Wade, Bruce, And Louis Help Linden
By Greg Machos
December 16, 2007
SOUTH ORANGE, NJ—For the sixth straight year, GMC Hoops is covering action at the Hoop Group Tip-Off Classic, which is now sponsored by the Star-Ledger. For the first time though, the web site is devoting two days of coverage with a game on Saturday as well as the now traditional tripleheader on Sunday. While there were no GMC teams in this showcase for the third straight year, there was an area team competing on Saturday as Group IV, Watchung Conference power, Linden, took on another state power in St. Joseph's out of Montvale in Northern New Jersey in the 2:40 PM game. Prior to the start of the season, Linden was awarded the top spot in the Home News-Tribune Pre-Season Top Ten after going 30-3 last season. However, the Tigers sport a relatively young team despite several players returing from last year's squad including Houston bound point guard, Desmond Wade, junior forward, David Bruce, and senior reserve, Jerrelle Louis.
Over the summer, Linden hosted its own team camp, and summer league, and despite some ups and downs at times in the league against foes such as Colonia, Cardinal McCarrick, East Brunswick, and Watchung Hills, the Tigers still managed to win the post-season tournament. In all fairness to the Tigers, they lost an incredible of talent from last year's team that defeated South Brunswick in the Group IV State Championship for its second straight state title, and third in the last eight years. Graduated are sharpshooter Darrell Lampley (St. Peter's), Muhammad Wilkerson (Hargrave Military Academy), Ahmad Harris, Jerry Jones, and George Bease just to name a few. So, the Tigers have been left with a fairly young squad including two freshmen in Elijah Hodge and Tony Rose. There are also reserves such as Xavier Freeman, which didn't see much time last season. In the season opener, Linden lost to Watchung Conference, Union County, and North Jersey Section 2 Group IV rival, Plainfield in the season opener, 70-66 in overtime. Facing the rare prospect of starting the season at 0-2, the Tigers came out ready to play with their trademark defense as it faced off against St. Joseph's of Montvale from the NNJIL, and the Non-Public A North bracket. The Green Knights, which GMC Hoops happened to see play against Immaculata of Somerville in the Hoop Group HBC back in June, lost to perennial power Seton Hall Prep in the sectional championship, 53-48.
Leading only 6-4 inside four minutes to go in the first quarter, the Tigers put together a huge early run that spanned into the second period. Over a period of 6:27, Linden outscored St. Joe's-Montvale by a 12-2 margin for an 18-6 lead before the Green Knights rallied for 12 of the last 17 points to make it a 23-18 lead at the half. Then, after Linden took a 33-25 lead on a 10-7 showing in the third, the Green Knights outscored the Tigers by a 15-7 count over the first 5:06 of the fourth to tie things up at 40-40. However, Linden, which was knocked off by Bloomfield Tech in the semifinal game of the Tournament of Champions on a last second buzzer beating half court shot by Rich Hall, scored seven of the next ten points over a 2:16 span including a clutch three point bomb by Louis from the right wing for a 47-43 lead with 38 seconds remaining. From there, Linden hung on for the 51-49 win in a game that was a hard fought slugfest that the officials were determined to call by calling it close. Wade, the Tigers game MVP with 14 points and 7 assists struggled early, but finished strong going 5 of 11 from the floor from the second period on. Wade dished six of his assists, and swiped three steals in the final three periods of action while teammate and junior big man, Bruce complemented well with a a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds including 12 points and 6 rebounds, and an assist over the last 24 minutes of play.
Louis ended up with nine points on a field goal, three pointer, and a perfect 4 of 4 at the line, which all came in the final three periods including seven that came in the final period. The former Rahway transfer also collected a rebound, assist, and a steal over the final three quarters. Freeman and junior guard Tevin Calhoun each chipped in with four points including two by the senior reserve on two foul shots in the final 24 minutes of play while the junior made one of two three point attempts, and one of two at the line to score all of his points from the second quarter on. Hodges, Edwin Servil, and senior reserve forward, Charlton Wilson, who is the younger brother of former Cardinal McCarrick standout, and 2003 GMC Hoops Player of the Year, Mika Wilson, and even played freshmen ball at Cardy Mac, rounded out the Tiger scoring with two points each. Tony Rose, Anttwine Foster, Romell Bateman, and Billy Bourgouin also played, but didn't score according to the article from the Monday Star-Ledger. Meanwhile, for the Green Knights, senior 6'2" guard, Hakeem Williams, put in the team MVP effort with 20 points including 5 of 9 shooting from the floor including 2 of 4 from beyond the arc, and 7 of 8 at the foul line for 19 points over the final three periods. Chipping in was 6'3" senior forward, Marvin Fulford, who scored all ten of his points on the game over the last three quarters on 4 of 6 shooting from the field and two foul shots.
