Don Bosco Prep flourished in high gear in the opening quarter, but then Bergen Catholic suddenly took away its runouts, dribble penetration and maybe even a little bit of confidence now that it was forced to operate farther away from the basket.
But for all that Bergen Catholic did eliminate, it was unable to strip either Jemal Mosley or Leonte Carroo of the quality that probably best defines each senior guard's play so far this season.
Resourcefulness. Their ability to pick through their tool bags as a critical moment surfaces and then either spark a big play with a rebound, a pass or a screen, or defuse a developing threat by the opponent with, again, a rebound, a steal or just excellent positioning.
Don Bosco Prep saw an 11-point, second-quarter lead shrink to two with just under four minutes to play, but Mosley and Carroo helped the undefeated Ironmen weather the charge and go on to a 67-54 win Friday afternoon before a capacity crown in Oradell.
"We're like the leaders of the team, so we just have push everybody and try to find a way to win," Mosley said. "Make them know that we're still in a game and we can't just give up."
Mosley scored a team-high 14 points, but may have made an even bigger contribution with seven rebounds and five steals. Carroo, headed to Rutgers to play football, closed with 12 points, with only three coming in the second half. And yet he was quite possibly the most visible sparkplug on the floor in those final 16 minutes with seven of his 12 rebounds and both of his steals.
"Everyone knows I'm not a very good scorer ," Carroo said. "I just love being the garbage man and playing defense for my team and rebounding. Jemal is a very good scorer, but that shows the leadership he has on this team, to be willing to dive in there and get rebounds and fight for the ball and fight for steals, as well."
For awhile, it seemed the only thing 4-0 Don Bosco would have to fight for was its breath on occasion. From opening tap--when Carroo won possession and scored on a layup just three seconds into play--to Paddy Quinn's breakaway layup with 42.6 seconds to go in the first quarter, the Ironmen seemed in an all-out sprint en route to a 23-18 lead.
Eight of Don Bosco's 10 buckets that period were scored on attacks to rim.
"We all want to get to the paint," Carroo said. "That's what our team lives off of--getting up and down the floor, driving, kicking out, knocking down shots and also getting into the paint, as well."
But those easy opportunities disappeared almost as quickly as they'd availed themselves in the first quarter. Bergen Catholic (2-1) improved markedly on its offensive rebounds and, thus also its shooting.It also initiated some zone pressure in the second quarter to get the ball out of Mosley's hands after he'd erupted for eight points and three boards in the first.
"They started getting into a 2-2-1 press and that kind of slowed down our transition a lot," Carroo said. "That really got us out of our game in the first half and a little bit in the second half, as well. We turned the ball over a little bit, and that helped them get back in the game."
Bergen Catholic actually seized a 45-44 lead with an 8-0 spurt capped by a basket by Nadi Beceri off an inbound pass from Taini Flores with 1:30 to go in the third quarter. Don Bosco built the lead back to four with a transition layup by Paul Jorgensen with 6.9 seconds remaining and another by Jack Ely just as the buzzer sounded.
Senior guard Rich DeLuca paced Bergen Catholic with 17 points, 12 of which came off 3-pointers. His final trey splashed down with 3:53 to go in the game to pull the Crusaders to within 56-54.
Mosley hit one of two free throws 25 seconds later for a three-point Don Bosco lead and he would sink three more over the last 1:03 to keep Bergen Catholic at bay.
"Basically, we just kept on playing good defense and that brought our offense back," Mosley said. "We've got to play good defense so we can get control of the game and move the ball on offense to make sure we’re getting the best shots we can. Me and my boy, Leonte, have a good connection on the court, so we had to pick things up when they started to come back."
Mike Kinney covers boys basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS