Zebras Rally with Last Five Points Over Final 40.5 Seconds of 4th for Holiday Tourney Win
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—On the final day of the 2019 Brunswick Classic at New Brunswick High School in the Hub City, the two best teams in the holiday tourney went at it as South Brunswick, ranked fourth in the 2019-20 GMC Hoops Pre-Season Top Ten, took on New Brunswick, a team that went to the 2019 GMCT Final Four, and ranked third in the same pre-season poll.
The game was a contest of mostly two different halves. Coming out strong in the first period with two dunks senior big man, Tahjay Moore including one on an alleyoop from Ahyan Brown-Miller, New Brunswick jumped out to a 5-0 lead, and then had a shot bank in before the buzzer from Brown-Miller to take a 21-15 lead. The Zebras maintained that lead at 30-24 going into the intermission after an even 9-9 second quarter.
South Brunswick rallied back on the play of Akhil Edekar, Ty Murchison, and Devin Strickland to not only outscore New Brunswick by a 12-6 margin in the third, but also a 14-9 margin over the first 7:20 of the fourth for a 26-15 surge to take a 50-45 lead with 40.5 seconds to play. Then, playing with more urgency and using the magic from last year’s GMCT tourney, the Zebras stepped up the defensive pressure, and scrapped their way back in front with five straight points including an and one layup by Ny’dir Harmon for a traditional three point play with 11.8 seconds left for a 51-50 lead.
After the Zebras deflected several inbounds passes, the Vikings were able to get the ball in bounds, and drew a foul in the backcourt with 2.3 seconds to play, but missed both ends of the double bonus. New Brunswick managed to get the rebound, and ran out the clock for the thrilling 51-50 victory. Moore finished with 14 points and 3 blocks while putting in a tremendous defensive effort on South Brunswick’s Justin Carbone by limiting the senior Viking sharpshooter to just 6 points.
Brown-Miller led the Zebras in victory with almost a triple-double of 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists while Harmon chipped in with 11 paints and 7 boards. Josiah Brown only had 4 points, but turned in a solid all around performance with 6 steals including the one that led to the game winning score, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists while Taaje Welcome (4 points, 2 rebounds, and an assist) and Bryan Lantham (3 points) rounded out the New Brunswick scoring.
Meanwhile, South Brunswick was once again led by Strickland, who had a game high 17 points on 7 field goals and 3 assists while Edekar added 14 points on two field goals, two three pointers including a go ahead trey with 2:37 left that gave the Vikings a 46-43 lead. Murchison chipped in with 7 points while sophomore Yathin Vemula (4 points) and senior reserve Alex Strange (2 points) rounded out the Viking scoring.
For the game, South Brunswick had 8 different players see action in the contest with 6 of them scoring. Meanwhile, New Brunswick only had five different players see action, and get into the scoring column. The Vikings had more made field goals (14-13) and foul shots (8-4), but the Zebras performed better from beyond the arc with an 18-12 edge in points scored from downtown. NBHS also collected 25 rebounds, 14 assists, 8 steals, and 3 blocks as a team.
New Brunswick opened up the game with a transition score by Harmon followed by a three from the right wing by Brown-Miller to go up 5-0. Strickland responded with two straight scores including one off a feed from Carbone to close the gap to 5-4 at the 6:40 mark. On the ensuing possession, Brown-Miller lobbed an alleyoop to Moore, who was dashing in from the left wing for a highlight reel two handed jam, and a 7-4 lead with 6:31 left in the opening frame.
Moments later, Moore showed his defensive prowess by contesting a three from the top of the key by Carbone and blocking the shot, which led to a transition score by the Rutgers bound football player for a 9-4 lead. Carbone atoned for that by coming right back down, and netting a trey from almost the same exact spot. Under a minute later, Edekar swiped a steal, and went the rest of the way for a layup to tie the game at 9-9 with 4:40 to play in the first.
Following a partially blocked shot by Moore, Harmon got the ball in the left corner for a three that put the Zebras back in front at 12-9 at the 3:14 mark. Carbone, who scored all 6 of his points in the first quarter, struck back with a trey from the left wing to even the game at 12-12 before New Brunswick ended the frame by scoring 9 of the last 12 points sparked by a Brown drive through the middle for a layup at the 2:21 mark, a Welcome layup at the 1:56 mark, and a trey by Brown-Miller as time expired for a 21-15 lead heading into the second.
Both teams played it even in the second as New Brunswick opened the frame with 9 of the first 14 points including a putback by Welcome, and a thunderous two handed jam by Moore for a 30-20 lead with 1:33 left in the second period before South Brunswick answered with the final four points of the first half on back to back pull-up jumpers from Strickland and Murchison to close the gap to six at the intermission.
South Brunswick stepped up the defensive pressure in the second half to score 12 of the 18 points in the 3rd for a 16-6 surge over a span of 9:33 to tie the score at 36-36 heading into the fourth. The Vikings opened the half with a trey, and then got back to back scores in the paint from Strickland for a 7-3 run to close the gap to 33-31 before Lantham, a sophomore guard, got his only points of the game on a trey from the to oof the key for a 36-31 NBHS lead at the 3:25 mark of the third.
The Vikings rallied again with the final five points of the third, and 10 of the first 17 points of the fourth as Vemula scored on a bucket in the paint before falling to the graund, and Murchison and Edekar combined to make 3 of 4 free throws to end the third, and then after Harmon sank a three from the left wing, Moore scored on a putback, and Brown got a kind bounce and roll on a jumper to open the fourth for a 43-36 lead with 5:08 left before South Brunswick rallied once more with a 10-0 tear including layups by Edekar and Vemula, and two free throws from Strickland before Edekar’s trey for the Vikings first lead of the game with a little more than two and a half minutes to play.
After Brown-Miller scored on a floater, South Brunswick got two free throws apiece from Edekar and Murchison to make it a 14-2 spurt and a 50-45 lead with 45.5 seconds remaining. New Brunswick responded though by first getting one of two from the line by Brown-Miller with 40.5 seconds left. Following a missed front end of a one and one by the Vikings, Moore drew a foul on a putback attempt and made both charity shots with 19.3 seconds to play to set up the wild and thrilling ending that resulted in the Zebras dramatic win.
With the victory, New Brunswick, which had won on opening night over J.F. Kennedy of Iselin (69-47), and then defeated Trenton Central (59-42), finished the holiday tourney 2-0 with wins over East Brunswick (54-46) and South Brunswick to improve to 4-0 overall and 3-0 in conference. Meanwhile, South Brunswick, which opened the season with an impressive 69-52 win at 5th ranked Old Bridge, has since lost two of its last three including a 67-50 defeat at the end of Hightstown and Mercer County on December 23rd to drop to .500 at 2-2 overall.