Forward Joe Efese contributed as well with three field goals and two foul shots for 8 points on the day including six from the second quarter on as he made 2 of 5 shots, and 2 of 2 from the line while also collecting eight rebounds and three blocks during the same span. Rounding out the scoring for the Green Knights were Nick DeLango (4 points), Andy Belizaire (2 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists), Kai Dominguez (2 points, a rebound, and an assist), Kyle Thomas (2 points, a rebound, and an assist). For the game, both teams won two quarters each as the Tigers won the first and the third while the Green Knights won the second and the fourth. Taking a look at the stats over the last three frames, Linden went 13 of 32 from the field for 40.6 percent including 2 of 5 from three for exactly 40 percent, but the Tigers really struggled at the charity stripe going only 11 of 23 for 47.8 percent including a paltry 3 of 13 by Wade and Bruce combined. Outside Louis' 4 of 4 effort, Linden was only 7 of 19 from the foul line in the final 24 minutes of play. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ledger, St. Joseph's of Montvale shot 14 of 31 overall from the floor for 45.2 percent including 2 of 5 from three as well while making 13 of 21 from the free throw stripe for 61.9 percent to outscore Linden by a slim 45-41 margin over the game's final 24 minutes.
Looking at other statistics gathered over the last three periods of play, the Green Knights had more rebounds (21-16) and blocks (3-1) while Linden had more assists (10-8) and steals (4-0). Arriving late to the festivities, I entered the gym at the 3:56 mark as Wade hoisted a jumper from the left wing that caught iron as Linden held a tenuous two point, 6-4 lead. The Tigers eventually got the ball back, and into the hands of senior Edwin Servil, who was fouled, and made both his foul shots for his only points of the game for an 8-4 lead at the 3:29 mark. Almost a minute later, Belizaire threw the ball away for a turnover at the 2:32 mark, and then Hodges forced another turnover by Dominguez at the 1:44 mark. Freeman then drove to the hoop, and drew a foul for two free throws, and a 10-4 Linden Tiger lead at the 1:18 mark. Wade then followed up with some defensive pressure of his own on Dominguez to force the Green Knight guard to turn it over again, and subsequently foul Wade at the 1:02 mark. On the next Tiger possession, Wade got the ball into Bruce, but at a tough angle underneath the basket, and when the lanky, 6'8" forward went to put up a shot, it was blocked by Efese at the 51 second mark. DeLango then missed two free throws at the 47.3 mark, and St. Joe's-Montvale failed to score again at the 20.4 mark as Freeman drew a charge. Then, as time expired in the first, Wade missed an off-balanced shot so Linden went into the second period with a 10-4 lead.
In the second quarter, Linden made 5 of 10 shots including one of two from three point land, but missed 8 of 10 foul shots while St. Joseph's of Montvale made 4 of 9 from the field including one of two from downtown, and connected on all five of its foul shots. Bruce and Calhoun spearheaded the balanced Linden attack in the second with four points each as the junior forward made 2 of 4 shots from the floor while the junior guard got all his points in the frame. Although he only connected on 1 of 4 shots in the period, Wade still contributed with three assists, two steals, and a rebound in addition to his two points while Louis went 1 of 1 for 2 points along with a rebound and a steal. Wilson rounded out the Tiger second stanza scoring with one of two from the line for a point. Meanwhile, Williams and Efese both had four in the quarter as the senior guard made a three pointer and a foul shot, and the forward made a field goal and two free throws. Thomas got his only points of the game in the period on a field goal along with a rebound while DeLango got his only field goal in the contest, and Belizaire added a pair of foul shots to round out the Green Knight scoring in the frame. The quarter started with Bruce, who missed four from the line in the second, going 0 of 2 at the charity stripe after getting fouled on a short baseline jumper from the left side at the 7:46 mark.
