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Iron Mikes Win First Ever T of C Behind Massenat, Tucker, and Lewis-El
By Greg Machos
March 23, 2010
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ—For the first time since 2000, neither St. Anthony's or St. Patrick's were in the Championship Game of the Tournament of Champions. It was also the first time ever that two teams from South Jersey brackets were facing off against each other for the T of C title. Now, it is true that Trenton Catholic is more of a Central Jersey team, but they compete in Non-Public B South so that would make the Iron Mikes a South Jersey team in this case. Anyway, the Non-Publics were going to have yet another champion on this night. In the 22 year history of the T of C, there have only been four public schools to ever with the championship: Elizabeth (1990), Shawnee (1992), Orange (1994), and Camden (2000).
This T of C final marked the first time that a boys team from Mercer County reached the title game. It was the first time for Trenton Catholic, which reached the T of C in the first two years of the event back in 1989 and 1990 only to lose before reaching the final. Meanwhile, Camden Catholic played for the T of C Championship back in 2003, and lost to St. Patrick's (61-38). For both the Iron Mikes of TCA and the Fighting Irish of CCHS, it was the third time both teams reached the T of C. Trenton Catholic reached this point by defeating Cardinal McCarrick in the Non-Public B South Championship (62-53), knocking off perennial powerhouse and Non-Public B North Champion, St. Anthony's in the Non-Public B State Final in triple overtime (57-56), and then defeating Group I State Champion, University of Newark (63-46) in the T of C semifinals after getting a first round bye.
Meanwhile, Camden Catholic had an arduous road to the T of C final as well. The Irish defeated St. Joseph's (62-59) in the Non-Public A South Semifinals, won the Non-Public A South Championship over St. Augustine's Prep (62-51), and then the Non-Public A State Title over Non-Public A North Champion, St. Peter's Prep of Jersey City (68-63). The Fighting Irish were awarded the top seed and a first round bye in the Tournament of Champions before avenging its only loss of the year by defeating fellow Olympic Conference member, Cherokee of Marlton in the semifinals (47-34). As long time NFL broadcaster, John Madden said, there's only one team that will end the season with a win, and that team would be Trenton Catholic. The Iron Mikes got a huge lift from usual reserve Markese Tucker, who was given a rare start, and made the most of it by connecting on 9 of 13 shots from the floor, and making his only free throw for a game high 19 points while pulling down 9 rebounds in a 53-39 victory over Camden Catholic.
Frantz Massenat was the team MVP for the game though with 4 of 7 shooting from the floor, and two free throws for 10 points along with 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, and a block. Khalid Lewis-El chipped in as well for the winners with 5 of 10 shooting from the floor, and a perfect 4 of 4 from the line for 14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal, and a block. Brandon Taylor also contributed with 4 of 9 shooting from the floor for 8 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block. Trenton Catholic only had five players break into the scoring column, but three of them scored in double figures. Camden Catholic also had five players get onto the score sheet, but only two scored in double figures. Senior 6'7" center, Gerry Wixted led the Irish in a losing cause with a team high 14 points on five field goals, a three pointer, and one of two from the line while he grabbed 9 rebounds, and collected an assist and a charge. Lehigh bound senior guard, Anthony D'Orazio chipped in with 10 points, 5 assists, 2 rebounds, a steal, and a block.
For the game, Trenton Catholic Academy, formerly known as McCorristin, went 23 of 46 overall from the field while making 7 of 13 from the line, and committing just seven turnovers. On the other side of the ledger, Camden Catholic, which was 15 of 28 from the floor for 54 percent against Cherokee in the semis, struggled as it shot only 15 of 46 overall for 33 percent including just 2 of 11 from beyond the arc. The Irish were only 7 of 8 from the line after going 14 of 17 in the previous round. CCHS did a better job of handling the basketball in this game with 9 turnovers versus 17 against Cherokee. In addition, the Fighting Irish made only six turnovers over the final three periods. In other statistical areas, TCA outrebounded CCHS by a margin of 30-20 including a 10-4 showing on the offensive glass. The Iron Mikes also had more assists (13-10) and steals (2-0) while the Irish had more blocks (5-3) and charges (1-0). Trenton Catholic outscored Camden Catholic in each of the three final quarters including a 20-12 margin in the fourth that helped it pull away from a 33-27 third quarter lead.
