LINCROFT – Defending Region 19 NJCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Champion Brookdale Community College made it three titles in a row Saturday, but the Jersey Blues certainly had to work for it.
Playing second-seeded Delaware Community College, top-seeded Brookdale fell behind by as many as 16 points in the first half before rallying in the final 2 minutes of the game to score an 85-81 victory.
“We never played these guys before,” said Brookdale coach Paul Cisek, now in his 22nd season for the Jersey Blues.
“They were very aggressive and gave us some looks that we’ve never seen before, but we pulled the game out at the end and that is what counted.”
Accurate free-throw shooting down the stretch paid off big time for Brookdale, with the Jersey Blues making seven of eight in the final 2 minutes.
The key play came with 1:08 remaining in the game and BCC trailing, 79-78, when BCC’s Tyrone Curry missed a jumper, but teammate David Rosado grabbed the rebound and was fouled.
Rosado made both shots to put BCC in front for the first time since midway in the first half.
“This was my last game at Brookdale,” said Rosado, a sophomore from Fair Lawn who is undecided about his college choice. “I had to get past everybody to get the ball and make my free throws. Fortunately, I was able to do it.”
Delaware missed two straight layups and then Curry, who made one of two from the line, and Jaimik Moore hit four in a row in the final seconds to wrap it up.
BCC and Delaware played on even terms much of the first half with Delaware’s quickness off-setting BCC’s height advantage.
A drive by Joe Nickerson put BCC in front, 24-23, for the final time in the first half before Delaware scored 10 in a row to grab the lead, 33-24.
Delaware later built the lead to 42-26 before BCC staged its second-half rally.
Moore, who won MVP honors, and Cory Soanes, both scored 21 points for BCC while Nickerson added 16.
“We didn’t change anything,” Cisek said. “We just went with the plays that had been working for us. We had a lot of emotion tonight and we decided to let our hair down and go after it. It took a little luck, but I’ll take luck over skill any time if it means the nationals.”
BCC (29-1), whose only loss was to Camden County College, will travel to Sullivan County College in New York on March 13-15 for the next round against an opponent to be determined.