WEST ORANGE – It was a memorable Christmas vacation for the Seton Hall Prep basketball team. They were to participate in the 35th Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C. On Christmas Day, they flew out of Newark Airport, an hour later then scheduled. They arrived in Charlotte, N.C. and discovered the flight to Myrtle Beach had been canceled. They stayed in an airport hotel overnight and took a 7:30 a.m. flight to Wilmington, N.C. where tournament officials sent three vans to take them the hour-and-a-half drive to Myrtle Beach. They arrived at the hotel at 11:30 a.m. They rested, ate, and prepared for their 7 o’clock game that night.
In the opening round, SHP defeated St. James (Murrells Inlet, S.C.), 78-41, behind a career-high 22 points by senior forward Zach Keller, who also had four assists and five steals. Senior guard Stephen Ferraro had 16 points, five rebounds, four assists, and five steals; junior guard Austin Williams had eight points and six rebounds; junior forward Treyvon Bennett had seven points and eight rebounds and junior guard Michael Mughetto scored eight points.
Following the game, Keller commented, “We were fighting adversity. It was a great game to come together as a team. We played great defense, which led to easy baskets.”
Added Ferraro: “We worked through the fatigue. We had a lot of ball pressure on defense that forced a lot of turnovers.”
SHP had 23 steals.
SHP head coach Kevin Williams said, “It was a good job under tough conditions. We didn’t have our legs, but we rebounded very well, which led to baskets in transition.”
In the quarterfinal round, in an outstanding defensive effort, SHP defeated Archbishop Moeller (Cincinnati, Oh.), 39-33. Senior guard TJ Gibbs had 13 points, five rebounds and four steals; and Ferraro had 12 points, three rebounds, two assists, and two steals. The victory also marked the 100th in the career of Williams, who is currently in his fifth year as the head coach of SHP. Following the game, Gibbs said, “They were a great opponent. It was a great win for us. We wanted to drive to the basket to try to get to the foul line, which we did.”
With the score tied at 33 with 1:08 left, Gibbs was 2-of-2 from the foul line to make it 35-33. With :14 left, Keller went 2-of-2 from the line to make it 37-33. With :08 remaining, Ferraro was 2-of-2 to make the final 39-33. About coach Williams, Gibbs said, “I love that guy. He helped me grow as a player and a person.”
Said coach Williams: “We played a great game on defense. We played a real great team in Archbishop Moeller. We have a real great bunch of kids who are really committed to play great defense.” On his 100th win, Williams said, “It is nice to have happened.”
In the semifinal round, the Pirates took on one of the top teams in the country, Montverde (Montverde, Fla.), which is coached by former St. Patrick’s of Elizabeth coach Kevin Boyle. It was an outstanding game as the Prep fought to a 25-25 tie at halftime, led by Gibbs, who had 10 points; and Bennett, who scored eight points. In a back-and-forth second half, Montverde outscored SHP, 41-34, for a final score of 66-59. Gibbs had 20 points, six rebounds, and three assists; and Ferraro had nine points, three rebounds, three assists and four steals.
Following the game, coach Williams said, “It was a fantastic effort as a team. I couldn’t be more prouder of the team. We went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the country. If we shot a little better, maybe the outcome is different.” SHP shot 29 percent to Montverde’s 57 percent.
In the third-place game, SHP overcame a 10-point halftime deficit, defeating Shadow Mountain (Phoenix, Ariz.), 77-67. Gibbs played an outstanding game, scoring a career-high 36 points, 27 in the second half, and had a career-high 10 rebounds with three steals. Keller had 11 points; senior forward Ryan Toohers had 10 points; and Austin Williams had nine points, five rebounds and three steals.
Following the game, coach Williams said, “We played a great second half in tonight’s game. This was a great effort in the tournament by the whole team, coming down here and going 3-1, considering how the trip started.”
The Pirates improved their record to 6-1.
Senior guard JJ Jenkins summed up the trip: “This was a great team-chemistry building trip. The new guys got to know the veterans better on a more personal level and visa versa, making them feel more comfortable, both on and off the court. We got to see and lined up against some of the best teams in the country and we more than held our own.”
NOTES: Gibbs was chosen to the All Tournament Team and coach Williams was presented with a commemorative basketball by the Beach Ball Classic Committee for his 100th victory.