IRVINGTON, NJ – The Irvington High School varsity boys’ basketball team is riding high.
Coming off a magnificent run in the state tournament this past winter, the Blue Knights have been making a strong impression in the prestigious Hamilton Park Summer League in Jersey City.
The Blue Knights, under head coach Elias Brantley, were 6-4 recently in the league, which features such elite teams as the Patrick School, Hudson Catholic and Snyder.
“It’s probably the best league that we’ve been in since I’ve been coaching there,” said Brantley, a 2006 IHS graduate who completed his fourth year at the head coaching helm.
Brantley particularly was encouraged by his team’s play against St. Patrick, despite a double overtime loss.
“They are a really big team,” said Brantley of the Patrick School, formerly St. Patrick of Elizabeth, a program that has won six New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Tournament of Champions titles, second most behind St. Anthony of Jersey City’s 13 titles. St. Anthony is defunct. “We played them well. I was happy with that (performance).”
The Blue Knights feature several players who contributed to last year’s run to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group 3 state tournament championship game. Among them are rising juniors Karriem Thomas, Kymani Dunbar, and Dezlyn Sebastian; and senior Dameer Vital, who are all guards. Thomas made First Team, while Dunbar made Honorable Mention on the All-Super Essex Conference-Colonial Division last winter.
In the sectional tournament, the Blue Knights, seeded fifth, knocked off 12th-seeded Nutley, 13th-seeded Parsippany Hills, and eighth-seeded Colonial to advance to the title game where they lost to No. 2 seed Chatham to end a strong 18-11 season.
This summer, Brantley has liked what he has seen from a leadership standpoint. Dunbar, who played forward, has been working on his ball-handling skills and is looking to play more at the guard/wing spot.
Sebastian is developing into a “floor general,” while Vitale is looking to take on the role of a lockdown defender who will guard the opposition’s top offensive player, said Brantley.
In addition, the Blue Knights served as a substitute team for one night at the Bloomfield College Summer League in which they defeated newly-formed Payne Tech by one point. Payne Tech, named after Donald Payne, has been formed after the merger of Bloomfield Tech and North 13th St. Tech. Brantley noted that Payne Tech will be one of the top contenders in the Essex County Tournament.
Rising junior guard Nazamier Brooks and rising junior forward Moses Pierre, who played JV, are other players for the Blue Knights, who hope to make a strong run in the Hamilton Park Summer League playoffs that begin at the end of the month.