Thirty-six seconds later, Linden had an opportunity to score again as Wade found Wilson underneath off an inbounds play that drew a foul, but the 6'6' forward only made one of two from the foul line for an 11-4 Tiger advantage at the 7:10 mark. Thomas then canned his only field goal of the game on a jumper from the left side for the first team field goal and points since our arrival midway through the first for an 11-6 Linden lead at the 6:42 mark. The Tigers then scored the next five points including a three pointer off an assist by Wade, and a layup by Bruce that gave Linden a 16-6 edge, and coerced St. Joe's-Montvale to call for time at the 5:46 mark. Following the thirty second timeout, Louis got a steal and went in for a layup to get his only points of the first half as the Union County school took an 18-6 lead with 5:29 remaining in the first half. The twelve point advantage would be the biggest of the game for Linden as not only did St. Joseph's of Montvale rally to pull within five at the half, but also the Tigers weren't able to go back up by any more than seven the rest of the way. The Green Knights mounted their comeback by first getting a jumper from the right side by DeLango off an assist by Belizaire, and then two free throws from Efese, who was fouled on a rebound at the 4:48 mark that made the score, 18-10.
Both teams would exchange scores over the next 2:18 including a steal for a layup by Wade for a 20-12 Linden advantage before Wade got an entry pass into Bruce on the left low post for a pivot, and spin toward the basket for a scoop shot that drew a foul at the 2:30 mark. Unfortunately, the Tigers came up empty as Bruce misfired again on both free throws. Belizaire then made it a 4-0 run by netting two foul shots at the 2:21 mark for a 20-14 Tiger lead. Bruce then got on the board with a turnaround jumper in the left low block for a 22-14 advantage at the 1:13 mark, but the Green Knights ended the half with four of the final five points, all coming on a four point play at the 12.6 mark as Williams was fouled on a three pointer from the left corner that went in for a 23-18 halftime lead. Linden had previously gotten its only point during the stretch on a one of two showing at the line by Calhoun at the 36.6 second mark. The third period would be the second lowest scoring frame by both teams next to the first. Linden and St. Joe's-Montvale combined for 17 points in the period as the Tigers garnered a 10-7 edge to enter the fourth up by eight, 33-25. In the period, Linden shot 4 of 14 from the field, and 2 of 3 from the line for its ten points while the Green Knights made 3 of 9 shots from the floor, and 1 of 4 from the line for its seven points.
Fulford got the ball rolling for St. Joseph's of Montvale with an offensive rebound and putback off a miss from three point land by Williams for a 23-20 Linden lead at the 7:30 mark. A little while later, Fulford scored again on a layup to pull the Bergen County School to within one at 23-22 while Freeman was called for traveling, and the Tigers turned the ball over at the 5:57 mark. However, on the next Green Knight possession, Fulford was called for a traveling violation at the 5:37 mark, and the Tigers took advantage by scoring the next time down on a drive and dish by Wade to Bruce for a layup that ended the 16-5 St. Joe's-Montvale tear, and put Linden ahead by three at 25-22 with 5:15 left in the third. Inside of a minute later, Bruce scored again on an offensive rebound and putback as he was fouled, but missed the bonus free throw for a 27-22 Tiger edge at the 4:20 mark. The Green Knights would get on the board to pull within three again, but Wade then scored four unanswered points on two scores, and then Fulford the missed two charity shots after being fouled by Freeman at the 2:08 mark for a 31-24 Tiger lead. Bruce finally struck gold at the foul line after grabbing an offensive board off a missed floater by Wade, and drawing a foul at the 1:43 mark. The 6'8" junior made both of his free throws for a 33-24 Linden edge, and after Williams made one of two at the line with 1:22 left in the third, both teams entered the fourth with Linden leading by a 33-25 margin. In the fourth, both teams combined for 42 percent of the points in the entire contest as the Green Knights outscored the Tigers by a 24-18 margin.
