If undefeated Teaneck was anxious to conclude its semifinal-round meeting with Tenafly and move right along to a second straight championship game, that sure wasn't reflected in the pace of its offense.
Tenafly, not surprisingly, dispatched a zone defense in order to minimize physical mismatches and slow down the uptempo Highwaymen, who scored 102 points in their previous outing and came in averaging almost 75 points a game. But Teaneck was content to work steadily and efficiently and march on to the final looking poised and smart and not just prodigiously athletic.
Senior guard Chris Jones scored 19 points and junior point guard Shaakir Lindsey added 17 points and six assists to power top-seeded and defending champion Teaneck, No. 3 in The MSG Varsity Top 15, to a 60-36 win over fifth-seeded Tenafly Sunday evening in the semifinals of the 56th Oscar F. Thompson Memorial Bergen County Jamboree before a capacity crowd at the Ramapo College Bradley Center in Mahwah.
Teaneck (24-0) sank a sizzling 13 of 18 from the floor in the opening half on the way to a 32-15 lead and shot 62 percent for the game to set up a rematch with second-seeded and 14th-ranked Don Bosco Prep in the championship game at 7 p.m. Thursday at Ramapo. Teaneck claimed its ninth Jamboree title last year with a 72-67 overtime win over Bosco.
"We were just trying to get into the paint area," Jones said. "I think Shaak was doing that real well, dribbling into the paint and kicking it out. We were moving the ball. We were playing real unselfishly today, so we got a lot of open looks."
The opposite was true for Tenafly (19-5), whose offensive sets were often torturous exercises against the Highwaymen's tenacious man-to-man defense.
The pulse of that defensive effort was senior guard Siddiq Patterson, who covered Tenafly star Chris Orozco most of the game and held the senior guard to eight points. Orozco averaged 21 points and needed 17 to become the 11th player in Bergen County to reach 2,000 career points.
"We knew it was a big deal and some people were saying he was going to get his 2,000 points against us," Patterson said. "So I said, well, I'm not gonna let that happen. I took it kind of personal, just like our coach (Jerome Smart) said I should do."
To Orozco's credit, he was definitely not trying to force his way into the record books. He attempted only seven shots for the game, making one, and was six of eight on free throws after drives to the basket. The New Hampshire-bound guard finished with nine rebounds and three assists.
"My man, Siddiq did a great job on Orozco," Jones said. The 6-5 Jones covered Orozco for parts of the third quarter after Patterson drew his third foul. "He kept him out of the paint. He made him play hard and Siddiq also made a lot of shots today."
Junior guard Joel Hernandez scored 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting and Patterson had seven points on 3-of-5 shooting to contribute to this clean, balanced display. Jones was 8 of 11 from the floor for the game.
Teaneck trailed, 9-8, when Lindsey buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 38 seconds to go in the first quarter. That was the Highwaymen's first trey of the game, but they would sink three more over the next five minutes--one each from Patterson, Jones and Hernandez--to build a 23-15 lead. Lindsey hit another 3-pointer later to feed a quarter-ending 9-0 run for a 17-point halftime advantage.
"We just tried to be patient and take the best shot that we could, not rush anything," Lindsey said. "We knew Tenafly was a good shooting team and they have one of the best scorers in the league. We just tried to take our time."
Teaneck obviously did not have that same mindset when it rolled by Paramus, 102-58, last Thursday for its second 100-point game this season. That was fun, but the Highwaymen were seeking to show more discipline this game as preparation both for Don Bosco on Thursday and for the North Jersey, Section 1, Group 3 tournament next week.
"When we keep our intensity on defense we can do a lot," Patterson said. "When we play as a team, we get going, we flow, and we did that today.
"We're prepping for success," he said. "We're gonna keep working and stay focused for the rest of the way."
Mike Kinney covers boys basketball for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS