BLOOMFIELD, NJ – The 40-year drought is finally over.
The top-seeded Bloomfield High School boys’ varsity basketball team defeated sixth-seeded Ridgewood, 39-34, in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group 4 state tournament championship game on Tuesday night, March 7, at BHS.
It marked the program’s first sectional championship since 1977, back when Kelly Tripucka was a star player for the Bengals and later played at Notre Dame and in the NBA. In fact, Tripucka attended Tuesday’s game that drew a packed house.
The Bengals trailed 9-4 before going on a 17-0 run spanning the first and second quarters to take a 21-9 lead en route to a 24-12 halftime advantage.
But Ridgewood rallied in the second half and cut it to 27-25. BHS led 30-25 at the end of the third quarter. Ridgewood scored five straight points to tie it 30-30 with 1:06 left in regulation. BHS junior forward Mayowa Akindebe, who led the Bengals with nine points, broke the 30-30 tie with put-back layup. The Bengals held on to lead and the victory.
The Bengals improved to a 24-5 record.
Senior forward Myles Toppin had eight points; junior forward Richie Guillaume had seven points; senior guard Francis Lorenzo and sophomore guard Michael Ramos each had six points; senior center Al-Samad Henderson had two points and junior guard Kyle Barrow added a free throw for BHS.
The Bengals, under 12th-year head coach Pat Brunner, will face North Jersey Section 2 champion Linden in the Group 4 state semifinal on Thursday, March 9, at Elizabeth at 7 p.m. Linden defeated Newark East Side for its fifth straight section title. Linden is 24-4 and ranked No. 2 in the state by The Star-Ledger.