Fitzsimmons: Plainfield dreaming big
Sekou Harris was in his own world, staring at the red cloth that covered a long table in front of six Plainfield players, seated and grinning at a bevy of reporters who spent several minutes probing the psyche of a team that is now one win away from achieving its ultimate goal.
Harris, the half-wizard, half-point guard who makes the Cardinals basketball team run the way it does, barely blinked throughout the post-game press conference, but released drawn-out responses under his breath to questions directed at other players.
Plainfield big man Justin Sears, who spent Friday night terrorizing the interior defense of St. Joseph (Metuchen) in a 70-48 victory in the Tournament of Champions semifinal, spoke like a confident player when he said, “We’re peaking at the right time. I feel we can beat any team.”
Meanwhile, Harris, stroking his chin, unknowingly talking aloud, muttered, “Yeah, we can. Definitely.”
Translation was clear: Bring on St. Anthony, which cruised past Atlantic City by 30 points in the second semifinal tilt of a doubleheader at the RAC.
Diijon Allen-Jordan, another player who, like Sears, helped Plainfield dispose of the Falcons and reach the Garden State’s grand stage for the second straight year, offered words that reeked of confidence. Ditto for fellow swingman Jahmal Lane; same went for sixth-man Taylor Plummer.
Even coach Jeff Lubreski, the head man who watched his Cardinals fall to St. Anthony in the final last season at the IZOD Center, took time to brag about his seniors.
“Emotions come into play, but our guys have been here,” he said. “It helped against Neptune and Asbury Park, and our guys were ready.”
Harris continued to stare, nodding at his leader’s comments.
Added Sears: “Experience definitely helps. We have nine seniors and we definitely don’t want to end the season now. We all know what we’ve got to do.”
Harris bobbed his head, “Yeah, we do.”
It’s been the state’s worst-kept secret that Plainfield has been desperately hoping for another crack at the Friars, ranked third in the country and first in MSG Varsity’s Tri-State Top 20, ever since last March. The Cardinals have been waiting, yearning for that golden opportunity on this stage.
The IZOD Center will be rocking next week, the way it was last year when Plainfield proved to be all Bob Hurley and his troops could handle in what turned out to be a 61-49 loss. That’s a sure bet.
Plainfield presents a scheme St. Anthony has yet to face in the playoffs this time around. The Friars trounced Hudson Catholic by 23 in the North Non-Public B finals by shutting down an up-and-coming program which boasted two talented big men (Reggie Cameron and Mike Young), a speedy point guard (Kavon Stewart) and a potent youngster (freshman Nassir Barrino).
Then they surprisingly blew out Gill St. Bernard’s, a high-octane bunch that lived and died with the 3-point shot.
But never has this St. Anthony’s group seen a team that can thrive on the inside -- thanks to Sears and the length of Plainfield’s swingmen – and on the perimeter thanks to the quickness of Harris. It’s also worth noting the Friars had 6-foot-8 center Jimmy Hall, who had been dismissed from the team prior to the state playoffs, in the lineup during the regular-season matchup.
You’d better believe the Cardinals understand the value of losing to Hurley last campaign, too. Sears, Lane, Allen-Jordan, Harris and company never forgot the bitter taste of walking away watching St. Anthony celebrate its 11th Tournament of Champions title.
Look at the Cardinals’ big wins over Teaneck, Neptune, Asbury Park and now St. Joseph in the postseason. There’s no debate whether Plainfield means business this time.
“We’ve stayed with it,” Lubreski said, before some of his players finally admitted they want one more chance at the Friars.
“Just to end it,” Harris uttered, once again thinking nobody heard. “Absolutely.”
One more shot for these seniors on Tuesday. Big game, big dreams on the line.
Contact Brian Fitzsimmons at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @FitzWriter