourth.

“The rotation was really short for us,” said Sina. “John Yoss not being there for us today, at this point in the season, hurt, because he can stretch the defense out and he’s obviously another body.”

Despite the Knights’ 17-point margin of defeat, it was once a very competitive game. A Schachne three-pointer with 6:08 left in the third quarter tied the game up at 25. However, Roselle Catholic kicked its game into a different gear and responded with an 11-2 run to claim the lead for good.

Alanzo Frink hit a pair of foul shots 50 seconds after Schachne’s three to give his team a 27-25 lead, and that started RC’s game-altering run. Frink, a 6-foot-9 power forward with numerous Division I offers, accounted for seven of his team’s 11 points during the stretch, including a monster three-point “and one” play that drew the fourth foul on Mulcahy.

By the time that the nearly three-minute long run was over, Roselle Catholic owned a 36-27 advantage.

“We were just rebounding well, just playing intense and trying to find the ball inside,” Frink said of his team’s overpowering run. “Basically, we just try to rebound, try to score, try to get kick outs and stuff like that.”

Frink, a forward also plays for the Dominican Republic national team, went on to post a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) to help lead Roselle Catholic’s surge. Fellow forward Kahlil Whitney, one of the top class of 2019 recruits in the nation, added a game-best 19 points — including the 1,000th point of his career — and Ithiel Horton chipped in 15 points for the Lions.

Gill made one final push to get back with its 6-0 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters. The Knights trailed by just one possession (39-36) after the stretch, but Roselle Catholic wouldn’t let it get any closer, and outscored Gill, 18-4, during the game’s final 6:35.

The high-flying Lions took over the RAC in a one minute span during that run, and received three consecutive dunks — two from Whitney and one from Horton.

Whitney, a junior, also threw down a monstrous dunk earlier in the first quarter, which was the 1,000th point of his high school career.

Arguably, Gill’s best basketball came during the second quarter. The Knights outscored the Lions, 15-10, during the frame and pulled to within a point entering halftime. With 1:31 left, Schachne came up with a steal, went coast to coast, and was awarded a field goal on Whitney’s goal-tending block, making the score 23-22 entering the break.

Normally an excellent shooting team, the Knights shot just 14-for-41 (34 percent) from the field and were out-rebounded, 33-21. 

The loss ends Gill-St. Bernard’s season. The Knights finish at 24-5, all of those loses coming to Top 25 nationally-ranked opponents (once to No. 1 Montverde, No. 10 Long Island Lutheran, No. 20 Imhotep Charter, and twice to No. 22 Roselle Catholic).