After games on Sunday, March 11
The marathon that is the high school basketball season is winding to a close, as the state sectional champions were crowned this past weekend.
Some brought little surprise, like when St. Anthony, the third-ranked team in the POWERADE FAB 50, used stifling defense to repeat as Non-Public B champions. The Friars' 67-39 victory against Gill St. Bernard's ran their win streak to a national-best 63 games, secured their 27th group title and earned them the top seed in this week's Tournament of Champions.
Others triggered shock and suspense, like when Plainfield had to storm back from a halftime deficit to beat Neptune in the Group 3 championship — this coming one round after the Cardinals downed previously undefeated Teaneck by 22. Or when Atlantic City had to pull off a similar late run to beat an upstart Elizabeth squad in the Group 4 title game.
And one contest made history. Ewing's 59-50 win against Pascack Hills in the Group 2 final made Shelley Dearden the first female coach in state history to lead a boys basketball team to a state championship.
Here are this week's rankings (last week's rankings in parentheses):
1. St. Anthony (Jersey City) 30-0 (1)
Friars repeated as Non-Public B champs while running their win streak to 63 games by easily beating Hudson Catholic and Gill St. Bernard's. They enter the Tournament of Champions as the top seed, awaiting the March 14 winner of Ewing and Atlantic City.
2. St. Benedict's (Newark) 31-1 (2)
The Gray Bees begin a tough two-week stretch, playing in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference in Maryland beginning with a contest against John Carroll (Md.). Then they will take part in the ESPNHS NHSI tournament beginning on March 28.
3. Plainfield 28-3 (4)
The Cardinals handed Teaneck its lone loss of the season before rallying back against Neptune to win the Group 3 title. Next up: Asbury Park in Wednesday's opening round of the Tournament of Champions.