National championships next for Brookdale hoops teams

first_imgBy TIM MORRIS Staff Writer The Brookdale Community College men’s and women’s basketball teams celebrated their twin Region 19 titles together on their home floor in the Collins Arena. Brookdale hosted this year’s tournament. BROOKDALE ATHLETICS One is headed to Loch Sheldrake, N.Y., and the other to Rochester, Minn., but they are both pursuing the same goal — a national championship.The Brookdale Community College men’s and women’s basketball teams captured Region 19 championships on their home floors on March 1, and they will now chase a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III championship. Both NJCAA tournaments are on March 13-15. Men’s basketball Paul Cisek’s men will head to New York as the defending champions. The Jersey Blues (29-1) did not miss a beat this year and have been the top-ranked team in the nation throughout the season. The region title, won in the Collins Arena, was their third straight.The Jersey Blues’ championship, however, was anything but routine, as they had to overcome a 16-point deficit before edging Delaware County Community College, 85- 81. Cisek described the win as “well earned.”“[Delaware County] was very good, the best we’ve played,” Cisek said. “We played really, really well, and they just played really well themselves.“It was an exciting game right to the end,” he added.Brookdale was in the unfamiliar position of trailing by nine at the half, 44-35), and that was after trailing by as many as 16 in the first half.At halftime, Cisek put three things on the blackboard — defense, intangibles (turnovers, charges, controlling the 50/50 balls) and marathon (there were still 20 minutes of basketball to play).It took most of the 20 minutes in the second half for the Jersey Blues to catch and pass the Phantoms. With 1:06 remaining in the game, guard David Rosado (Saddle River Day) sank two free throws that gave Brookdale its first second half lead, 80-79.From there, an intense Brookdale defense forced Delaware County to take some bad shots, and Jaimik Moore (Hackensack) dominated the boards. The Jersey Blues made their free throws in the last minute to seal the win and a third straight trip to the national championships.Brookdale was 9-for-10 from the charity stripe in the last three minutes. That’s something that championship teams do — make their free throws when they matter most.Moore (21 points, 11 rebounds) was the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.Cory Soanes (Matawan Regional) had 21 points, 12 rebounds, and six steals, and Joe Nickerson (Barringer), despite fouling out, had 16 points and five steals.Off the bench Mason Jones (Manchester Township) gave the Jersey Blues 12 points.Cisek cited a play by Tyrone Curry (Hopewell High School/Charlotte, N.C.) with five minutes left in the game for finally turning the momentum over to Brookdale’s side.“Curry made a great play,” he said. “He dives for a loose ball and calls timeout. After the timeout, we score and the crowd got into it.”Guard Ricky Stephens (Monmouth Regional) was given credit by Cisek for “keeping us under control” after the team fell into the 16-point hole.“[Delaware County was] very, very quick,” Cisek said. “They disrupted our mental thoughts, and we just didn’t play well or under composure at that time.”Stephens helped settle things down by running the offense with more composure, distributing the ball to his teammates in the right places on the floor. With three consecutive region titles and a 90-6 record over the last three years, Brookdale has clearly become the measuring stick for everyone in Region 19. If they can repeat as national champions next week, the Jersey Blues will become the standard for the rest of the country.Having made a few trips to the NJCAA championship before, Cisek knows what the biggest priority is.“You have to win your first game or you can’t win the championship,” he said.Brookdale will play Lincoln College of New England (Southington, Conn.) in its first game on March 13. The Wildcats, the Region 21 champions, are 23-6. Women’s basketball Brookdale’s women are headed to the national tournament for the first time since 2011, and they are riding a 29-game winning streak. They are seeking their first national championship. The Jersey Blues are ranked No. 4 in the country.Brookdale defeated Cumberland County College, 71-54, in the Region 19 finals, avenging a defeat from last year that fueled the team this winter.Last year, the Jersey Blues surrendered a 14-point lead to Cumberland in the semifinals, and that was on their minds when they took to the floor of the Collins Arena for the finals.Lauren Bowler (Red Bank Regional), the tournament MVP, said playing Cumberland “was a reminder of last year. We didn’t want to have that feeling again.”Head coach Bob Dubina’s team overcame the loss of the team’s top scorer and emotional leader, Paxton Reddington (St. John Vianney), to a knee injury 14 seconds into the game in slaying last year’s demon.It was Bowler who stepped up in Reddington’s absence with 19 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals.“She carried us,” Dubina said. “It was a tough situation, and we needed a leader.”Bowler didn’t hesitate to take on that leadership role.“Someone had to do it,” she said. “I really wanted to do it.”Bowler had plenty of help, as Marya Trapp (Red Bank Regional) and Sam Carlson (Manalapan) had double-doubles. Trapp had a team-high 13 rebounds to go with 11 points. She also blocked three shots. Carlson had 13 points and 10 boards.Marina Lukianov (Howell) contributed 16 points.Guard Jazmin Palma (North Bergen) spearheaded the defensive effort that held Cumberland (26-3), the sixth-ranked team in the country, to just 54 points.Brookdale was given the No. 4 seed in the national tournament and opens play on March 13 against No. 5-seed Sullivan County Community College (Loch Sheldrake, N.Y.), the Region 15 winner that brings a 25-3 record to the national championships. “They are really excited,” Dubina said about his Brookdale team. “They worked hard for it.“I know they will go compete and fight,” he added.He credited sophomores like Bowler, Carlson, Lukianov and Palma for their season long leadership.“They always gave 100 percent,” he said. “They didn’t want to feel that way again [after last year’s semifinals loss].”Bowler has an opportunity for a very rare double. She was on last fall’s national championship women’s soccer team.“I feel blessed, so lucky to be a part of these two teams,” she said.She said she sees similarities between the clubs.“It’s the chemistry off the court,” she said. “We’re all friends.”That carried the soccer team to a national title, and maybe it can do the same for the basketball team.Cisek and the men’s team stayed around after their win to cheer the women on and celebrate their win. Both teams got to cut down the nets after the women’s triumph.“It’s a great thing for the athletic department to have both teams cutting the nets down and going to the national championship,” Cisek said. “All of it is really, really good.”last_img read more