In the first period, Trenton Catholic appeared poised to blow Camden Catholic out like it did in a meeting between the two schools in late February last year (77-46). The Iron Mikes jumped out to an 8-2 lead after neither team score for the first 1:27. Lewis-El then made an entry pass to Tucker for a foul line jumper, and a 2-0 lead. After Camden Catholic committed its second turnover of the game, it managed to get on the board, and tie the game when D'Orazio passed to Wixted for a layup at the 5:32 mark. Dondre Whitmore (2 points, 3 assists, a rebound, and a steal), who had a tough night getting into the flow offensively, got his only points of the contest when he grabbed the offensive rebound off a Massenat miss, and put in the follow for a 4-2 lead with 5:15 to go in the first. Lewis-El then connected on a jumper from Massenat, and Taylor added a layup for the six point lead before Sherard Cadogan (2 FGs and 2 of 2 FTs for 6 points, 2 blocks, a rebound, and a steal) netted his only two foul shots of the game for an 8-4 TCA lead at the 3:45 mark. Up to this point, CCHS was only one of seven from the floor.
D'Orazio got his first points of the game with a layup at the 3:10 mark that closed the gap to 8-6, but then Tucker took a nice feed from Taylor, and scored a layup as he was fouled for a three point play at the 2:46 mark for an 11-6 TCA lead. Camden Catholic would score the final six points of the first as D'Orazio swiped a steal off a Whitmore pass for a layup, and an 11-8 lead at the 2:03 mark, Wixted drove in for another layup at the 1:22 mark, and then Cadogan capped the run with a layup at the 50 second mark for a 12-11 lead after one. Wixted, D'Orazio, and Cadogan each scored four points in the period while Tucker had five for Trenton Catholic. The Irish ended the quarter by making all of its final four shots to finish the period 5 of 11 from the floor while TCA was 5 of 13. Camden Catholic made both its free throws while Trenton Catholic made its lone foul shot attempt. In the second quarter, the Iron Mikes outscored the Irish by a 9-6 margin to take a two point edge into the locker room at halftime. Trenton Catholic was only 4 of 13 from the floor, but limited Camden Catholic to just 2 of 12 shooting. It was the lowest scoring period of the game.
Massenat came up empty at the line to start the quarter, but Tucker picked him up with a jumper for a 13-12 lead at the 6:20 mark. The game, which had only four lead changes and two ties, had them all occur in the second period. Wixted responded to Tucker's score with a jumper from the right side to make the score, 14-13 at the 5:52 mark. Four seconds later though, Massenat made one of two from the charity stripe to tie things up at 14-14, and then grabbed a rebound at the defensive end, and drove in for a layup, and a 16-14 lead at the 4:07 mark. Both teams exchanged scores as Massenat dished to Lewis-El for a layup and an 18-16 advantage despite a missed front end of a one and one by Ronnie Paden at the 2:28 mark. Nearly a half minute later, Tucker got an offensive rebound off a missed three by Whitmore, and put in the follow for a 20-16 lead at the two minute mark. Camden Catholic closed out the first half scoring as Cadogan swiped a steal by diving for a loose ball and alertly calling timeout at the 1:35 mark, and D'Orazio cashed in 21 seconds later with two free throws for a 20-18 score at the intermission.
