Correction: Lindent went on a 7-0 run early in the third quarter for a 39-26 lead.
BLOOMFIELD, NJ (corrected Friday March 10, 12:38 p.m.; updated Monday March 13, 5:37 p.m.) – The Bloomfield High School boys’ varsity basketball team’s sensational season came to end, but not before giving the No. 2-ranked team in the state all it could handle.
The Bengals, who two days earlier won their first NJSIAA state sectional title since 1977, fell to defending Group 4 champion Linden, 56-50, in the NJSIAA Group 4 state semifinal at the Dunn Center in Elizabeth on Thursday, March 9 to finish the season with a stellar 24-6 record.
Linden, ranked No. 2 in the state by The Star-Ledger, improved to 25-4. The Bengals were unranked.
Linden led 19-14 at the end of the first quarter and extended it to 32-23 at the half. The Union County powerhouse went on a 7-0 run early in the third quarter to take a 39-26 lead.
But just when it looked liked it would turn into a blowout, the Bengals battled back. Senior guard Francis Lorenzo hit three three-pointers during a Bengals’ run to cut it to 40-38. Linden held the lead, 43-38, at the end of the third quarter.
Linden continued its momentum to take a 50-41 lead. The Bengals, though, hung around and cut it to 51-46 after junior Mayowa Akindebe’s bucket off an assist from sophomore point guard Michael Ramos with 1:17 left.
BHS junior Kyle Barrow was fouled attempting a three-pointer and made two of three free throws to cut it to 51-48 left with 55.8 seconds remaining. Linden made two of four free throws to make it 53-48 before BHS senior forward Myles Toppin hit a mid-range jumper to make it 53-50 with 24.1 seconds left. Linden connected for three foul shots for the final margin.
Toppin led the Bengals with 13 points. Lorenzo finished with 12 points on four three-pointers; Akindebe had six points; Barrow, Ramos and junior Richie Guillaume each had five points; and senior center Al-Samad Henderson added four points for the Bengals.
Linden went on to beat Shawnee, 57-41, Sunday at Rutgers to repeat as Group 4 state champs and improve to a 26-4 record.