WAYNE – No. 10 William Paterson (25-2) scored 10 unanswered second-half points to secure its 10th New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Men’s Basketball Tournament title, defeating Richard Stockton (20-7) by a 70-58 score in the championship game Feb. 27 at the Pioneers’ Rec Center.
The Pioneers, who captured their first NJAC crown since 2006 (1972, 1980, 1983-85, 2000-02, 2006, 2010), receive the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
After falling to Richard Stockton in each of the last two NJAC Tournaments, William Paterson came out on top of this back-and-forth battle. Trailing 32-31 at halftime and by a 38-34 margin two minutes into the second period, the Pioneers quickly tied things up with back-to-back layups by 2010 NJAC Player and Defensive Player of the Year Abdoulaye Ouedraogo (Newark, N.J./Newark Science). Senior Joseph Ellis (Newark, N.J./Newark Science) followed with another basket and Eric Moore (Dover, N.J./St. Benedict’s Prep) nailed a three-pointer, pushing WP ahead by a 43-38 count at the 15:28 mark.
After Richard Stockton pulled within two, 54-52 with 8:32 remaining, Ouedraogo went 1-for-2 at the free-throw line, Ellis made a pair from the stripe, and Bobby Dunn (Garwood, N.J./Arthur L. Johnson Regional) drained a three, giving William Paterson an eight-point edge (60-52, 6:13).
A jumper by junior Gabriel Paul (Hillside, N.J./Hillside) and two free throws from Tim Lucas (Old Bridge, N.J./Old Bridge) capped a 10-0 burst for the North Division champions and overall top seeds, as William Paterson held Richard Stockton to 0-for-3 shooting from the field and two turnovers during the nearly four-and-a-half minute span. After Richard Stockton’s Santini Lancioni (Runnemede, N.J./Paul VI) was successful from beyond the arc to get the margin back to single digits (64-55, 3:33), a deep Lucas trey from in front of the Pioneer bench as the shot clock expired was a dagger to the Ospreys’ comeback hopes (67-55, 2:13), and when Ouedraogo threw down a dunk and added a free throw less than 30 seconds later, the Pioneers were assured of the victory.
Ellis led William Paterson with 16 points, Moore contributed 15 tallies on 4-for-7 (.571) shooting from beyond the arc, and Ouedraogo added 13 tallies and six rebounds. Dunn posted 13 points, three assists and five steals for the Pioneers.
Lancioni led all scorers with 17 points, making five of seven (.714) three-pointers while dishing out four assists. Sophomore Pat Kelly (Cape May Court House, N.J./Wildwood Catholic) added 12 and senior Omar Smith (Newark, N.J./Central) had 10 points and a game-best eight rebounds for Stockton.
Both teams tried to establish control during the first 20 minutes, but to no avail, as just one point separated the Pioneers and the Ospreys at the break. A Dunn three-pointer handed William Paterson an early 5-2 edge, but a Kai Massaquoi (Lawnside, N.J./Haddon Heights) fast-break layup ignited a 10-2 run for Richard Stockton and gave the South Division’s top seed a 12-7 advantage (13:54).
After a Lucas bucket later tied the game at 13-13 with 12:27 left, Lancioni scored five straight points to start a 7-0 Stockton run, and the Ospreys eventually owned a 23-16 lead at the 8:58 mark.
Moore put down a dunk and then followed with a trey to get the Pioneers back within two (23-21, 7:32), and another three-pointer a minute later gave WP its first lead since the opening moments (24-23, 6:32).
After Massaquoi nudged the Ospreys ahead with a pair of free throws (25-24, 5:59), Moore drained his third three-pointer of the half, a long-range bomb from the top of the key to make it a 27-25 William Paterson advantage with 5:43 on the clock. Smith knotted the score at 27-27 when he slipped through the defense and laid in an easy bucket, but following a Stockton miss, Lucas snared the rebound and raced to the other end, a fast-break basket that gave WP a two-point lead with 3:24 left.
Three more lead changes marked the final 2:25 of the half, the last a Matt Haddix (Sicklerville, N.J./Vineland) basket that allowed Richard Stockton to enter the locker room with a 32-31 lead.
Both teams were efficient from the floor overall (.553 for Richard Stockton, .531 for William Paterson) and from three-point range (10-18, .556 for Ospreys; 10-21, .476 for Pioneers), but William Paterson used a 20-10 advantage in turnovers caused to out-score Richard Stockton off the miscues, 22-6. WP also owned a 20-10 edge on the break and a 24-14 advantage on points scored in the paint.
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