Jones' 25 leads Teaneck past St. Joe's
We could theorize here in earnest about Chris Jones' acknowledgement of veteran leadership, about his sense of duty as a starting senior.
Fact is, Jones was driven by a much more basic urge.
"I just didn't want to start off my year on a bad note," Jones said.
Of course, wanting and fulfilling are often two different things, but they weren't Sunday afternoon to the versatile 6-5 guard. He pumped in 25 points, 14 in the second half, and also took down a team-high 10 rebounds to steer Teaneck to a 53-49 win over St. Joseph of Metuchen in the Hoop Group Tip-Off Showcase at West Orange High.
Jones netted seven points to help Teaneck rally from a 37-31 deficit after three quarters, including a 3-pointer for a 43-42 lead with 2:49 remaining. St. Joseph reclaimed the lead on a coast-to-coast layup by Quenton DeCosey with 1:41 to play, but junior guard Joel Hernandez answered 15 seconds later with a 3-pointer off a kickout by Jones for a 46-44 edge. Fellow junior Shakir Lindsey sealed it with six of seven from the foul line in the last 40 seconds.
"My shot wasn't falling, but I just wanted to keep shooting," Hernandez said. "We practice coming through in situations like this. We just had to push through it."
Teaneck, ranked No. 7 in the MSG Varsity rankings, overcame poor shooting in the first and third quarters to open its season on the same note it closed the majority of its games in 2010-11. The Highwaymen were 28-4, won the Bergen County Jamboree and lost to Tournament of Champions runner-up Plainfield in the Group 3 semifinals.
St. Joseph, ranked No. 11, fell to 1-1, but not without showing qualities that are sure to make the Falcons a contender for the NJSIAA Non-Public A title. They kept turnovers relatively low (13) against a quick, athletic opponent and did a solid job of defending shots and limiting good opportunities in the first half.
The Falcons also received solid games from its most established veteran, the 6-5, Temple-bound DeCosey, as well as its newest budding standout, 6-10 freshman Karl Towns.
DeCosey scored 16 points and ripped down 11 rebounds and Towns contributed 15 points and 10 rebounds by displaying both a soft touch from 3-point range and a willingness to roll up his sleeves on defense.
"He's going to be really good," Jones said of Towns. "We wanted to put Neville (6-8 junior Neville Finch) on him, but Neville is more of an inside player. It was tough to guard him."
Jones was no Sunday stroll, either, as he alternately punctured St. Joseph's defense with his explosiveness off the dribble and his timely shooting. He struck for nine of his team's 15 second-quarter points to forge a 21-20 halftime lead and had seven in the fourth on a pair of 3-pointers and a free throw.
"It got a little scary when we were down, but we pulled it together in the huddle," Jones said. "Coach (Jerome) Smart said to just keep playing harder. It all starts at the defensive end. And I just tried to put the ball in the basket to help my team come back."
Teaneck increased ball pressure to start the fourth quarter, but St. Joseph was able to maintain a two-possession lead for the first four minutes. That dissolved when Hernandez hit one of two free throws with 3:32 to play, followed by a fast break layup off a steal and feed by Shakir Lindsey 21 seconds later to pull The Highwaymen to within 42-40. Jones opened the lead with a deep 3-pointer from the right wing with 2:49 remaining.
"He stepped up," Hernandez said. "Last year he didn't always step up like that, but now he's a senior."
Mike Kinney covers boys basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS