Boys Basketball – Roselle Catholic Rallies to Stun Camden in Classic Tournament of Champions Finale
PISCATAWAY -- For the last 22 years, the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions in boys basketball has been ruled by the non-public powers of New Jersey.
On Sunday at Jersey Mike's Arena in Piscataway, Roselle Catholic might have been the rare non-public underdog, but the Lions made sure the two-plus decade drought without a public school champion will go on indefinitely.
Almost three months to the day since losing at Camden on opening night, Roselle Catholic battled back from an eight-point second-half deficit to beat the No. 1 Panthers, 61-58, in overtime to win the program's fourth Tournament of Champions in the final year of the event.
Junior guard and North Carolina commit Simeon Wilcher led the way with 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists and senior Braxton Jones scored his only two points of the game with a go-ahead jumper that proved to be the game-winner with 27 seconds left in overtime.
Wilcher gave Roselle Catholic its first lead of the second half with a three-point play with 4:47 left in the fourth quarter. That made the score, 48-47, and capped a 9-0 run by the Lions after Camden built its lead to 47-39, near the end of the third quarter. Sophomore Rich Brisco (10 points, eight rebounds) scored on a tip-in at the third-quarter buzzer to start the run and the Roselle Catholic held Camden scoreless for the first 4:38 of the fourth quarter.
A putback by Rasheer Fleming (13 points and eight rebounds) gave Camden a 49-48 lead, but Christian Pierre-Louis came back with an acrobatic layup as he was fouled and hit the ensuing free throw to put Roselle Catholic back ahead, 51-49.
Next up was Camden junior D.J. Wagner, who coaxed a floater to drop and tie the game at 51 with 3:06 to go.
Roselle Catholic jumped back in front on another basket-plus-a-foul, this time by junior Akil Watson (six points, eight rebounds) with 1:43 left. After Watson missed the free throw, Wagner came back with two free throws to tie the game with 1:20 left.
Wagner landed the first major blow of overtime, converting a three-point play with 1:51 left to vault Camden into the lead, 58-55.
Roselle Catholic drew within a point on a midrange jumper by senior Jamarques Lawrence on the next possession. Roselle Catholic got a stop, worked the clock under 30 seconds and the ball found Braxton, who calmly rose up for a 16-foot jumper that handed his team a 59-58 lead.
After a Roselle Catholic stop on the other end, Lawrence sank two free throws to extend the lead to 61-58 with 4.5 seconds left.
Wagner got a clean look from just inside halfcourt as time expired but it missed off the side rim and set off a wild celebration on the court by Roselle Catholic.
The three-point margin equaled the different between the teams on Dec. 17, when Camden beat Roselle Catholic, 67-64, for an opening-night win. Neither team lost to an in-state opponent between that night and Sunday.
Camden is the last public school team to win the Tournament of Champions, which last happened in 2000, when Wagner's father, Dajuan, led the Panthers to their first and only T of C title as a junior. D.J. Wagner nearly pulled off the same feat as his father, leading Camden Sunday with a game-high 23 points.
Seven-foot junior Aaron Bradshaw added nine points, eight rebounds and five blocks for Camden and former Ranney star Elijah Perkins -- who was part of Ranney's Tournament of Champions title as a freshman in 2019 -- finished with five points in his final high school game.