Looking at the halftime stats, Trenton Catholic was only shooting 9 of 26 from the floor for 35 percent, but Camden Catholic was struggling as well as it shot only 7 of 23 for 30 percent. Both teams were a combined one of eight from beyond the arc as they struggled with the depth perception in the cavernous IZOD Center. The Iron Mikes also had difficulty at the line by going 2 of 6 while Camden Catholic was 4 of 4. TCA was winning the turnover wars (3-6) while rebounds were nearly even (15-14 in favor of TCA). Trenton Catholic also had more offensive rebounds (6-2) and assists (6-4) while Camden Catholic had more blocks (4-2). Steals (2-2) were even while neither team had drawn a charge. Moving on to the first half scoring, Tucker clicked on four of five shots, and made his only free throw for 9 points and 4 rebounds while Massenat struggled from the floor, but still collected 3 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and a block. Wixted and D'Orazio had seven and six points respectively, but were a combined 5 of 18 from the floor in the first half. Cadogan still had four points in the game while Wixted added seven boards. The start of the second half depicted Trenton Catholic taking control of the game for good as it held Camden Catholic without a point for the first 3:15.
The Iron Mikes, which finished the season with 21 wins in their last 22 games while ending the longest winning streak in the state at 24, scored the first eight points of the second half to take a ten point lead. Tucker began the third with a jumper from the right side as he was falling down for a 22-18 lead at the 7:13 mark. Lewis-El then scored on a putback, and Tucker struck again for two with a bank shot at the 6:15 mark for a 6-0 run, and a 26-18 lead. Following a 30 second timeout by the Fighting Irish at the 5:23 mark, Lewis-El drove in for a layin, an 8-0 run, and a 28-18 lead with five minutes left in the frame. CCHS didn't get on the board until the 4:45 mark when D'Orazio netted two free throws for a 28-20 TCA lead. Trenton Catholic then got a break when Lewis-El made a smart play by calling timeout while leaping to retrieve an errant Tucker pass at the 3:09 mark. The Irish cut into their deficit a bit as Wixted connected for his only three of the game from the right wing, and then scored a layup off an assist by D'Orazio with three seconds left for a 32-27 TCA lead. Massenat closed out the third quarter scoring with one of two from the line for a 33-27 edge heading into the fourth.
The final period started out with some hope for the Fighting Irish as they outscored the Iron Mikes by a margin of 6-2 over the first 2:38 to pull within a bucket at 35-33. However, TCA put the game away with an 18-6 tear over the final 5:22 for the victory. Camden Catholic went to work right away as D'Orazio made a nice skip pass to Matt McElhatton (3 points and 2 rebounds), who scored his only points of the game on a three pointer from the right wing for a 33-30 Iron Mikes lead at the 7:20 mark. Massenat then scored on a drive for a layup, and a 35-30 lead before Crawford scored a layup off an assist by Bart Middleman (2 assists and a rebound) for a 35-32 score. Trenton Catholic Academy then committed an offensive foul at the 6:10 mark that turned the ball over back to Camden Catholic, which got the ball to Wixted, who drew a foul and made one of two from the line for a 35-33 TCA lead at the 5:22 mark. Over the next 1:52, the Iron Mikes scored the next four points including a putback by Taylor, and then a floater by Lewis-El at the 3;30 mark for a 39-33 lead.
The Irish closed the gap to four again as Cadogan scored a layup off a nice feed on the interior by Crawford for a 39-35 TCA lead as the Iron Mikes called for time at the 2:51 mark. Following the timeout, Trenton Catholic did a great job of spreading the floor, and taking time off the clock. Tucker would score on a layup at the 2:07 mark for a 41-35 lead, and then score again on a layup off a pass by Lewis-El at the 1:38 mark. The icing on the cake came when Taylor slammed home a one handed dunk as he was fouled with 52.3 seconds left for a 47-37 lead. Trenton Catholic then closed out the game with six of the final eight points for the 53-39 victory. Wixted ended up earning game MVP honors for CCHS, which finished the season at 29-2 while Trenton Catholic closed out the year at 28-3. Analysis will be forthcoming in the blog.
Trenton Catholic (28-3)
Camden Catholic (29-2)
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