WEST ORANGE – The second-seeded Seton Hall Prep varsity basketball team defeated Pope John and Bergen Catholic to advance to the state North Jersey Non-Public A tournament championship game.
The Pirates, who extended their winning streak to 24 games to improve to a 29-1 record, will face top-seeded Don Bosco Prep in the final on Thursday, March 10, at the Louis Brown Athletic Center on the campus of Rutgers University in Piscataway at 6 p.m. DBP defeated fifth-seeded St. Joseph of Montvale, 69-58, in the other semifinal to move to 26-3.
It marks the Pirates’ second straight sectional final appearance, seventh in the last eight seasons and 11th in 13 seasons. SHP is seeking its first sectional title since 2012.
Senior TJ Gibbs scored 38 points and grabbed five rebounds to lead SHP past seventh-seeded Pope John XXIII of Sparta, 74-63, in the quarterfinal round Friday, March 4.
The Pirates jumped out to a 13-0 lead behind Gibbs’ nine points and senior guard JJ Jenkins’ four points. SHP led the whole game but Pope John cut the lead to one at 45-44 late in the third quarter before the Pirates pulled away.
Gibbs also was 21-of-21 at the free throw line as the team was 32-of-34 for the game.
Senior forward Zach Keller scored seven points and grabbed six rebounds; Jenkins finished with six points; junior forward Treyvon Bennett had six points and five rebounds; and senior forward Ryan Toohers had six points and five rebounds for the Pirates.
Gibbs had 23 points, five rebounds and five assists and Keller had 20 points and six rebounds in the 61-40 home win over third-seeded Bergen Catholic in the semifinals on Monday, March 7.
Senior guard Stephen Ferraro had four points, five rebounds and five assists for SHP.
Gibbs increased his career total to 1,976 points, and is nine points shy from moving past his older brother Sterling Gibbs to become the Pirates’ all-time career scoring leader.
Keller is thrilled about reaching the sectional final.
“It is unbelievable,” said Keller. “It was a goal of our team from the start of the season to get back to the North final and win the game.”
Gibbs knows the Pirates need to be focused. “It feels real good,” said Gibbs about reaching the final. “We need to come out harder in the game on Thursday because we fell short last year in the final to Pope John (52-42 score) and in 2013 to St. Peter’s Prep (63-57 score).”