Kinney: NJSIAA TOC semifinals previews
TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
At Rutgers Athletic Center, Piscataway
2-ST. JOSEPH VS. 3-PLAINFIELD, 6 p.m.
ST. JOSEPH (MET.) (29-1))
25-Quenton DeCosey, 6-5 Sr. F
34-Danny Brix, 6-3 Sr. F
44-Karl Towns, 6-10 Fr. F
10-Jimbo Long, 5-11 Jr. G
12-Kareem Awad, 5-10 Sr. G
15-Jalen Gilmore, 6-3 Sr. F
13-Tyler Weeks , 5-10 Sr. G
1-James Ziemba , 6-7 Jr. F
Keys for St. Joseph: If Plainfield uses a man-to-man, which it probably will, there is a good chance that Quenton DeCosey (21.3 ppg.) will be covered by 6-5 senior Diijon Allen-Jordan, a tremendous athlete with the ability to guard both the perimeter and the lane with equal ferocity. That would present DeCosey with perhaps his biggest test this season, though the Temple-bound swing has been thriving on steep challenges all year. He is averaging 23 ppg. in four state tournament games and has at times seized complete control of the tempo with his dribble penetration and play above the rim.
DeCosey must continue to attack in the hopes drawing help in the lane. That could either get DeCosey to the foul line early or present opportunities to kick to Karl Towns (12.0 ppg.), Danny Brix (11.9) or Jimbo Long for jumpers or dish to Towns, Brix or Kareem Awad cutting through from the weak side. St. Joseph has a huge defensive responsibility here against Plainfield's overall size and splendid athletic ability. The Falcons have to take special care to limit second opportunities and must sprint back on defense off every missed shot. That sounds like terribly obvious advice, but it's not if you haven't contested Plainfield's fast break yet.
One more thing: St. Joseph had three common opponents with Plainfield this season. Both defeated Piscataway (St. Joe's twice), St. Joseph beat St. Patrick while Plainfield split two games with the Celtics and St. Joseph lost to Teaneck, which Plainfield beat soundly.
1-Diijon Allen-Jordan, 6-5 Sr. F
23-Justin Sears, 6-7 Sr. F
10-Sekou Harris, 5-10 Sr. G
11-Jahmal Lane, 6-2 Sr. G
21-Ed Anderson, 6-3 Sr. F
Taylor Plummer, 6-3 Sr. F
00-Taylor Plummer, 6-5 Sr. F
32-Denzel Christian, 6-6 Jr. F
2-Ahmid Williams, 5-7 Sr. G
Keys for Plainfield: Two of Plainfield's best traits all season--and especially in key games in recent weeks--have been its ability to shrug off early deficits and its tendency to launch comebacks with a balanced scoring attack. Justin Sears, Sekou Harris, Jahmal Lane and Diijon Allen-Jordan each has claimed high-scoring honors at least once in the past eight games, and several of these games required big shots and great decisions under tremendous pressure. The Cardinals constantly express a great trust for each other and an indifference about individual acclaim, then they go out the next game and prove to everyone that they mean what they say.
St. Joseph certainly has the ability to jump out to a lead early in this same, as Neptune and Asbury Park did in Plainfield's last two games, but it will have to be a very big gap to cause any sense of panic among the Cardinals. Harris, the speedy 5-10 point guard, is the cool floor general of this group and the team feeds off his calm in the middle of a storm and his direction. The 6-7 Sears needed about a half in each of the last two games to fall into an offensive rhythm. Plainfield will definitely benefit from a slightly quicker start, and so would the high-flying Allen-Jordan, who could cause great trouble from the opposite side of the lane if Sears heats up early.
One more thing: The Yale-bound Sears has pulled down 44 rebounds and recorded 18 blocks and also 14 assists in the last three games. When your big man on the post is defending and dishing with that kind of consistency, you are a team prepared to go to battle against anyone.
1-ST. ANTHONY VS. 4-ATLANTIC CITY, 8 p.m.
ST. ANTHONY (30-0)
5-Kyle Anderson, 6-9 Sr. G
33-Jerome Frink, 6-6 Sr. F
1-Joshua Brown, 6-3 Jr. G
3-Hallice Cooke, 6-3 Jr. G
15-Kody Jenkins, 6-5 Jr. F
10-Tariq Carey, 6-2 Sr. G
23-Tarin Smith, 6-0 So. G
Keys for St. Anthony: Just make sure everyone gets to the RAC safely and then just conduct business as usual.
Truly, what else can you suggest to a team that has allowed a measly 30.7 points a game in four tournament outings and is only slightly above that mark for the season? Where to stop for a pregame meal? Joshua Brown and Hallice Cooke, along with Tariq Carey off the bench, have been applying tremendous pressure on the perimeter and then either disrupting shots or feeding those ballhandlers into the waiting leaps of Kyle Anderson and Jerome Frink. If the Friars present themselves in this same menacing fashion (which they've done all year), they will own the momentum early and not give it back.
St. Anthony would love to present itself a bit more elegantly in the halfcourt offense than has been its trend, but, but the fact is it’s not necessary. The Friars know they can score points off their defense and know even more resolutely that they can stop their opponent from scoring.
One more thing: St. Anthony enters with a 63-game winning streak, three shy of tying the school mark, and also comes in with a 24-0 record in T of C competition.
ATLANTIC CITY (26-5)
1-Kayshawn Dunston, 6-3 Sr. G
11-Jahleem Montague, 6-8 Jr. F
23-Gabriel Chandler, 6-5 Jr. F
5-Martel Johnson, 5-8 Sr. G
4Dayshawn Reynolds, 6-1 Jr. G
2-Keyshayn Reynolds, 6-4 Sr. F
10-Isaiah Graves, 6-3 So. G
15-Ahmad McKinley, 5-10 Sr. G
3-Qua'Shaun Dorn, 6-5 Sr. F
24-Dennis White, 6-5 So. F
Keys for Atlantic City: The Vikings are of a frame of mind right now that if the game is close in the final minutes, they can't lose. They clicked off five come-from-behind in the Group 4 tournament and then continued this nerve-wracking pattern by nipping Ewing, 68-65, in overtime Wednesday in the T of C quarterfinals.
Seniors Kayshawn Dunston and Martel Johnson made huge 3-pointers that night, Johnson to force overtime and Dunston to put the game away in the extra session. Keeping this game close is certainly going to be a monumental task for Atlantic City, but the Vikings have thus far given no indication at all that they're afraid of a challenge.
Johnson, the team's point guard, is going to face the most intense pressure he has seen all year. He shouldn't worry about scoring much in this game, but rather getting his teammates the ball whenever they are in position to shoot. Those opportunities won't be in abundance. Jahleen Montague, a 6-8 junior, did good work on the boards the past two games. More of that is needed.
One more thing: This is Atlantic City's second trip to the T of C semifinals. It advanced to that round in 2005, but fell, 74-37, to eventual champion Seton Hall Prep.
Mike Kinney covers boys basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter; @MikeKinneyHS