VERONA, NJ - Tied at 54 with 20 seconds left in the first overtime there was no question who would have the ball in his hands for Verona, Jack Farrell. A back-to-back State Section Title was on the line and after missing a buzzer beater shot to end regulation Farrell refused to let history repeat itself in the game’s crucial moments.
“When I was getting the ball I looked up and there was 11 or 12 seconds left. I had the ball in my hands and I wasn’t passing I was going and my team knew I was going too,” said Jack Farrell.
Farrell drove the lane, blowing by his defender and banking a layup off the glass and in. The sold out Verona High School gym erupted as a hail Mary shot a few seconds later fell harmlessly off the rim and Verona successfully defended their North 1 Group 1 Section Title.
“I had the confidence in myself and the team had confidence in me and I brought it home that’s what a captain does,” said Farrell.
Farrell’s game-winning shot gave him 17 for the night after a pretty slow start. The senior point guard netted 11 of his points in the second half or overtime even while competing in foul trouble for a majority of the contest.
“The kid hit a tremendous shot didn’t he? What a game!” said Verona Head Coach Eric McElroy.
Verona’s victory while not a surprise to their faithful will come as a surprise to many media outlets who picked the number two seeded Cresskill to knock off the defending champions. McElroy and the team noted that the media picking their opponents added extra fuel to their fire.
“[The media] picked Cresskill so we put it on the bulletin board in there and you can tell they were motivated,” said McElroy.
Verona’s victory was not without some trials and tribulations as Cresskill took a double-digit lead into the half. Utilizing their excellent three point shooting The Cougars took a 10 point lead into the half at 30-20.
“[Coach McElroy] said he’s not worried, he knew we were a good team, he believes in us and he trusts us,” said Travis Jocelyn.
Verona proceeded to amp up their game in the third quarter. Joe Zecchino joined Jocelyn and Farrell to send The Hillbillies on a 17-3 third quarter scoring run that drastically altered the course of the game. Zecchino collected four of his seven points in the frame while Jocelyn added four more along with a number of blocks and defensive rebounds.
“We just picked it up, got into the game, hit big shots, got big stops and pulled out the win,” said Jocelyn.
For now, the 23-5 Hillbillies will enjoy the Sectional Title, but the team still looks ahead to Group play where they will encounter University High School.
“These guys they’ve had their goals and this was one of them, but they want to go farther so we’ll start getting ready immediately, but I’ll let them have a good time for now,” said McElroy.
Verona will take on University on Wednesday at the East Orange Campus at 5:30 p.m.