TOMS RIVER, NJ — When Naz Reid is on top of his game, Roselle Catholic is as dangerous as any team in the nation.
The 6-foot-11 Reid has been one of the country’s best players during his four year career at Roselle Catholic. But his tenure as a player for the school was hanging by a thread in NJSIAA Non-Public B State Championship game Saturday night.
Reid made sure his career — and the Lions' season — wasn't eanding.
With his team trailing by seven points and just over two minutes left, Reid, an LSU commit, exploded for 10 of his team’s 12 points during a season-saving 12-3 run, and threw down the game-winning alley-oop dunk with five seconds remaining. Reid’s heroics in front of 3,208 fans at RWJ Barnabas Health Arena led Roselle Catholic to a 63-61 win over nationally-ranked Ranney School to claim a Non-Public B state title and clinch a Tournament of Champions birth.
“I could not have my final high school season end in a loss — I just couldn’t do it,” Reid told TAPinto.net after the game. “I played with everything I had on the floor, and went out and did it. … Ranney sped us up like they’re supposed to do, but we were calm, collective, and poised. We got the job done as a unit.”
The McDonald’s All-American finished with a game-high 22 points, shot a stellar 69 percent from the field (11-for-16), and brought down nine rebounds while playing all 32 minutes. Teammates Alanzo Frink (15 points), Kahlil Whitney (12 points), and Ithiel Horton (10 points) combined for 37 points to help pace Roselle Catholic, which still hasn’t lost an in-state game.
After Kahlil Whitney hit a pair of free throws to tie the game up at 61 with 29 seconds remaining, Ranney’s five-star recruit Bryan Antoine tried to put up a floater from the right elbow as time was ticking down. Reid blocked his shot, Josh Pierre-Louis gathered the rebound, and sent a pass up to Ithiel Horton. With Reid wide open streaking down the court, Horton tossed a lob, and Reid caught it mid-air and dunked the game winning bucket.
That exhilarating sequence gave Roselle Catholic its first state championship since 2015, a team that a freshman Reid also played a major role on.
“From the bench, coach told me — I told him I had four fouls — ‘We need this block’,” Reid said. “I went out there and did that, they secured the rebound, and that’s when I think my brother Ithiel [Horton] threw me the lob. I got the job done; I finished it.”
The explosion from Reid and excellent team composure helped Roselle Catholic recover from a deficit that once looked insurmountable, given Ranney’s three-possession lead and star power featuring the likes of Antoine, Scottie Lewis, and Alex Klatsky.
After a bucket from Whitney gave Roselle Catholic a 51-50 lead with 5:57 remaining, Ranney mounted an 8-0 run to jump ahead. Down, but not out, Roselle Catholic kept itself together and responded with the game-winning 12-3 stretch immediately after. Similar to how he ended it, Reid got it started with a reverse one-handed slam.
“They kept their composure; I never really saw in the huddle where they lost their composure,” Roselle Catholic head coach Dave Boff said. “They just kept on saying to each other, like, ‘A stop or two and we got a shot and we’re back in this game’.”
Ranney’s run, spearheaded by Lewis, was a textbook demonstration of how to beat the zone defense. Lewis, a renowned player with over 20 offers from schools such as Duke, Kentucky, and Villanova, scored four of his team’s eight points during the stretch.
Despite his efforts in the fourth quarter, Lewis wasn’t even his team’s leading scorer. Ahmadu Sarnor finished with a team-best 16 points for Ranney. Antoine had 13 points, Lewis 12, and sharpshooting Klatsky added 11 for the Panthers, who finish their season at 28-5.
“Scottie, Klatsky, Bryan, Ahmadu, all of them — they’re tremendous athletes and tremendous basketball players,” Reid said. “I give it up to them too; they played their hearts out, they played their all.”
After trading baskets and remaining even with Ranney at the end of one quarter, Roselle Catholic outscored its Monmouth County counterparts, 16-11, to take a 31-26 lead into halftime. The Panthers slowly mounted a comeback after the break, though, and claimed their first lead of the second half on a three-pointer from Klatsky with 2:26 left in the third.
While constantly finding ways to beat Roselle Catholic’s 2-3 zone defense — be it by three-pointers from the corner or on the paint — Ranney outscored RC, 22-16, in the third quarter, and led by as much as seven points in the second half.
“They executed really well against our zone,” Boff said. “They executed their stuff, and they made shots when they got them. That’s why why they’re a fantastic basketball team.”
Though Ranney has given Roselle Catholic its toughest in-state challenge yet, the Lions will likely be rewarded with the No. 1 seed in the next week’s Tournament of Champions. The prestigious tournament will give seniors such as Reid a chance to leave a legacy on their careers.
“[Tonight] was one of them [career highlights],” Reid said, “but hopefully there’s a bigger one in the TOC game.”