St. Joseph's of Montvale was 8 of 13 from the floor in the final frame including one of two from beyond the arc while making 7 of 12 foul shots for its 24 points. On the other hand, Linden scored its 18 on 4 of 8 shooting including 1 of 2 from downtown, and much better at the free throw line going 7 of 10. Wade, whose father, Jeff, is the head coach at Wardlaw-Hartridge, picked up his play with five points and three assists in the final frame while Louis made all four of his foul shots down the stretch, and the clutch three to pull out the win. Moreover, Bruce, who scored 6 of his team's ten points in the third, added four more in the fourth as the veteran trio registered 16 of Linden's 18 final period points. Williams scored ten points in the final period on a three pointer, conventional three point play, and 4 of 4 at the foul line for the Green Knights. St. Joe's-Montvale scored first over the opening 2:05 of the final period for a 33-27 Linden lead before Wade drove in for a layup, and was fouled by Fulford, but missed the bonus free throw for a 35-27 Tiger lead at the 5:55 mark. Fulford then atoned for the foul by scoring on a layup to close the gap again to six at 35-29, but Louis was quickly fouled by DeLango, and sank two free throws for a 37-29 lead with 5:37 to play. Belizaire then got the ball in the high post, pump faked and dribbled before kicking to Williams for a three pointer from the left wing to pull the Green Knights to within five at 37-32 with 5:06 remaining.
On the next Linden possession, Wade drew a foul at the 4:54 mark. After making the first free throw, the senior guard missed the second, but grabbed the offensive board, and dished the Bruce for a layup to cap an unusual three point play for a 40-32 lead. Williams then promptly responded with the more conventional three point play on the next St. Joseph's of Montvale series to close the gap to five again at 40-35 with 4:38 to play. About a half minute later, Dominguez drove in for a layup that got a kind roll as the sophomore also picked up the foul, but couldn't make the bonus free throw for a 40-37 Linden lead at the 4:07 mark. At the 3:32 mark, the Green Knights drew even closer as Fulford made one of two at the line. On the missed second shot, Belizaire skied for the offensive rebound, but Linden tied up the junior, and got a jump ball call to regain possession. With St. Joe's-Montvale putting together a 9-3 run, Linden was beginning to feel the game beginning to get away, and needed to make a play. The Tigers got the ball to Bruce, who was fouled by Belizaire for the junior's fifth foul at the 3:15 mark. However, Bruce continued to struggle at the line by missing the one and one, and the score remained 40-38. A little while later, Linden had more problems as it was called for a ten second violation for not crossing halfcourt at the 2:54 mark. DeLango then drove to the basket, and drew a foul that resulted in two free throws that knotted the game at 40-40 with 2:46 left in regulation.
Following a Linden timeout at the 2;33 mark, the Tigers got the sense of urgency, and went on to put together what ultimately would be the game deciding run. It began with Bruce actually handing out an assist to Wade on a drive for a short one handed shot from the left side for a 42-40 edge at the 2:20 mark. Although Williams would sink two free throws to tie things up again at 42-42 with 1:33 to play, Linden wouldn't be denied as Wade dished to Bruce for a reverse layup to go ahead, 44-42 at the 1:12 mark. On the next Green Knight possession, Fulford sank one of two at the line to pull his team to within one at 44-43 with 58.4 remaining. Then came the pivotal play as Wade passed to Louis on the right wing for a long three pointer that made it a two possession game with 38 seconds remaining. However, St. Joseph's of Montvale didn't give up, and despite the pleading to the officials by Linden coach, Phil Colicchio, stepped up to the line for two foul shots by Williams at the 30.1 mark that made it 47-45. Linden would call for time at the 27.6 mark, and following the timeout, Freeman was fouled, and made both his free throws at the 24.6 mark for a 49-45 edge. Battling to the end, St. Joe's-Montvale got an offensive rebound and putback off a miss by Dominguez to cut the deficit to two again at 49-47 with just 12.7 remaining. But, Louis would come up clutch again by making two key foul shots to pretty much seal the win at 51-47 with 10.7 left. The Green Knights would come back down the floor for an offensive rebound and putback for Fulford, but it wasn't enough as Linden even its overall record on the season at 1-1 with a 51-49 win.
St. Joseph's-Montvale (1-1)
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