By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
TRENTON, NJ — St. Patrick’s High School had a storied basketball history. For nearly 20-years, they were led by Kevin Boyle, who had five Tournament of Champions with the last in 2009.
That school shut down in 2012. But The Patrick School is back on top of the basketball world in New Jersey as they defeated Don Bosco Prep 69-55 at the Sun National Bank Center on Monday night.
“It’s very gratifying,” The Patrick School head coach Chris Chavannes said. “When they closed the original school downtown, that process was so fast that we didn’t get a chance to grieve or do any of those things. It’s always been move on, move on, move on. So in some ways, it kind of prepared us for the future. So whether it was being suspended from the state tournament a couple years ago, we never dwelled on it. We just moved on. We accepted it and moved on, because that’s how it’s been for us.
“We’ve come a long way. I’m happy, not so much for myself, but for everybody, because it has been a process to get to this point.”
This was St. Patrick’s eighth appearance in the Tournament of Champions — their first since the rebranding in 2012. Only Seton Hall (11) and St. Anthony’s (14) has more appearances.
At the same time, this was the first-time that Don Bosco Prep appeared in the Tournament of Champions.
“We did the unthinkable [this year],” Ronald Harper, who had 13, said at the podium, not only speaking to the media, but also to his teammates. “We were always the underdog. No one expected us to get this far. We came here every day and competed no matter what the name on the chest said.
“We never backed down. All you sitting there, you shouldn’t have your heads down. You should have your heads up because we did the unthinkable. Don’t let one loss that take away from you.”
The Patrick School dominated the second half. The Ironmen got within just two points in the second stanza at 55-53 when Chris Paul, who had a game-high 19 points, made a field goal.
Then, Nicholas Richards, a Kentucky Wildcats recruit, who had just seven points, made a free throw. Jordan Walker, who had 17 points, followed a short-time later with back-to-back free throws to increase the lead to five points.
The Patrick School led by 13 points in the third quarter, which was their largest lead. Richards made a basket at 4:15 for the 44-31 lead.
This was their largest lead of the game until 0:01 seconds left when Marcus McClary made a free throw.
Don Bosco Prep had three leads, all in the first half. All of these leads were by just one point.
“I’ve got to imagine [this is] the best [season] in school history,” Don Bosco coach Kevin Diverio said. “League title, [Bergen] county title, state title and getting to the Tournament of Champions championship game… I can’t say enough about this team, about the seniors, and about what they’ve accomplished and how they came together as a unit.
“They love each other and that’s what it’s about all year. … That’s a phenomenal team with 5, 6, 7 Division I players [in The Patrick School]. We went toe-to-toe with them for three and a half quarters and we never gave up. We battled.”