By Jim Hintelmann
LINCROFT – There is a men’s basketball team that is No. 1 in the nation right in the area – and not too many know about it.
Brookdale Community College won the NCAA Junior College Division III basketball championship a year ago with a 33-1 record. This year’s team is on a pace of repeating its success with a 23-0 record.
Attempts by Brookdale Athletic Director Shawn Noel to get noticed have been difficult, he said, “but, hopefully, we’ll be getting a little more coverage.
“We’ve been this successful for three years,” he said. “We made the NCAAs two years ago and won it last year. We hope to continue this year.”
Brookdale controlled the game Saturday, Feb. 1, against Middlesex County College from the start, jumping out to a quick 9-2 lead using its height and quickness – and later opening up a 43-29 halftime advantage.
Middlesex narrowed the lead to 50-40 with 13 minutes remaining, but the Jersey Blues responded with a 22-3 run to open it up to 72-43 and that settled the matter.
“We played pretty well,” Brookdale coach Bob Dubina said, “but I think we could have done better. This was a sloppy game for us in the first half, but we turned it up in the second half.
“A big factor for us is that we are really young,” Dubina said. “We have 15 players on the team with 11 freshman and four sophomores. They are learning every day.
“We have five players averaging in double figures,” he noted. “Joe Nickerson (at 19 points per game) has been our top-scorer. Our other four starters have been Rahsaan Johnson, Jaimik Moore, Dave Rosado and Cory Soanes. We also have a strong bench.
“We are quick and play a hard man-to-man,” Dubina said. “Last year’s team was very special and this year’s squad has a long way to go, but we have a lot of potential.”
Brookdale has four games left in the regular season and also will play host to the Region 19 finals Feb. 27.
“We have a decent chance of repeating Region 19, if we hold the fort,” Dubina said. “Since we are the host team, we hope to be there for the finals and go back to the nationals, but we’ll see what happens.”
Despite its recent success, Brookdale’s attendance hasn’t been that great. About 200 were at Saturday’s game.
“It’s because we are a community college,” Noel said. “On a good day, we can get more than 300.
“Our coaches have done a great job of recruiting and getting good players,” he said. “The school administration has been supporting us but we are the most unknown show in town.
“We are an exciting team to watch,” Noel said. “Hopefully, people will come out and watch us.”
Brookdale will play host to a doubleheader Saturday, Feb. 8, against Sussex Community College. The women’s game will start at 3 p.m. with the men’s contest following at 5 p.m.
Brookdale has been hosting the Shore Conference boys’ basketball playoffs for the past few years, but will not be doing so this year because of the Region 19 playoffs. The Shore Conference games will be played at Long Branch High School and Brick Memorial.
“I hope that we can return hosting the playoffs next year,” Noel said.