Lyndhurst’s first appearance in the Bergen County Jamboree in five years came to a stunning and heartbreaking end on Thursday night when it dropped a 62-59 overtime game to Demarest in the first round.
With the frustrations of squandering a 22-point lead still fresh in their minds, head coach Perrin Mosca made it clear to his young team that it was time to put this game, while a valuable experience, in the rearview mirror as it reaches the stretch run.
In front of the Golden Bears boys basketball team is a potential NJIC – National Division title if it defeats Weehawken on Monday, Jan. 30 and Rutherford on Thursday. One day later, Lyndhurst plays a St. Peter’s Prep team ranked No. 5 in the state by NJ.com Top 20 in the Metro Classic at Kean University.
“That was my speech after the game. Don’t worry about this game now, the game on Monday (at Weehawken) is what our real goal is,” Mosca said. “It would have been great to get a county win and we would have then played Teaneck, which would have been a great experience. But our main goal is to win this league. That was our first goal and when we started the season that’s what we talked about. “
While Mosca was quick to have his team forget about Thursday, the night was one that proved telling about Lyndhurst’s potential.
For this young roster, Thursday’s Jamboree game, its first since 2018, was the biggest game of their short varsity careers. Rather than be overwhelmed by the environment and packed gym, Lyndhurst (12-5, 7-1 in division) responded with perhaps its best half of the season, jumping out to a 37-20 halftime lead.
The lead grew to 22 early in the third, but Demarest stormed back, trimming the deficit to nine by the end of the quarter, then forcing overtime. In the extra period, Matt Slowikowski delivered the dagger, hitting a game-winning 3-pointer with just three seconds left.
Anthony Pizzuti continued his brilliant junior season with 23 points and 11 rebounds for his 12th double-double of the season. Jake Mayer had 11 points with six assists and CJ Baillie added 10 points.
Lyndhurst, which has qualified for the Jamboree just five times in the last 30 years, was seeking its first win in the tournament since 2005.
“I did tell the kids you’re gonna learn from this. Demarest is a really good team and you were beating them and hanging in with them,” said Mosca. “You got to play like that, but you gotta play four quarters. You can’t let up against good teams.
“I told them to keep their heads up, they played a heck of a game. They did a lot, I thought they did enough to win that game, but it just didn’t happen for them.”
Lyndhurst wasn’t the only area team to see its county tournament time come to an end this past week.
In the Essex County Boys Basketball Tournament, Nutley, seeded 31st in the 39-team field, played some of its best basketball of the season, defeating Cedar Grove, 47-35, in the first preliminary round before upsetting Montclair, 59-45, in the second preliminary round. The Maroon Raiders’ run ended with a 77-63 loss at North Star Academy in the third preliminary round on Thursday. Senior guard Donte Dubose-Carter averaged 20.7 points in the ECT, making 13 3-pointers in the three games.
Belleville, seeded 25th,, defeated University of Newark, 64-61 in the second preliminary round before falling to ninth-seeded West Essex, 77-63, in the third preliminary round. Bloomfield, the 20th seed, lost 66-52 to Eagle Academy in the second preliminary round.
In the Essex County Girls Basketball Tournament, 14th-seeded Nutley defeated Montclair in the third preliminary round, 45-33, but was eliminated in the first round by third-seeded West Orange, 51-31, on Friday. Belleville, seeded 23rd in the 33-team field, defeated Orange in the second preliminary round before falling to Mount St. Dominic. Bloomfield, the 13th seed, defeated North Star Academy in the third preliminary round, but was knocked out in the first round by fourth-seeded Newark Academy, 51-25, on Saturday.
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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)