When both teams came out onto the floor, It was clear that a dogfight was about to ensue. The roar of the crowd, especially the student section, echoed throughout the gym, and the back and forth cheers for both teams made it the perfect atmosphere for a title game. Top-seeded Cresskill knew the task ahead of them, a matchup against third-seeded Paterson Charter, wouldn’t be easy, but being at home certainly provided a much needed boost.
“Credit to goes to my guys, they were resilient, tough and bought in,” said Cresskill coach Dan Egorow, “But this crowd, I don’t know If we do it without them here.”
Going into the game, the Cougars knew they would be challenged defensively thanks to the speedy guards of Paterson Charter, but the they came out prepared and hungry, eventually leading to a 48-44 win over Paterson Charter, giving Cresskill (19-9) its 14th sectional title and first since 2018.
“It starts with the defensive end,” said Egorow. “We played a little bit of zone because they are a little bit quicker than us, but they bought in, we did the right thing and we had assignments that we went over yesterday.”
“44 points to that team, I mean, its a hell of a job” added Egorow.
The momentum at the start of the game belonged to Paterson Charter, as their star guard and leading scorer, Ka’Juan Gee, got the game started with a three and a pull-up jumper, kicking off a 9-0 run to start the game.
The Cougars started the game out playing zone defense, but Paterson Charter (17-7) sped the game up to their pace, getting open looks and forcing Cresskill to stay in constant movement.
However, one of the biggest switches in the game was the decision to go back to man-to-man. Cresskill used their size inside to not only shut down the penetration from Paterson Charter’s guards, but also out-hustle and out-rebound the Lions the rest of the game.
After trailing 11-7 at the end of the first quarter, Cresskill stormed back in the second, taking its first lead of the game with 2:50 left in the half after a three-pointer from Marko Radovich. The Cougars went into the half leading by one, 20-19.
With the first half so tightly contested, the second half brought more of the same. Paterson Charter came out of the half firing, taking back the lead with a score of 26-25 after a Ka’Juan Gee three-pointer, firing up the team. The Lions began to battle back on the boards as well, holding a 29-27 lead at the end of the third quarter,
With one of its best players, Talen Zitomer having four fouls with a minute left in the third quarter, someone had to step up to begin the fourth, and it was Marko Radovich. Radovich hit a huge three-pointer to start of the quarter, and then another with 6:36 left in the game, giving the Cougars a 33-29 lead.
“Getting Marko going and Talon going, and even Jack [Hayward], who was phenomenal off the bench, it was huge,” said Egorow. “It really sparked us because you see one go in and a second and third one and I think it just lifted us up.”
Paterson Charter kept it close thanks to Giovanny Figueroa, who posted seven of his nine points in the las five minutes of the game, including a clutch three-pointer with 40 seconds left in the game to make the score 45-42.
However, Cresskill would force a jump-ball on the ensuing play, taking over possession and sealing the game with an and-one from Jack Hayward.
Cresskill’s Marko Radovich finished with a game-high 14 points to go along with three rebounds. Jack Hayward posted 11 points off the bench with Talen Zitomer adding nine points and five rebounds. Ryan Berkowitz came up big on the boards, tallying seven points and 10 rebounds.
Ka’Juan Gee, Paterson Charter’s leading scorer, led the way with 11 points with Deangelo Hibbert adding 10 and Giovanny Figueroa posting nine.
The win also dethrones the two-time defending North 1, Group 2 champions in Paterson Charter, putting the Cougars at the top of the mountain now.
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